Sunday, November 10, 2013

Paul Ciancia, Gerardo Hernandez, Justice: and the Big Picture

Paul Ciancia is alive, Gerardo I. Hernandez is not.

I'm sorry that Gerardo Hernandez is dead. On the other hand, I'm relieved that Paul Ciancia is alive. That's not because I think killing TSA employees is a good idea, or that Paul Ciancia is innocent. I value human life: even the life of someone who has done something that deserves death.

(Brad Graverson / Associated Press, via Los Angeles Times, used w/o permission.)
"American Airlines Captain Kriss Kliegle carries the U.S. Honor Flag off the plane as it arrives at Los Angeles International Airport in memory of TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez...."
(Los Angeles Times)

Life, Death, and Responsibility

The most likely explanation for TSA officer Hernandez' death is that Paul Ciancia shot him at the Los Angeles International Airport terminal November 1.

The motive probably had something to do with Paul Ciancia's attitude toward the TSA. His handwritten note refers to TSA employees' "traitorous minds." I've put excerpts from the news at the end of this post.1

Based on published information, it looks like Gerardo Hernandez' death was murder.

That's wrong. Murder is a bad thing, and we shouldn't do it.

That's how I feel. More to the point, that's what the Church says. We are, however, allowed to defend ourselves: within reason.

A very quick look at life and death, Catholic style:
  • Human life
    • Is sacred
    • Involves the creative action of God
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258)
  • Murder is
    • Intentionally killing an innocent human being
    • Wrong
      (Catechism, 2261)
  • Preserving one's own life
    • Is
      • Legitimate
      • A duty
    • Must involve minimum necessary violence
    • The attacker's death
      • Should be avoided if possible
      • Is not murder if the intent was preserving one's own life
      (Catechism, 2263-2264)
The same principles apply to folks whose duty is protecting others. (Catechism, 2265-2267)

Killing the Prisoner: Legal, Yes; Ethical, Maybe Not

Since Paul Ciancia is in custody, he is not an immediate threat. He's been charged with several crimes, and may be executed if convicted.

America's national government can legally kill prisoners, as long as certain conditions are met. More than two dozen American states also follow this practice. This isn't a uniquely American custom.

Capital punishment has a long history. It's been used as a legal sanction against folks who kill, steal, or disagree with a leader.

The Catholic Church says that killing people who murder others is okay: but should be used as a last resort, when there really is no other way to protect the innocent. (Catechism, 2267)

I think there may be places where folks are so desperately poor that they simply cannot devote resources to holding the most dangerous criminals. I also think that America and American states are not even close to being "poor" in a material sense.

We can, in my opinion, restrain the most dangerous of our citizens - without causing hardship for the innocent.

The Big Picture

(KTLA, via New Jersey 101.5, used w/o permission.)
Gerardo Hernandez (KTLA)

Do I think Gerardo Hernandez deserved death? No.

Even allowing for the conventional posthumous adulation in situations like this, Mr. Hernandez seems to have been a good man. I think his death is a loss to his family, his friends, and the rest of us.

Do I think Paul Ciancia killed him? Probably.

Killing the murderer might appeal to folks who are angry, offended, or otherwise upset by the murder of Gerardo Hernandez: at least in the short run. In a way, killing a murderer feels like forcing the criminal to make reparations for the crime.

Reparations, making amends for a wrong act, are important. Justice includes a duty of reparation, as well as forgiveness. (Catechism, 2487)

But killing Paul Ciancia will not bring Gerardo Hernandez back to life. Not even the United States Supreme Court can take one person's life, then use it to restore life to another. Not in cases like this.

Worse, ending Paul Ciancia's life might deprive him of more than just a few more decades.

People Change, Sometimes

Letting Paul Ciancia live would give him time to consider what he has done. He might, or might not, decide that killing a TSA employee was a bad idea; and start work at sorting out his soul.

Not all murderers, rapists, and assorted other offenders make that decision. Some do.

For example, there was a young man tried to have sex with a child. When she resisted, he killed her. Maria Goretti took several hours to die. She let folks know that she forgave her killer, and said that she hoped she would meet him in heaven.

That may have already happened. Maria Goretti has been recognized as a Saint. Alesandro Serenelli, who by all accounts was a nasty fellow when he killed Maria, apparently turned his life around and eventually died in a Capuchin monastery. He may eventually be canonized. Then again, he may not. I'll let the Church work that out.

People can change, and occasionally do.

We have this one life to work with, followed by very serious face time with Jesus. Considering what's at stake, I think giving folks who have committed serious crimes time to think is prudent. (Hebrews 9:27; Catechism, 1021-1022)

For that matter, I could use more time to clean house: and that's almost another topic.

Related posts:

1 Excerpts from the news:
"LAX shooting: Moment of silence planned for slain TSA agent"
Joseph Serna and Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times (November 8, 2013)

"The Transportation Security Administration and airports nationwide will observe a moment of silence at 9:20 a.m. Friday in honor of Gerardo I. Hernandez, the screener who was killed in the line of duty during last week’s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.

"TSA checkpoint operations will briefly pause to observe the moment of silence, which was the approximate time on Friday that Hernandez was shot.

"The moment of silence comes two days after police and emergency vehicles made a slow two laps around LAX to honor Hernandez, 39, who was the first TSA agent killed in the line of duty.

"The motorcade honoring the father of two was part of a brief ceremony marking the arrival of a special U.S. flag expected to be used at his funeral..."

"LAX shooting suspect reportedly told police he acted alone" (November 4, 2013)

"Despite being shot several times by police at Los Angeles International Airport Friday morning, 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia was coherent enough to inform police that he had acted alone when he fatally shot a Transportation Security Administration officer and wounded three others, sparking chaos at one of the world's busiest airports. ..."

"LA airport gunman could face death penalty"
BBC News (November 3, 2013)

"The gunman suspected of killing a security officer at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday has been charged with murder and could face the death penalty...."

"Los Angeles airport gun suspect charged with murder"
BBC News (November 2, 2013)

"...The man suspected of carrying out Friday's gun attack at Los Angeles Airport has been charged with murder.

"Prosecutors say the death penalty could be sought if 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia is convicted. He is in hospital after being shot by police.

"A federal US security agent was killed and others wounded in the attack. Police are attempting to establish a motive for the assault....

"...The FBI said he had a handwritten letter, stating that he made the conscious decision to try to kill multiple TSA officers and 'instill fear in your traitorous minds.'

"Ciancia is facing charges of murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport. The charges could qualify him for the death penalty. It was not immediately clear when he would make a first court appearance given his medical condition...."

"...David Bowdich, the head of the FBI's LA office, said: 'In the note that was handwritten by the defendant, that was signed by the defendant, we found a statement where he made a conscious decision to kill multiple TSA employees.

" 'He addressed them at one point in the letter, and stated that he wanted to "instil fear into their traitorous minds".'..."

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.