Undoubtedly, like Americans generally, Episcopalians hold a broad spectrum of views regarding capital punishment. The Cafe’ has published several items over the years (here and here for example) and the official stance of the General Convention has long been opposition, such as in resolution 1991-Do56
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That this 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church reaffirm the position taken in opposition to capital punishment by the 1958, 1969, and 1979 General Conventions; (read the rest here)
In a recent post on the blog strangehistory.net, which is usually dedicated to exploring the quirks and mysteries of history, the author looks at the ways in which people have sought to avoid being the one who actually brings about the execution and which begins by asking “where are our modern executioners?”
Where are our modern executioners? Most people would have problems answering this because there are no modern executioners as such, at least in the US.
Yet, of course, there is still someone who presses the button or flicks the lever. Some will push/flick with equanimity, but some will go home and have a bad night’s sleep and there is anecdotal material to suggest that there are not many volunteers for the squelchy part.
Yet he also asks an important question, a moral question;
Maybe capital punishment is right and maybe capital punishment is wrong but isn’t there something worrying about a society that can sentence someone to death but then not find anyone to do the killing willingly?
I don’t know if it is true, as the blogger asserts, that it is difficult to find someone willing to “flip the switch” or not. But it does seem telling that the history of execution has been a long parade of methodologies that purport to be more ‘humane’ than what went before. Is there such a thing as a ‘humane’ execution?
posted by Jon White