Although I just wrote in the last post that the issue of what goes on inside a murderer is “complex,”  and although I watched carefully the face of Dylann Roof while he heard his victims’ families forgive him,  I do not mean to suggest what his fate should be.   However, a duly-constituted*   State authority has the right to impose the death penalty on a man convicted of a serious crime against society.

This is permitted because it’s the State’s duty to protect the rest of society.    But an execution?   To what effect?

African-Methodist-Episcopal church building:


The families of the victims in Charleston forgave Dylann Roof.       Although their denomination split off from a denomination which split off from a denomination which split off from the Church,   one of the things they  carried with them is the effect of forgiveness upon the forgiven person.

A historical example:

About 113 years ago  (our modern era, actually)  three women were found dead in an apartment in Paris, France.    Well, two women and a young girl.     I’ll spare you the photographs,  but they were savagely murdered and mutilated by a jewel thief.   Here he is:

Henri PranziniHis name is Henri Pranzini.  He was quickly caught, arrested, and convicted, and sentenced to death.

Henri convicted

His crime was a newspaper sensation.   (Nothing has changed much, has it!)

Pranzini headlinesAll the media at the time (newspapers)  picked it up, even the New York times.

Everyone talked about it!

Henri affair

Among the followers of this crime story was an innocent, holy,  somewhat sheltered young teenager,  14 years old,   known to us now as St. Therese Of Lisieux.    She was a normal, happy, healthy young lady in every way, but in addition,  she felt the call of God, the call to holiness, and more importantly,  she answered that call.

Henri's therese

She didn’t follow the story of Henri Pranzini for the sake of the sensation;  she followed it because she had compassion on him and prayed for his conversion.   She, too, knew Hell is real and final.   Here are her words explaining her interest in this man, a stranger to him in every way, as she wrote in her autobiography:

“Everything led to the belief that he would die impenitent. I wanted at all costs to keep him from falling into hell, and to succeed I employed all means imaginable, feeling that of myself I could do nothing. I offered to God all the infinite merits of Our Lord.”

Indeed, Pranzini was a gruff and unrepentant man.

St. Therese was a concerned and persistent young lady!

Her prayers were for his conversion to God,  not for escaping his punishment.      But it seemed like a lost cause.   The media reported that Pranzini refused to talk to a priest, right up to the end.  St. Therese prayed all the harder for him.

On August 31, 1887,  Pranzini was led up the steps to the guillotine which would take his life.

guillotineTherese read about his execution the next day in the newspaper.     Eyewitness reports said that Pranzini bent down, began to put his head under the blade — and then quickly turned aside to the priest that was assigned to him, and took the crucifix, kissing three times the wounds of Christ in a heartfelt sign of his trust in Christ and in Christ’s forgiveness — even for a hardened, guilty sinner like he.

St. Therese, even at this age, took this to mean that he had repented and accepted forgiveness, and she wrote of him as her “first child” — the first conversion her prayers had brought about.    It appears that this “terrible” man is going to Heaven!

Jesus answers prayers.   Jesus forgives the best of us and the worst of us.     And followers of Jesus must do as He does, or we are no followers of Him.   Yes, I think I understand the families who forgave last week, and I understand the power of prayer to bring someone to forgiveness.

Intercessor or victim or criminal:   forgiveness is everybody’s business.

bar simnple graded gray lines*   Duly-constituted governmental authority,  whether democratically elected or monarchy,  but not a governing force created by revolution and imposed on the citizens.    Revolutionary governments, though powerful,  must kill off their ideas of political enemies,  as for instance in the 20th century where the murder tally of revolutionary governments exceed one hundred million.    This is not “capital punishment,”   this is murder-by-government.

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