Mercy for Kermit Gosnell

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is escorted to a waiting police van upon leaving the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Monday, May … Continued

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is escorted to a waiting police van upon leaving the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Monday, May 13, 2013, after being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his clinic. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, Yong Kim)

Is it any surprise that Dr. Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of murder? His trial, when people finally started paying attention, disgusted the nation for weeks. He killed babies, inside the womb and out, he discriminated on the basis of race, he put women in danger, he made the world an uglier place.

The world is a touch more just, now that he has been found guilty. But soon many will begin banging their drums with bloodlust, calling for the death penalty. But what good is responding to death with death?

In fact, pro-lifers often make the argument that responding to a violent act (rape) with another violent act (abortion), only perpetuates a cycle of evil and violence. This is not to say that putting Gosnell to death is the moral equivalent of aborting a baby conceived of rape, as putting Gosnell to death would not necessarily be unjust. But it is to say that fixating on the death penalty for Gosnell is focusing our attention in the wrong place.

Our Constitution may permit the death penalty, but our hearts should resist it. And in our modern world, where the human heart is so coarsened against the dignity and value of all human life, there is actually much good that can come of sparing the life of a criminal and causing him instead to live the rest of his life in penance for his crimes. Blessed Pope John Paul frequently made the case against the death penalty, arguing that the world had developed in such a way that, “society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.”

Professor Robert George has gone so far as to suggest that a plea for mercy for the life of Gosnell from the pro-life community might touch the hearts of heinous criminals such as he. Pro-lifers must realize that we can condemn Gosnell’s murder and infanticide and the crimes committed by abortionists every day, without calling for their lives.

Rather than focusing on Gosnell’s punishment, we should instead turn our attention to the hellish world that legal abortion has created. The Gosnell trial brought to light just how hideous and gruesome second and third trimester abortions are, even when legal. It has forced us to come to terms with the reality that abortion still places women in danger. It has sewn death into the bedrock of feminism, depriving women of the knowledge that they have alternatives to midnight assaults on their wombs when they are pregnant and scared.

Don’t get me wrong, Gosnell’s crimes rank among the most vile I’ve ever known to transpire in my short life.

But clamoring for his death perpetuates a culture of death. Pro-lifers must stay focused on saving babies, not on killing their killers.

Ashley E. McGuire is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association and the editor of Altcatholicah.

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  • cavanaughokeefe

    Interesting: the comments so far have nothing whatsoever to do with McGuire’s argument.

    I support McGuire. Capital punishment is not nearly as deep a problem as abortion; Americans have carried out thousands of executions in the past century, but tens of millions of abortions. The victims of abortion are defenseless and innocent; their offense is being dependent. Death row inmates are, generally speaking, neither defenseless nor innocent. Still, McGuire is right. Killing in response to killing is unnecessary, counter-productive, and unforgiving. Not long ago, the Catholic Church defended the idea that capital punishment could be justified; but in his encyclical “The Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II walked away from that position. The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment.

    The polling data on capital punishment has shown for over 30 years that most Americans support it, but that views on abortion do match views on capital punishment to some extent. Compared to the national average, fewer pro-lifers support capital punishment, and more pro-choicers support capital punishment.

  • lomansmonkeychild

    “Our Constitution may permit the death penalty, but our hearts should resist it.”

    How are YOU doing? The USA has already permitted the death penalty of over 50+ million innocent human beings – called abortion! The HEARTS of human beings has not resisted the death penalty of the innocent, because we still have abortion as a “legal law”. dr. kermit gosnell of PA is NOT INNOCENT – he has murdered by HIS CHOICE INNOCENT human beings in the USA.

    The INNOCENT HUMAN BEINGS inside the female human beings has the Fundamental Right to Life & Liberty in the USA and NOT the death penalty!

  • lomansmonkeychild

    “But clamoring for his death perpetuates a culture of death.”

    How are YOU doing? Are you BLIND? Where is your CLARITY? The USA already has a “culture of death” it is called ABORTION!

  • lomansmonkeychild

    Where are your Facts – the number of human beings killed in the USA due to the death penalty?

    Where are your Facts – the number of INNOCENT human beings killed in the USA due to ABORTION? 50+ MILLION Please, Please give me the Facts of the death of INNOCENT human beings killed due to ABORTION IN THE USA.

  • Khartet

    this is the kind of case that demands the death penalty. he killed the most vulnerable without remorse. he deserving of the ultimate punishment.

  • lomansmonkeychild

    I want my Country back! God, Country & Family!

  • Andres Riofrio

    First of all, we don’t know his heart. Maybe there is remorse. Maybe there isn’t. We can’t know.

    Second, you say that he “deserves” the ultimate punishment. I assume that you are talking about a form of “justice.” But how is this “justice” anything else than revenge?

    Again, God may have the right to exact ultimate justice. But does anyone argue we have the right to exact ultimate justice ourselves? If Gosnell’s death is not necessary for anyone’s safety, why should we kill him?

  • Andres Riofrio

    I don’t want my country back. It was not my country to begin with, and I’ve read it wasn’t very Christian in the past, just like it is not very Christian in the present.

    We ask that the death penalty not be imposed on Gosnell because we believe that two wrongs don’t make a right. I understand you feel strongly about the murder of babies in the womb. But, in attacking the plea for mercy for Gosnell, are you engaging in anything but revenge?

  • NPLenz

    Genesis 9:5-6.

  • DigitalQuaker

    Apparently you didn’t get the update: John 13:34-35.

  • DigitalQuaker

    lomansmonkeychild, God calls us to a much higher standard than the laws of our country. Remember who you will be accountable to, and what you will be accountable for, and be able to live with it in your heart.

  • jbtaylor77

    His life should end in the same way that those babies’ lives ended.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    With an abortion?

  • jbtaylor77

    The same method.
    Would that be cruel and unusual punishment?

  • dcrswm

    Ah, the “pro-life” slogan of “Kill him” seems to be really popular today.

  • John David Duerwaechter

    Pre-meditated murder deserves the death penalty in my opinion, plus these babies had no way of defending themselves from this heinous crime. Planning out someones death & committing it deserves the death penalty. Is this justice? These helpless babies lives were taken from them, they had no say in life. It reminds me when Herod the king killed all of those innocent babies that were born up to 2 years.

  • lizzy5

    If he is just thrown in prison, he may start praying for death. I don’t think he will be well liked.

  • lizzy5

    I guess what I mean is that Life in prison might be a suitable punishment for him while he is still on this earth. He will not be “popular” in prison.

  • Katie Dembouski

    As children of God, we need to remember to strive towards MERCY. This man is a sinner, but who isn’t? His actions were more disturbing than some others perhaps, but does that mean we kill him for what so many do in other places (and get away with)?

    I agree with this article. Children of chaos kill. Children of peace can do so much for this man and others like him, to bring them to God, to intercede for him, to give him God’s mercy and pardon and peace and joy. Why would you kill off a flower that has yet to bloom (both in cases of abortion and the death penalty)? That would be very poor gardening indeed.

  • barnabytwist

    Unborn children do not have a fundamental right to life until and unless the Constitution or the Supreme Court says so. Don’t confuse the law with your emotions.

  • JOGray

    God never changes, He’s always the same. David, a man after God’s own heart, killed the Giant and cut off his head!! We talk all the time about slaying out Giants. Gosnell was a Giant!

  • Allen Kemp

    Thank you for a marvelous article. You may not be aware of it but you have written with a heart that truly reflect the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Patricia O. Joppien

    I hope they put him in the general population of the prison…. he is nothing special – and the inmates will take care of him….

  • LBAY

    Author seems very misinformed. There was nothing legal about Gosnell or his filthy, unregulated house of horrors. What he did was not abortion, it was murder. This is the type of thing we can expect regularly if abortion were to become outlawed. Outlawing abortions doesn’t stop abortions, it kills women.

  • Katie Dembouski

    No, God did not command us to execute Gosnell. God tells us to love one another. God loves with the tenderest love those who are in most need of His Mercy, those like Gosnell. Judge not lest ye be judged, and cast not the first stone, for you yourself are in need of God’s Mercy, just like all humans are.
    Jesus and his mother are the only ones who are sinless and human. Mary intercedes for us to God. So does Jesus, but Jesus is also God, yet He would rather intercede for us to the Father for Mercy than Justice. God delights in being solely kind, and yet there are those who would make Him out as one to be feared rather than loved (to ‘fear’ God is to be in amazement of his wonderful awesomness, His greatness, Himself. NOT to make Him out as a God of anger and destruction).
    Jesus died on the cross so that anyone-ANYONE. THROUGHOUT ALL OF TIME-who wanted to repent, who wanted to be forgiven, who wanted to make up all the wrongs they have done… can do so. Our ‘obligation’ is to love, to pray for men like Gosnell and each other. That is what Christianity calls for, for that is what Jesus taught. Let Gosnell be our fruit, the fruit of our works and prayers; a true converted soul! Pray for him, intercede for him, and let him be that fruit for which God will recognize you for growing when you go to meet God on that terrible day when all things will be revealed in your soul. Love, to be loved by God on that day. Be obedient to God, make sure it IS from God, and it does not fulfill your desires. Let your desires dissolve into nothing, and delight only in God’s Will. Pray to know His Will better, even if we are of different ideals, this will hold the same between us, ScottinVA. You pray to know God’s Will better, I will do the same. Blessed be Jesus Christ, King of endless Glory. May He be your strength, your salvation, your truth, and your love. May you strive to be as kind and merciful and forgiving as He truly is.

  • Andrew Tatusko

    The author represents the Catholic position on life. It is also the Orthodox position. It is both reasonable and sits within a worldview that has been transformed by a God who has defeated death by death – a death that was perfectly just within both Roman and Jewish law at the time. Death should never be human business to decide. As stewards our calling is to help life to flourish. This ranges from the death penalty, to war, to the environment.

  • allinthistogether

    The god you believe in: what possible moral reason is there to worship such a god man in the image of man. What kind of god worth worthipping would command humans, who clearly make mistakes, to execute other humans?

    The lust for “salvation” does not justify worshipping an unworthy god.

  • Humbly

    The flaw in your logic, of course, is that abortion is legal and yet we have Gosnell and many more like him nonetheless. Your logic is a feable attempt by the pro-death left to justify morlly repugnant, narcisitic behavior.

  • IheartUSA1

    You say that but this happened when abortion is legal and when no government agencies were interfering with this clinic. You can’t have it both ways you can’t say stopping abortion will create these types of clinics they exist when its legal. Abortion is a disgusting industry women are treated like cattle not human beings. I also assume you are not in favor of regular inspections of clinics either.

  • IheartUSA1

    Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those. All I know is that I want as much mercy as I can get.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    If you find yourself regularly using any of the contrived, ludicrous, propaganda terms like ‘pro-choice,’ ‘pro-life,’ or ‘pro-death’ that have been cooked up by servants of power on either side of this debate, then you’re probably an idiot. You betray the fact that you have no original thoughts of your own on this matter, and you advertise to the rest of the world that you’re a sucker for the type of mindless Orwellian vocabulary that should only work on young children.

    Banishing these words from the debate would force some of the less intelligent digital activists on these threads to actually explain their positions.

    It’s not enough to argue that abortion is ‘just wrong.’

    It’s likewise not enough to argue that those who are against abortion are just typical religious imbeciles.

    Explain why abortion is wrong, or explain why outlawing it is wrong without using one of these absurd euphemisms and you’ll have become part of the solution.

  • IheartUSA1

    Abortion is wrong because it ends a human life. Either we support killing human beings as a society or not – you can’t make exceptions for some humans. Human beings are living creatures are we in favor of defending all of their life or not? All living things start off small and do not look like what they grow into when they first come into being.

  • IheartUSA1

    The Catholic Pro Lifers are not for the death penalty that is for sure. The Bishops are trying to get rid of the death penalty in the US and they tried very very hard in California this past November end it in California when it was on a ballot measure during the election.

  • cricket44

    Either women have physical autonomy or they do not. Forced sex is a crime. We don’t force kidney or even blood donation for the survival of others.

    Forcing continuation of gestation against the woman’s will is a violation of her rights.

  • cricket44

    “women are treated like cattle ” when we force them to breed involuntarily, yes.

  • kewake

    Cricket, that is a weak argument. The life in the womb was created by the act of a male and a female. They are absolutely responsible for caring for that life. They created it. That is vastly different than donating blood or a kidney. It is a body part. A fetus is a human life with its own blood, kidneys, heart, etc.

  • patriot1

    To Hail Skins; You’re repeating yourself. Gosnell murdered babies born alive. What do you have to say about that?

  • patriot1

    Cricket: Your argument is ludicrous and you know it. What is your opinion of Gosnell murdering babies born alive, and cutting their spinal cords?

  • patriot1

    May the Lord have Mercy on his soul; Gosnell will need it.

  • cricket44

    Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy. The fetus does not exist independently. It uses the woman to survive and she has the right to refuse that.

    Prevention is the better than putting women at risk after te fact.

  • Top8305

    “a death that was perfectly just within both Roman and Jewish law at the time.”

    Not true, the Crucifixion was unlawful by both. All scripture clearly convey that Jesus’ was innocent.

    Mt 27:17-19, 22-24
    [17] So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, [Jesus] Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?” [18] For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. [19] While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
    …[22] Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” [23] But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” [24] When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.”

    Lk 23:22-16
    Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” [13] Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people [14] and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him,[15] nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. [16] Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

    Mk 15:14 Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”

    John 18:31 At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone,”

  • patriot1

    Cricket: You evaded my question above reagrding Gosnell, murdering babies born alive.

  • sky3ler

    He murdered babies born alive. That is against the law. What is your question?

  • sky3ler

    Abortion is wrong because it ends a human life. Either we support killing human beings as a society or not – you can’t make exceptions for some humans. Human beings are living creatures are we in favor of defending all of their life or not? All living things start off small and do not look like what they grow into when they first come into being.
    The death penalty is wrong because it ends human life. If you are against abortion but like the death penalty I don’t have any respect for you.

  • curc

    It is true – we need to form our convictions carefully and be articulate.
    It does take effort and work, but it is worth it.

  • curc

    It is something to reflect on for sure….with an unplanned pregnancy a solution is often:
    abortion or end the life due to “its” inconvenience to the person. For Gosnell’s crimes, we want
    to end his life. Aren’t these two different circumstances entirely. A baby is an innocent life.
    Gosnell committed murder. I don’t understand how we can lump them in one category.
    And God is a just God – who commands us to pursue justice. Isn’t it just to end Gosnell’s life because of the lives that he took?

    Any thoughts?

  • Philip Maguire

    It would be utterly hypocritical to execute Kermit Gosnell. If he’d killed those babies in the womb he’d have been within the law, yet the outcome for the babies would have been the same. If he’s guilty of murdering three outside the womb, he ‘s guilty of murdering thousands of those who were in it. If that is the case every abortionist in America who has done the same thing to unborn children should face execution as well. What we need to wary of, however, is the push for legal infanticide that will result from the Gosnell trial. To combat that we need to uphold the right to life of all people, even murderers. Only respect for the sanctity of life of all people will ultimately defeat this great evil.

  • Katie Dembouski


    Don’t worry, I am still praying for you. Have you taken a walk outside lately? It’s beautiful! All the flowers blooming, the leaves growing, the sun shining…God has made us a beautiful earth.

    Alright, to comment on some things you have said: I am a Catholic, if you have any questions about my beliefs, you can find all the answers in the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’. But to address a few things right now, no I do not ‘worship’ Mary. Mary IS the mother of God, but she is human. She is the highest of all the Saints, but she is not a goddess. There is only one God. We speak to her to ask her to speak to God for us. That is why she is called the Intercessor, she intercedes for us to God.
    When you speak to God the Son, you speak to God the Father. Jesus intercedes for us to the Father, true, but praying to ANY member of the Holy Trinity is the same as praying to ALL Three Persons. They are the same person. The Holy TRINITY.
    As far as committing a mortal sin goes: you need to first know it is a grave matter, give full consent to doing it, and full knowledge of it. Otherwise it is a venial sin. And no, honoring Mary is not a mortal sin. In fact, God wishes us to do it. Worshiping Mary though, as a goddess, would probably be a sin because there is only one God.
    You have lots of good thoughts that you can bring up to one more learned than me in the Catholic religion, for I’m not sure that I totally follow you on what you yourself believe…so talking with you might lead to confusion and then that conversation would not be a very good one! So you clearly want to serve God, that’s good, I recommend taking it a step further and talk with a priest about it. Give him lots of questions, let him know that you don’t believe in what he does but you want to bring up a few points to talk about (if you just go to him for an argument, then I wouldn’t recommend going at all. You can’t have a conversation with someone if you or they have closed ears). Go with Love.