Monday, 15 July 2013

Nigerian Anglican Primate supports capital punishment

As background to the following news reports, here is an Opinion article from the Nigerian website Leadership entitled Much Ado About The Return Of Death Penalty.

The return of death penalty in the country after a seven-year moratorium has been on the front burner of public discussion, while the trend has been heavily criticised by organisations in defence of human rights, many people believe it is a step in the right direction. Uche Uduma samples the opinions of Nigerians on the issue.

In a bid to tackle the problem of prison congestion in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan recently called on the 36 state governors to sign death warrants to facilitate the immediate execution of the over 900 death row inmates in prisons spread across the country.

Following the directive by the President, the Edo state Governor Adams Oshomole, signed the death warrants of four convicted prisoners in the state prison. The recent execution of four convicts in Benin put an end to a seven-year moratorium on death penalty in the country. The execution of a fifth condemned inmate, who was to be executed by firing squad was not carried out because the prison where the convict was incarcerated does not have facilities to carry out such execution.

Since 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted four resolutions calling on States to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to abolishing it. In line with this, about 150 of the UN’s 193 Member States have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it. The return of death penalty in Nigeria has obviously put a strain on the campaign by United Nations to eliminate death penalty as a form of punishment. However, other states in Nigeria are making steps to hand down more death penalties.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the official opening of the 5th World Conference against the death penalty last week implored political leaders in countries that still have such laws in their justice systems across the world to abolish it. He pointed that the campaign to eliminate the death penalty as a form of punishment has mainly faced resistance from political leaders…

Now here are several reports about the Anglican Primate’s contribution to this debate.

Capital Punishment: Primate berates Amnesty International

ABUJA PRIMATE, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh has berated Amnesty International (AI) for condemning Edo State government over the recent execution of death sentence on four inmates in Benin.

The primate who urged the Federal Government not to allow itself to be gagged by anybody, also called for the imposition of capital punishment on perpetrators of crimes, including rape and killing.

In June, after their death warrants were signed by the Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the inmates — Osaremwinda Aigbuohian and Daniel Nsofor — whose lawyers have been struggling to obtain a stay of execution on the death sentence; and two other convicts whose identities are yet to be ascertained were hanged in Benin, the action that generated criticism by both local and international bodies…

The Daily Post reports Capital punishment: Those who rape and kill must be killed – Primate of Anglican Church.

Primate of the Church of Nigeria,Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, has joined in the bashing of those opposed to capital punishment in the country, saying they are ill-informed.

The Influential religious leader was reacting to the objection of foreign countries and international bodies on the recent execution of four inmates in Benin, Edo state.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and European Union, among others had opposed the action of the state government…

This Day via allAfrica.com Nigeria: Capital Punishment - Don’t Be Gagged, Anglican Primate Tells FG

The Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Tuesday, decried the condemnations that trailed the execution of four condemned prisoners in Benin City by the Edo State Government, urging the federal government not to allow itself to be gagged by anybody.

Reacting to questions at a press conference in Abuja, the Primate noted that Amnesty International had no justification to criticise the government’s action, as they were neither directly nor indirectly affected by the action of the inmates.

He warned that the federal government should not allow anybody or organisation to teach it what morality is all about, insisting that, “the law on capital punishment for those who rightly deserve it should be enforced…”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 4:27pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion
Comments

OMG. How awful it is to see a church leader supporting these horrors. I know we haven't been able to abolish the death penalty in all 50 of our states, but at least our church leaders, including TEC leaders have spoken against it.

Would Jesus support the death penalty?

Peace.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 4:59pm BST

Remember, it's people like this that Williams and Welby think are more important than being decent towards LGBT Christians. You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 5:10pm BST

The Catholic Church cannot think of a situation where the death penalty should be applied and the 1988 Lambeth Conference condemned it.

But one guesses this appalling man neither cares nor worries what others think.

Posted by: Fr Alan-Bury on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 5:25pm BST

"But one guesses this appalling man neither cares nor worries what others think."

If Welby had a backbone then he would speak in opposition. But Welby's suffering from the racism of low expectations, and would sooner hack his arm off than criticise anything that an African church says or does.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 6:36pm BST

I understand the (base) human instinct towards revenge, but the death penalty is a subject where Anglican bishops should TEACH their flocks the better, Christian way. Who teaches the teacher? [Attn, ABC Welby!]

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 8:14pm BST

So, the solution to prison overcrowding is to legally execute the inhabitants. And the Primate of Nigeria, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh apparently agrees.

Jesus wept, the Bible tells us. He still weeps.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 8:42pm BST

Before we make this a purely African problem, the Roman Catholic catechism of the catholic church says:
2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."


It should be clear but it’s open to interpretation and it just takes some hot button topic to whip up enough frenzy and fear for Roman Catholics to argue that the death penalty is perfectly acceptable – as a US RC priest once did in conversation with me.

That’s no different from what is happening in Nigeria now.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 10:27pm BST

What did Lambeth 1988 say about capital punishment? Perhaps the Nigerian Primate needs to be reminded given he is so keen other Provinces abide by Lambeth 1.10 ( 1998).

Posted by: Perry Butler on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 10:33pm BST

If this primate is not excommunicated what will it mean ?

Posted by: Laurence on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 11:00pm BST

This stance by the Nigerian bishop is indeed abhorrent - and I have had the conversation described by Erika with some of my fellow Roman Catholics too, although I think it's fair to say that pro-death penalty Catholics are out of step with their leadership and successive Popes.

That said, the position of TEC to lecture on this is, I feel, weakened by their enthusiasm for abortion.

Posted by: Clive on Monday, 15 July 2013 at 11:45pm BST

I'm not sure Erika is being entirely fair focussing in on the RC's alone. Clive is right that successive Popes have spoken out against the death penalty, and Lambeth not withstanding, Article XXXVII of the articles of religion is a reminder of the founding documents of anglicanism, of which I have met many a devout member of the C of E over the years who would wholeheartedly agree as I think would a majority in the country. And just to clarify matters, I am utterly opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances

Posted by: ian on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 12:11am BST

"That said, the position of TEC to lecture on this is, I feel, weakened by their enthusiasm for abortion."

This is a very false portrayal of the position. Here's the real one:
"All human life is sacred from its inception until death. The Church takes seriously its obligation to help form the consciences of its members concerning this sacredness....We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community. While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience."-69th General Convention 1998

I doubt that TEC is very far off track with the English public. Last summer, there was a dreadful case where a woman in Ireland died because the Irish hospital withheld appropriate treatment, in this case, abortion. The English public was outraged. I think that avoiding barbarism like that is a big part of the position of TEC, the position being that safe abortion should be available, even if we oppose it (1994).

It all comes down to whether you are grappling with reality - women die horribly when there's no access - or if you are willing to let other people die for your principles.

The position of TEC is nuanced to meet reality, and that is not "enthusiasm."

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 12:15am BST

Article 37 of the 39 Articles of Religion includes the following:

"The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences".

Do we believe this or not?

Posted by: Copyhold on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 1:39am BST

If the1998 Lambeth resolution on human sexuality is not binding on Canada and the US (and it isn't), then the 1988 resolution on capital punishment is not binding on Nigeria. As abhorrent as this pernicious prelate may be, I don't care to use this as a means of elevating Lambeth to a pan-Anglican synod with juridical authority.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 1:50am BST

The TEC current official position on abortion is, I believe, General Convention Resolution 1994-A054. Whether or not one agrees with it, I think it hardly constitutes "enthusiasm" for abortion. It states in part:

"We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community.

"While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.

"In those cases where an abortion is being considered, members of this Church are urged to seek the dictates of their conscience in prayer, to seek the advice and counsel of members of the Christian community and where appropriate, the sacramental life of this Church.

"Whenever members of this Church are consulted with regard to a problem pregnancy, they are to explore, with grave seriousness, with the person or persons seeking advice and counsel, as alternatives to abortion, other positive courses of action, including, but not limited to, the following possibilities: the parents raising the child; another family member raising the child; making the child available for adoption."

Posted by: dr.primrose on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 3:01am BST

The Commission to fill the soon-to-be-vacant see of the Diocese in Europe includes a bishop from the Anglican Communion. This time the AC bishop is from Nigeria - I do hope the ABC will make sure he isn't a pro-death bishop (are there any others in Nigeria?), otherwise I think we in the D-in-E should mount a strong and vocal protest. Just a side-line to that I don't believe this AC bishop has ever been a woman, although the AC has had women bishops for ever so long now.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 5:02am BST

Ah, the abortion red-herring! How typical.

Is anyone really surprised that this dreadful creature supports state-sponsored murder? It depresses me to think that anyone would still have the faintest belief in Okoh's decency!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 5:18am BST

And speaking of "hot button [OFF-]topics", Clive...

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 6:50am BST

The relevant section of Resolution 33 reads like this:

3. Urges the Church to speak out against: (a) torture, used as a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, burning down of people's homes, granaries, and the confiscation of livestock and denial by governments of supplies of medical facilities and relief food by international organizations to people in areas of armed conflict; (b) all governments who practice capital punishment, and encourages them to find alternative ways of sentencing offenders so that the divine dignity of every human being is respected and yet justice is pursued; (c) the incarceration of prisoners of conscience, challenging governments to search for treatment and punishment of convicted persons in accordance with internationally accepted standards; (d) any denial of the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty by due, fair and impartial procedures of law.

Posted by: Fr Alan-Bury on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 7:13am BST

Good God! Don't dignify the abortion red-herring by defending. TEC doesn't need defending to their sort and an attempt to derail and deflect from the clear immorality of right-wing religion.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 8:47am BST

Maybe I am not so hot on Nigerian constitutional law. But it seems to me that if it is the state governors who sign death warrants, then the prerogative of mercy must lie with them. And they should exercise it in a quasi-judicial capacity. How then can the president give them a directive to sign death warrants? Surely this prejudges the decision the governors will have to take. And as for the reason given for signing more death warrants - 'a bid to tackle the problem of prison congestion' - that is a shocking suggestion.

Posted by: Sam Roberts on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 9:32am BST

Worth noting that as a Communion, or even as national churches, different stances on the death penalty can be contained within our 'diversity' (i.e. do not 'impair communion' it would seem) but differing views on sexuality cannot be contained in that diversity.

And what is the stance of ACNA et al on this, does anyone know?

Posted by: Judith Maltby on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 10:15am BST

Article 37 of the 39 Articles of Religion includes the following:

"The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences".

Do we believe this or not?
Posted by: Copyhold on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 1:39am BST

No ! We do not.

Why would we make an exception for this Article pray ?

Posted by: Laurence on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 10:16am BST

Re: 'diversity' (soi disant):

I think it would be very good if Bishops and Dioceses were allowed to hold traditional teaching on marriage. Do I think they will be in 2-3 years time (or less)? No I don't.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 11:57am BST

cseitz
This is way off-topic for this thread, but to what country do you refer?

I'm sure it will still be compulsory in Nigeria to hold traditional views on marriage. But there is no doubt under the almost passed English/Welsh legislation that it will be lawful to hold traditional views here. And there is no doubt that most CofE bishops do still hold such views. The concept of a *diocese* holding a view on anything is another matter.

But perhaps we should move any further discussion of this to a thread designed for the purpose.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 12:06pm BST

I would have thought it is small comfort to those who are judicially murdered that their deaths are a testimony to the diversity of views within the Anglican Communion or the failure of the Lambeth Conference to establish communion wide norms.

Posted by: Fr Alan-Bury on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 12:12pm BST

Cynthia,

While that may be the official position, in my experience "on the ground" things are largely more radically feminist and pro-abortion. Many TEC and ACC clergy of my acquaintance hold positions much further along the spectrum - refusing to condemn Gosnell, for example, and shutting down any discussion of the morality of abortion.

Anyway, my point is that it's inconsistent to me to oppose one and not the other; a point that applies equally to those who support the death penalty but are virulently anti-abortion - that being the more common inconsistency out there.

Posted by: Clive on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 12:25pm BST

Back on topic:

The large number of convictions in this country reversed by new advances in DNA analysis should give us pause when we consider anything so final and absolute as the death penalty.
I think it is only a matter of time before this technology uncovers one, and maybe several, wrongful executions.

This famous miscarriage of justice in New York from more than 20 years ago should cause us to reconsider our enthusiasm for "an eye for and eye." Mercifully this was not a capital case, but the innocent were wrongfully convicted and served their full sentences while the real culprit went free to rape again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Park_Jogger_case

Our justice and our legal systems are imperfect at best. They are a game for power and profit at worst. The death penalty is the one sentence that no judge's order or legislative resolution can undo.


Posted by: FD Blanchard on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 1:21pm BST

The England that produced Article 37 also believed that the appropriate punishment for some capital crimes was to be "hanged, drawn, and quartered," which meant to be "fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where they were hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled (while still alive), beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces)."

People who suffered this punishment had their "remains . . . displayed in prominent places across the country, such as London Bridge."

Since I doubt that the good people of London are too eager to have body parts displayed on any of the bridges crossing the Thames -- bad for tourism, don't you know -- I also doubt we will want to elevate Article 37 to a test case for the Christian faith.

Posted by: jnwall on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 1:48pm BST

My comment was in response to a previous one. I thought that was clear with the quotes.

I was referring to TEC, as I believe the commentator hails from there.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 2:18pm BST

Thank you cseitz, the original user of that word on this thread is a member of the Church of England, and indeed of the General Synod, so it was far from clear.

But now let's keep this thread for a discussion of Nigeria and/or capital punishment.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 2:41pm BST

Thanks, Simon.

Back to the point: can anyone enlighten us as to the response of ACNA, et al to these statements from the Nigerian Primate on the death penalty? It would be very interesting to hear from them.

Worth noting that when this issue was voted on in the late 1940s, only one bishop was clearly for abolition, George Bell. In 1956, 8 voted for abolition, one against. More here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/aug/19/church-of-england-capital-punishment

Posted by: Judith Maltby on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 4:01pm BST

Why am I not surprised by this news from Nigeria?

AS to Copyhold and Article 37 of the 39 Articles, I doubt - I hope - that Copyold's worldview has little in common with that of those originally ratifying the 39 Articles.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 9:04pm BST

"in my experience "on the ground" things are largely more radically feminist and pro-abortion."

Clive, my on the ground experience involves my female rectors holding the nuanced position.

The larger question is whether or not it's consistent to hold the view that abortion (to a point) should be safe and legal, even if I oppose it, with a view of opposition to capital punishment. I believe it is not inconsistent. I believe that the reality of multiple mistakes (most recently proven by DNA evidence) is one reason not to inflict ultimate punishment.

I don't know if sentient life begins at conception. Is it when 2 cells are created? 4, 8, 16? I just don't know and I think the position of TEC is about right for me. I don't see the nuanced view as inconsistent. I see the view as dealing with reality and focussed on minimizing suffering in both cases.

The number of abortions go down when the economic climate is more hospitable to all. I rarely see anyone go down that path...

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 12:09am BST
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