For those interested, my friend Mr Nathanael Blake has written a response to my posts here and at IGNITUM TODAY concerning capital punishment. I'm not going to do a part-by-part refutation of it--time constraints and all that--I actually think he makes some good arguments, though I also have a few misgivings.
He focuses on two points (death as a release from our
fallen bodies can be merciful, and it can also focus the mind on the
should immortality). He notes that one need not necessarily embrace
Gnosticism to view a release from our fallen bodies as merciful. Phrased
this way, I suppose that I could agree--and perhaps this is what Dr
Kirk was getting at as well, since the assumption is contrition on the
part of the criminal. Viewed another way however, there is something
which still doesn't sit quite right. The same kind of logic taken to an
extreme could arguably be used to suggest that it is merciful to kill a
person as soon as he steps dripping from the font of baptism, save that
the man might be innocent of the more atrocious sins (e.g. murder...),
and thus would not necessarily be troubled psychologically by them.
could be argued that this is a difference in kind and not only degree.
On the other hand, there is something to the possibility of letting
God's grace work even on that suffering mind of the criminal, so that he
may yet be released from all but the memory (and associated guilt) in
this life, and perhaps even accepted into the very arms of heaven in the
next. This is, however, more a theological speculation than anything. A
more practical problem is that arguments of the same kind are used to
justify euthanasia in the infirm and ill*: they are suffering (usually
physically) in this life, and will continue to do so until someone
finally grants them release. Sure, there is a difference between
psychological suffering and physical suffering, but I don't see that
difference being treated as relevant enough so that if killing the one
is "merciful," then killing the other is not. Indeed, if it really is
merciful and not merely just (e.g. for the protection of innocents),
then we might argue that we have a duty to euthanize the elderly and
infirm if we have the duty to "mercifully" end the lives of the guilty, since the suffering of the elderly does not come from any particular wrongdoing on their part .
The psychological suffering of a guilty man may spur him to repentance with an eye to the next world every bit as much as, say, the prospect of a scheduled death. We do all die after all, and so execution only fixes a particular (latest) date of death. Further, if we examine our own consciences, we can see that although we have not murdered nor raped anyone, nevertheless we have still sinned, and we too should recognize our guilt and contrition. Our sins may be smaller--or more hidden --than those of the violent criminals; but they are still sins against an infinite God, so we too should tremble to commit them. "Even if truly repentant and contrite, they will remain tormented by
their desires and the memory of their crimes during this life"--all of us are to some extent tormented by our disordered desires to sin in some thing. That, too, is an effect of the Fall. It is not, however, a good reason to begin "mercifully" killing us one by one.
 And for that matter in cases of people who have Downs syndrome or other "special needs" but who are arguably more happy for it.
 Theologically, it can be tied to the Fall, but this is not a particular sin on the part of the specific individual who is suffering in his infirmity. Of course, it might conceivably be argued that suffering in infirmity is due to some particular sin committed by the individual, but we generally have no way of knowing which sin.
 Indeed, some of our sins are even hidden from ourselves.