Pope Fries the Bigger Fish: The Death Penalty

While we in the United States get our missal translations in order, Pope Benedict XVI decided to try to end the death penalty.

From CBS News:

Pope Benedict XVI voiced support Wednesday for political actions around the world aimed at eliminating the death penalty, reflecting his stance as an opponent of capital punishment.

He made the comments during his weekly public audience to participants at a meeting being promoted by the Catholic Sant’Egidio Community on the theme “No Justice without Life.”

He said he hopes “your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”

Now that’s what I call leadership. Will those who are all to eager to end abortion be as consistent with this pro-life message? Or will they quickly backpedal as they’ve done in the past to point out that it can be justified in some instances when there is no other possible way to protect the public from an aggressor. By doing so they send forth a message that vengeance is just fine.

A friend who is quite active in lobbying the State Government in his state said he often feels awful because he rallies behind pro-life causes but that his colleagues only focus on abortion. The truth is that they have a much greater opportunity to create change if they even focused half as much of their time on ending the death penalty.

Some credit to a local Bishop here: A few years back I wrote about how Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe (full disclosure: I worked with him some time back at NCYAMA and respect him immensely) brought the then-Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson to visit the Pope. His introduction to His Holiness was: “This is Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, your Holiness and he just ended the death penalty in his state.”

Guess what? Richardson is also pro-choice.

Forging collaboration even with people who don’t agree with us on every issue is necessary for us to do. It enables us to keep the doors open and move more closely together on other issues where we may be divided and perhaps even it may help us to change people’s mind. Perhaps they won’t, but they may at least pay some heed to our feelings about abortion, or the poor, or health care because of our willingness to work together for the public good.

Is the death penalty legal in your state? Today’s a good day to call your local representatives and ask them to begin to rid us of the blight of public executions.

Meanwhile, the only country in Europe where the death penalty is legal is Belarus, and they sentenced 2 men to death today for a subway bombing.

Horrible.

My prediction is that despite the Pope’s statement some will continue to enjoy vengeance and even some staunch Catholics who will scream when politicians vote pro-choice or when rubrics are not followed at mass will ignore the Pope’s words and vote for people who are only half-heartedly pro-life.

The death penalty is wrong, folks. So is abortion. All life is sacred and we do not have the right to end the life of another. Our Catholicism needs to be consistent.

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2 Comments

  1. Here is one point where I agree with you completely. It’s easier, in a sense, to be anti-abortion, because babies haven’t had the time or ability to do anything wrong yet. It’s harder to be anti-death penalty because people’s wrongdoing has consequences, but death by human hands who aren’t in immediate danger shouldn’t be one of those consequences. You either respect all life or none. You don’t have to like people’s choices, but you have to love the people. That’s what Christians are supposed to do.

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  2. I’m writing from the UK, where the death penalty has been completely off the statute book for nearly 40 years now. However, though it has been abolished throughout Europe there is still very strong public support for it in this country at least, so in practice things are not quite so cut and dried as they might appear.The good news is that on account of treaties we have signed it doesn’t look like it’s coming back any time soon.
    I am also aware that current Church teaching does not rule it our completely if there really is no alternative. However in practice there are always alternatives.
    So I for one am very happy to be a member of a Church that is becoming ever stronger in its opposition, and equally happy to be living in a place which has long left behind a penalty that degrades the society imposing it as much as the person it is punishing..
    All the best in your efforts to get to a similar position in the USA.

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