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.


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.

Troy Davis: It’s Not About Doubt

As these words hit the screen I became angry.

“If one of our fellow citizens can be executed with so much doubt surrounding his guilt, then the death penalty system in our country is unjust and outdated.”

They refer to Troy Davis who was executed yesterday and were spoken by former President Jimmy Carter, a man I admire much and someone who I know is trying to sway death penalty proponents to change their mind about the death penalty.

And as much as I respect Jimmy Carter, I have to disagree with him today, even if just slightly.

This is not about doubt.

Regardless of whether Troy Davis is guilty or innocent, the punishment for a crime of any magnitude can never be death. We do not have the right to take the life of another human being.

Even if they have done so themselves. Barbarism that is met with more hatred and vengeance does nothing to bring peace. Something that I think the family of Officer Mark MacPhail doesn’t quite understand but may eventually in the coming weeks. Look at a few quotes and you’ll start to see the regret seeping in at the taking of another human life:

“I’m kind of numb. I can’t believe that it’s really happened,” MacPhail’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said in a telephone interview from her home in Columbus, Ga. “All the feelings of relief and peace I’ve been waiting for all these years, they will come later. I certainly do want some peace.”

I hate to tell her, but I doubt that those feelings of peace will come. In fact, she may have shooed them away for some time. In the instant that Troy Davis was dead, no immediate peace came to Officer MacPhail’s own mother.

That should tell us something.

Here’s another:

Officer MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris, said it was “a time for healing for all families.”

“I will grieve for the Davis family because now they’re going to understand our pain and our hurt,” she said in a telephone interview from Jackson. “My prayers go out to them. I have been praying for them all these years. And I pray there will be some peace along the way for them.”

Immediately her thoughts went to healing, not for herself, because this will not bring her healing, instead it only brings pain to the family of another person. Another who is now dead because the state decided that vengeance is the only acceptable punishment and that taking the life of another is justified.

Mrs. MacPhail inherently knows that this is not a healing. It is only revenge. Killing Troy hasn’t brought her husband back and through prayer she may find peace in realizing that God is the only one who can make everything right again.

And God already has.

Today, may the spirit of peace and forgiveness be given to us, through the intercession of both Troy Davis and Mark MacPhail, who I undoubtedly know are embracing today in the peace of God’s forgiveness.