For anyone that was curious, I am against the Death Penalty. It is not only an ineffective deterrent, it is not only an expensive process, it is also an immoral practice.
As a Catholic, I am always annoyed by non-Catholics trying to obfuscate the church’s position, which is quite clear. There are even some Republican Catholics who try to ignore the church’s clear position on the matter.
What I find funny, is that Protestant Christians are totally gung-ho about war, the death penalty, and endorse many Conservative policies, which are clearly in opposition to a dignified life. They forget that they claim to be pro-life, yet they are more or less anti-abortion, not pro-life.
On the blog NewsBusters.org, the author blasts a CNN report by Roland Martin during which he presses a Republican Catholic commentator to acknowledge that the death penalty and abortion are both life issues. The blog’s author, Matthew Balan, writes, “He teamed up with the liberal Catholic priest to incorrectly give the impression that the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty rises to the same level as its opposition to abortion.” What he does not realize, as a non-Catholic, is that Roland Martin is absolutely correct: the Death Penalty and abortion are on equal footing, in terms of being unacceptable.
Balan goes on to cite the Catholic Churches Catechism in a lame attempt to justify the use of abortion: “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.” While the Catechism does say this, he neglects to include the whole passage, which is as follows:
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 with 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 definitively 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 non-existent.”
Notice the last phrase “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
What this blogger also fails to understand, is that the Catholic church was a huge supporter of the UN’s resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty across the globe. A Vatican spokesman, Father Lombardi, following the passage of the December 2008 resolution, said, “It shows that despite the persistence of so much violence in the world, there is a growing awareness in the human family of the value of life, of the dignity of every person and of the concept of a nonvindictive punishment”. The Vatican also condemned the execution of Saddam Hussein: “Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI’s top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations, said that Saddam’s execution would punish ‘a crime with another crime’ and expressed hope that the sentence would not be carried out.”
Pope John Paul II forgives the man who shot him in an assassination attempt
Pope John Paul II was a fervent opponent of the death penalty. In 1999, JP2 proclaimed, “Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.” Not only did he remind us that Christ, too, was given the death penalty, but that he offered hope to the criminals who were also being crucified: “I tell you with certainty, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The Pope was clear in his opposition to capital punishment. He clarified that, it being the ultimate form of punishment, it denied the convicted the opportunity of redemption and reform. “We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing.” He also put the death penalty on par with abortion, as they both are symbolic of “a culture of death.” Most Protestant Christians base their support of the death penalty in the Old Testament: however, as Pope John Paul wrote, “in the Old Testament this sense of the value of life… does not yet reach the refinement found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is apparent in some aspects of the current penal legislation, which provided for severe forms of corporal punishment and even the death penalty. But the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person.” Capital punishment, in short, is not in keeping with any biblical teachings about the sanctity of life, despite weak attempts by Protestants to justify the death penalty.
While Pope Benedict has not been as forthright as his predecessor, he has still been clear on opposing the death penalty. Where he has not been as vocal as his predecessor, there are Cardinals and Bishops across the globe who have been outspoken on the matter. For instance, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that the death penalty was “contrary to the great Christian values which sustain the universal rights of man,” and added that he looked forward to the day when the practice was “definitively eliminated.” Pope Benedict has argued, however, that it is not impossible for the death penalty to be justified, but noted that according to the Church’s criteria it is “practically impossible” in today’s modern society. He congratulated the President of the Phillipines for ending the death penalty; he did the same for Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor, who recently ended the death penalty in his state.
In the final analysis, the death penalty is an unacceptable for of punishment. It stains our collective sense of justice and it makes us all guilty of murder. Though people who commit murder are deserving of harsh sentences, it is morally unacceptable, and illogical, to assume that reciprocating murder is justice. It is not.