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December 16, 2005

Comments

JM

welcome back. i am one with you in your advocacy. pray for me also as i ready for my year-end retreat.tnx

Hector

Thanks for your visit. I pray that you get the wisdom and serenity to have a fruitful year-end retreat. God bless!

Meg

Thank you for rightly putting postborn and preborn life together under the category "culture of life."

Meg

Hector

Thanks for visiting Meg. I belief in a culture of life. I believe that killing over million pre-born babies a year is a terrible crime. I also believe that we shouldn't be killing through death penalty, euthenasia, unjust wars, or malnutrition. We need to consistently protect the sanctity and dignity of all life. All life is sacred.

Elena

Hector, I have to admit to mixed emotions whenever a very public execution is about to take place. On the one hand I hope for that last minute reprieve by the governor or the courts to be dramatically delivered. But on the other hand I am satisfied that the gravity of taking of a human life is recognized by the only punishment that can equal such a loss. A life for a life. I could have heard Gov. Schwartzeneger go either way in his decison and been fine with it.

I understand that the catechism says that the state has recourse to the death penalty, "given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'"

It seems to me however that the state, in a lot of instances, appears not to have the means to repress offenders, which is why murders and assaults in prison of other inmates and guards still occur regularly. Perhaps the ideal is to make the death penalty rare if not nonexistant because the state can effectively remove the threat that such prisoners present, but it seems clear that for some reason, we are not there yet.

Mr. Williams, who was executed last week was a good example of an inmate who caused a lot of injuries and problems in prison and also exerted his influence on people outside of the prison. I'm not sure that he was effectively repressed. Even all these years later family members of his victims were afraid to speak out because they feared reprisals from his gang members. That sure would have scared me!

Maybe Mr. Williams would have been one of those rare instances the JPII had in mind.

Hector

Hi Elena, thanks for your comments. This is a tough and emotional issue. What is important for me is that we apply principles consistently.

Both Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have come out and stated that although the Catechism allows for the execution of criminals when it is the only way to protect society, they believe society does have the means to protect itself and therefore the death penalty can't be morally justified. They issued a pastoral this month called "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death." Here are some quotes from it for the benefits of readers who may not keep up with this...

"The death penalty presents Catholics with an unavoidable moral challenge. The Church’s teaching, as expressed clearly and authoritatively in the Catechism and The Gospel of Life, should not be ignored or dismissed as just one opinion among others. Rather, Catholics are called to receive this teaching seriously and faithfully as they shape their consciences, their attitudes, and ultimately their actions.

The Catechism also makes clear that if other ways exist to protect society, the death penalty should not be permitted: “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.”

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (published this year) summarizes these principles and states that “modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless’... The growing number of countries adopting provisions
to abolish the death penalty or suspend its application is also proof of the fact that cases in which it is absolutely necessary to execute the offender ‘are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’”

Our nation should forgo the use of the death penalty because the sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human life and dignity. State-sanctioned killing in our names diminishes all of us. Its application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed. We have other ways to punish criminals and protect society."

I believe life is sacred. Criminals that comit henious crimes will have to answer to God, but it is not up to us to terminate their life. Once we start to rationalize their killing we become dangerously close to people that rationalize other forms of killing.

Elena

I agree with you Hector that it is a tough issue.

I guess my question is, if society has the means, then why isn't it in place? Convicted murders commit murder, assault, and sodomy in prison. Tookie committed assault and attempted murder in prison. So obviously having the means and using them are were not in place with him. The influence he still exerted from prison was also not supressed. Perhaps that is why that little loophole still exists on this matter in the catechism?


But as I said before, I am torn on the issue.

I watched a documentary on the Manson women who carried out the Tate/LaBianco murders in 1969. They are different, changed, remorseful women now and I felt sorry for them. For them it seems the means available worked.

It seems to me that the means either isn't available in all instances or it isn't being used in all instances, or there are some individuals who will always find a way around any attempts to suppress them. Perhaps because of that, the catechism can't completely eliminate the right to capital punishment from the state.

Hector

Hi Elena. The Church believes that states now have the means to ensure they protect society from these people without killing them, but to your point, that does not mean that they are professionally and effectively using them. In fact, your examples hint that some state prisons can do better.

I think that we shouldn't kill people because we have not put in place appropriate safeguards. Not until we have done everything possible and ending their life is the last resort. Particularly when some of those causing havok in prison are not necessarily those that have been sentenced to death.

Also what I hear during trials as justification for sentencing people to the death penalty is not that they may harm others in jail, but that this is the punishment they deserve because of the nature of their crime. It's revenge masquerading as justice.

Today we pray that parents do not comit abortions because all life is sacred. A few of today's babies may be tomorrow's criminals and their lives would still be sacred. Some may also contemplate assisted suicide in old age because of pain, and we will say no, life is sacred. Our message is more powerful when we are consistent.

The US Bishops are making ending the death penalty one of their top priorities, so we will have more opportunities to learn more and think more about this complicated issue in the coming future. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

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