30 December 2006

The Death Penalty and Saddam Hussein

The execution of Saadam Hussein has drawn mixed reactions from the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty clear in its denunciation of the death penalty:

2267 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. If, however, nonlethal 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 are more in conformity to 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 definitely 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 nonexistent.

The emphasis is mine.

Defenders of the death penalty here in America often point to the horror of the crime and the suffering of the victims and their families to support their view. Rarely is the argument made that society cannot be protected from the perpetrator by non-lethal means. Though that is the only argument acceptable to our Faith.

President Bush said: "Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops.”

“Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.”

In saying that killing a man will not end violence I must concede that Mr. Bush has a profound grasp of the obvious. In calling it a milestone towards democracy he errs.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, of Great Britain, had a more civilized view. "The British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime," she said.

Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi said: "There is a risk that it feeds the spirit of vengeance and plants the seeds for fresh violence," he said on Vatican Radio.

"The position of the Catholic church, which is against the death penalty whatever the circumstances, needs to be repeated again," he said.

I think it is time for American Catholics to help bring our nation in line with both Catholic Doctrine and with the moral principles held by the rest of the civilized world.

I find this website informative: Catholics Against Capital Punishment

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