Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

6/7/2014 (1 month ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In considering this life issue we are not dealing, at least presumably, with the death of the innocent. The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment, the lethal punishment inflicted by the State, because bloodless means of punishment are readily available - and the common good no longer requires its use for the protection of the public. In a civilized Nation mercy should trump justice.

Let me state very clearly, I oppose the death penalty-always have and always will. It is a part of my deep abiding commitment to holding a consistent ethic of life. However, I understand that some Christians do not share my conviction. Catholic teaching opposing the death penalty is predicated upon a very different moral ground than the Churches absolute opposition to abortion. Abortion is intrinsically evil, always and everywhere wrong because it is the taking of innocent defenseless life. Catholic teaching opposes the death penalty for other reasons; it can no longer be justified.

I was pleased to read of the efforts of Richard Viguerie to gather political conservatives together to oppose the death penalty. I have long admired Viguerie. I first met him many years ago at a retreat. I honor his sincere and tireless efforts on important policy issues over many years and both admire and share his genuine Catholic Faith.

I was pleased to read of the efforts of Richard Viguerie to gather political conservatives together to oppose the death penalty. I have long admired Viguerie. I first met him many years ago at a retreat. I honor his sincere and tireless efforts on important policy issues over many years and both admire and share his genuine Catholic Faith.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/7/2014 (1 month ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Capital punishment, death penalty, Richard Viguerie, conservatives concerned about the death penalty, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - I was pleased to read of the efforts of Richard Viguerie to gather political conservatives together to oppose the death penalty. I have long admired Viguerie. I first met him many years ago at a retreat. I honor his sincere and tireless efforts on important policy issues over many years and both admire and share his genuine Catholic Faith.

A May 24, 2014 article by Leon Neyfakh in the Bostone Globe entitled The conservative case against the death penalty is an excellent read. It made me aware of the efforts of Richard Viguerie to organize conservatives to oppose the death penalty.

Let me state very clearly, I oppose the death penalty-always have and always will. It is a part of my deep abiding commitment to holding a consistent ethic of life. However, I understand that some Christians do not share my conviction.

During all the years that I have fought on the front lines of the pro-life cause, I have been uncomfortable with being labeled. I never even officially registered Republican-though the other major party's love affair with the autonomous self and the so-called abortion right, forced me to leave the ranks of the Democrats long ago. Abortions have no rights, people do - and the first right is the fundamental human right to life.

I am a Catholic Christian. I embrace what my Church teaches because I believe that it is true. However, let's be clear; Catholic teaching opposing the death penalty is predicated upon a very different moral ground than the Churches absolute opposition to abortion.

Abortion is intrinsically evil, always and everywhere wrong because it is the taking of innocent defenseless life. Catholic teaching opposes the death penalty for other reasons; it can no longer be justified.

In considering this life issue we are not dealing, at least presumably, with the death of the innocent.

The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment, the lethal punishment inflicted by the State, because bloodless means of punishment are readily available - and the common good no longer  requires its use for the protection of the public.

In a civilized Nation mercy should trump justice.

In other times in history, and in other circumstances, the Catholic Church did not formally oppose the death penalty. In fact, it was supported as within the purview of the State. However, there has always been a tradition against its use within a certain stream of Catholic thought.
 
The contemporary opposition to Capital punishment by the Catholic Church, what I call a merciful approach, is clearly affirmed in the Catholic Catechism:

"If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity with the dignity of the human person" (CCC, n. 2267).

In fact, the Catechism was amended to emphasize that the continued contemporary use of "capital punishment" adds to the growth of what St. John Paul II labeled the "Culture of Death." 

In his prophetic encyclical letter, "The Gospel of Life" John Paul vividly exposed contemporary culture as a "Culture of Death" having lost its understanding of the inviolable dignity of every human life. Calling abortion the "cutting edge" of the "Culture of Death" he drew a connection to the contemporary use of executions warning the State that in implementing their role of applying justice

"the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare if not practically non-existent" ("The Gospel of Life," n. 56).

The language is strong and clear.

I have always found it intriguing that we have examples of significant leaders in both the Old and the New Testament who could have been put to death for their offenses. Moses killed an Egyptian (Exodus 2). Saul of Tarsus stood by in what was arguably complicity at the death of Stephen the Deacon. (Acts 8)

But there is much more at issue.
 
As a former prosecutor, I believe there are many reasons to justify its elimination from both Federal and State criminal justice systems. For example; our history as a Nation demonstrates a disparate application and the advance of the science of DNA continues to prove that we have made mistakes and convicted innocent people.

From the regular stream of news articles such as this one, we are increasingly reminded that errors are made in prosecutions. The stories from the Innocence Project should be enough to give us all pause.

There is a growing discomfort with the death penalty in America and it crosses all political lines. Capital Punishment is an issue where the labels have most assuredly lost what little value they might have ever had.

Sadly, in a rush to multiply executions in what seems to be some misguided effort to lower the crime rate, (unsupported by the statistics concerning whether capital punishment has had any effect in lowering crime), both Democrats and Republicans seem to be "out-toughing" one another on this issue these days.

Ironically, some contemporary "liberals" who oppose the death penalty fail to see the extraordinary duplicity in their approach. They should listen to their own arguments in their opposition and reconsider their position on the issue of abortion.

Some, like the Reverend Jesse Jackson, know the complete hypocrisy of their approach. He was formerly an ardent opponent of abortion, until his political ambitions blinded him to the cry of the ones whom Mother Teresa called the "poorest of the poor", children in the womb.

Then there are the conservatives who suffer from what I call their "compassion confusion." They oppose the execution in the womb but support execution outside of it. On their right flank are their newfound friends, some libertarians who support both kinds of execution. Not all libertarians do.

Even some of my well-intended Christian friends, especially my Catholic brethren, who correctly and compassionately oppose both, fail to make the vital distinction as to the foundation of the opposition of Catholic teaching to killing the pre-born - and executing capital offenders.

The article in the Globe pointed me to an organization I will be researching and writing about in the future. It is called Conservatives Concerned about the death penalty. It is time for a National discussion of the death penalty for many reasons.  Richard Viguerie is right.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

As hundreds of bills languish on his desk, push is on to 'fire Harry Reid' Watch

Image of The GOP now hopes to use those examples to build a case against Harry Reid and argue that his procedural stranglehold is the reason for the Senate's painful levels of gridlock.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The GOP is now calling for either the resignation or firing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Republican National Committee is launching a two-week "robo-call" campaign in efforts to nationalize Senate races across battleground states, arguing that each ... continue reading


DOES the President have the unilateral power to legalize illegal aliens? Hoyer: No Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Does U.S. President Barack Obama have the unilateral right to convert countless illegal immigrants to legal status? House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that President Obama "can't legalize" the illegal aliens, but added that the president "can ... continue reading


RATCHETING UP SANCTIONS: U.S. Europe increase sanctions against Russia Watch

Image of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he is not considering adding new sanctions. Australia lost 28 citizens on Flight MH17. Abbott said that at the moment

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

New economic sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy have been announced by U.S. President Obama. It's all part of Washington's latest efforts to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for Ukrainian rebels. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


'Achievements and contributions… to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy,' Obama celebrates achievements of Muslims Watch

Image of A recent survey found that 72 percent of Muslim-Americans approve of the President, more so than any other religious group.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the persecution of Iraqi Christians at the hands of Islamic jihadists continued, President Obama and First Lady Michelle released a statement this past weekend thanking Muslim Americans for their many "achievements and contributions...to building the very ... continue reading


U.S. Bishops say Obama's executive order 'implements discrimination' Watch

Image of Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, pictured, and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo in a statement noted that the executive order, which will impact a fifth of the U.S. workforce, discriminates against faithful Catholics.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new order by U.S. President Obama that forbids federal contractors from discriminating "on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," has been denounced by U.S. bishops as "unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed" and, in effect, ... continue reading


Israel harshly critical of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called 'an Alien' Watch

Image of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's apparent decision to use Qatar as a conduit through which to communicate with Hamas, effectively ditching an earlier Egyptian proposal which the group had rejected has stirred the pot.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States and Israel have been the staunchest of allies since Israel reached statehood following World War II - but this doesn't mean that the nations have always seen eye-to-eye. Indeed, the right-wing faction of the Israeli government are harshly ... continue reading


President Obama is 'mailing it in', bought the farm - spending lots of time golfing and goofing off Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Lackadaisical. That word is used to define "lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy." Lackadaisical appears to described U.S. President Barack Obama as of late. The president is pending an awful lot of time playing golf while the nation and the ... continue reading


In President Obama's war on religious freedom the people suffer another loss Watch

Image of A July 21 executive order has dealt a huge blow to the cause of freedom of religion in the United States.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama's July 21 executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual-self-identification has lead to strong criticism from several prominent U.S. bishops, calling the executive order "unprecedented and extreme." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Efforts against female genital mutilation could be thwarted by population growth Watch

Image of Due partly to community activism and legislation, the prevalence of FGM, which involves the cutting away of the external female genitalia, and the marriage of girls under the age of 18 has decreased slightly over the last 30 years, UNICEF said.

By Lisa Anderson, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Advances in fighting female genital mutilation, or FGM and child marriage could be offset by population growth unless the rate of progress increases, according to new data released Tuesday by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). (Thomson Reuters ... continue reading


FREE SPEECH VIOLATED: Tea party groups' lawsuit against IRS proceeds Watch

Image of Among the individuals named in the lawsuit is Lois Lerner, who headed the division that processes applications for tax-exempt status at that time.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

They're not going to take it - and they're taking their claims to court. A federal judge has allowed a lawsuit by 10 tea party groups to move forward against the Internal Revenue Service. The judge rejected a request by the federal government to dismiss all the ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 26:1-9
1 At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:6, 8-10, 14
6 Those who hope in you must not be made fools of, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
54 and, coming to his home town, he taught the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 1st, 2014 Image

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
August 1: Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter