Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Catholics Against the Death Penalty

The CatholicSpirit.com, which is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, published an interesting article on the movement to abolish Capital Punishment in Oregon and the role Catholics are playing.

"We need to share our Catholic teaching with courage and clarity," said a memorandum sent to parishes recently by Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Portland. "We need to reach out to our teachers and to our parishioners. We need to form and to persuade. We need to be advocates for change."

Tully has joined other lay Catholics on the board of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

With statements from the catechism, Pope John Paul II, the U.S. bishops and most recently Portland Archbishop John G. Vlazny, Oregon Catholics are being urged to oppose execution as an affront to the sanctity of life as well as an ineffective and expensive public policy.

According to the article, Catholic leaders believe capital punishment encourages the idea that violence is an appropriate solution to social problems. I agree with this. My view has always been that you can't tell the people don't kill each other and then kill the ones who disobey. It's moral hypocrisy.

The Oregon Catholics are also concerned with the fact that innocent people have probably been executed. Archbishop Vlazny of Portland recently commented on the arbitrary and disproportionate application of the death penalty against the poor and minorities.

One part of the Catholic catechism says state acts of justice are meant in part to improve the offender and allow for possible redemption, even if it occurs within prison walls. The idea is linked to the Christian value of forgiveness, which comes straight from Jesus.

"If punishment is supposed to correct someone, you can't correct them by killing them," says Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss, a member of the peace and justice group at St. Pius X Parish in Portland.

At least these people have a consistent message. We can probably assume they're against abortion for the same reason they're against capital punishment. That's consistent. I'm the first one to point out the inconsistency in the right-wing Christian who is fanatically opposed to abortion yet when it comes to murdering murderers on death row has all kinds of biblical justifications. The Catholics in Oregon are better than that.

The problem is that concerning the death penalty and abortion, I have an inconsistent but opposite belief. I'm opposed to capital punishment in all cases for the same reasons mentioned above. But, when it comes to abortion, I'm pro-choice. I don't even think men should be talking about abortion too much, it's a women's issue, and we certainly shouldn't be trying to legislate it or control it.

Am I guilty of the same hypocrisy I accuse others of? Can a pro-choice stand on abortion be consistent with opposition to capital punishment.

What's our opinion?

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