Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Archbishop Chaput: "We need to end the death penalty now"

No intro needed for this post, just go read it. In case you need some proding, however, sample this:

The death penalty is a bad idea because it diminishes the society that employs it. It doesn’t deter capital crime. It doesn’t bring back the dead. It doesn’t give anyone “peace.” It sometimes kills the innocent. It coarsens our own humanity and sense of justice. And while both Scripture and long Catholic tradition do support the legitimacy of capital punishment in extraordinary cases, the conditions that would justify its use in developed countries like the United States almost never exist.


Anonymous said...

It does deter capital crime. Criminals know this. I think it strengthens our senses both of humanity and of justice.

Saginaw said...

Punishment must be used to redress the is medicinal in nature. The respect for life must be protected even of those who commit crimes. Capital Punishment should only be used for the protection of society as a whole and in this day and age there are ways to protect society without killing the perpetrator. In John Paul II's Encyclical "The Gospel of Life", he wrote that the cases where the death penalty are necessary are "very rare, if not practically non-existent."

It is in issues like these that our pro-life stance is tested...

Anonymous said...

"It doesn’t deter capital crime."

This is debatable but overall the statement is fine.

I do not support the death penalty in the US for some of the reasons Chaput gives. Notice that Chaput does not see the question of capital punishment as matter of justice but rather as a practice that degrades the society that uses it without strict necessity. It undermines the culture of life in an indirect way.

It is a serious mistake to equate abortion and capital punishment. The Church opposes them with very different degrees of authority and for very different reasons.

Recent magisterial teaching on capital punishment is based on empirical and prudential judgments which Catholics may respectfully reject - although I think these judgments are quite correct. It is important to keep in mind when dealing with pro-life people who do not buy them.

These people may oppose abortion because it is an unjust taking of life and at the same time support capital punishment as an expression of the value society places on human life and its horror at the unjust taking of it. I believe this perspective is correct but is too narrow.

We must be very careful about how we link issues of fundamental importance - abortion - and other issues that are secondary.

Saginaw said...

So you agree with me?

Anonymous said...


yes and no.

When you say "It is in issues like these that our pro-life stance is tested...", I say on the contrary that the death penalty is a secondary issue and there is a danger in overemphasizing it.

The Church is not saying that the death penalty is unjust, but simply that it can't be justified. When we elevate the death penalty - which Christians find repellent in the concrete, to the level of abortion or euthanasia we risk substituting sentimentality for moral reason. After all, it is far easier to sympathize with the the young woman who desperately wants an abortion than to value the abstract humanity of an early embryo.

Outside of Catholic circles, support for the death penalty and opposition to abortion correlate strongly - and vice versa. And if we could roll the clock back 50 years, I suspect that this correlation would hold among Catholics also.