Friday, August 3, 2018

Death penalty proponents may view Papal pronouncements as fightin’ words

It has been a few hours since Pope Francis’ comments Thursday about the death penalty being “inadmissible” in all instances, and I’m still trying to figure out why anyone should view this as a radical change.
FRANCIS: Church to more actively oppose death

As a reporter-type person who has, on several occasions (although none since 2001 when the federal government put Timothy McVeigh to death), covered the process leading up to executions, one of the standard pieces of the story is that the Catholic Church is opposed.

THE POPE HIMSELF invariably will make statements about how cruel the concept is of putting someone to death as a form of criminal punishment. As though it is Homicide, committed in the name of Justice.

I know church officials I have spoken to have always tried to describe capital punishment as something obsolete – something that there’s just no need for in the modern-day world.

There are provisions in Catholic teachings that were taught in the past to justify an execution as a form of public protection. Meaning that the criminal in question was so violent and such a risk to society that putting the person to death was the only way to ensure that nobody else was hurt by his acts.
The governors who did away … 

Modern-day prisons and life-without-parole prison terms are considered sufficient protection – thereby eliminating the need to take away an individual’s life.

ONE THOUGHT I always was taught was that execution as a form of providing someone with vengeance for a criminal act was wrong – if not a sinful thought to have itself.

Almost as though someone who is eagerly awaiting another person’s execution ought to be making a trip to their priest to perform confession of their sin – and seek penance so as to avoid the pains someday of Hell and eternal damnation.
… with death penalty in Illinois, … 

But now, Pope Francis is proclaiming that execution “attacks” human dignity, even in those who have committed violent criminal acts. A thought that is not going to be a popular one amongst those who publicly proclaim their desire for more executions – and those who think that one of Illinois’ drawbacks is that we had the sense to do away with the state’s capital crimes statutes nearly a decade ago.
… and the governor who hints at bringing it back

To the point where Gov. Bruce Rauner’s political re-election strategy has included making pronouncements implying he’d like to see executions restored in this state (there hasn’t been an execution in Illinois since the 1999 date when Andrew Kokoraleis was put to death by lethal injection at the now-shuttered prison in Tamms).

IT WOULD SEEM that instead of papal pronouncements against execution every time a death row inmate comes close to an execution date, it’s now going to be an active part of Catholic teaching to publicly support abolition of execution.

Catholics are now going to have to become truly “pro-life” in their views on mankind and society, instead of using the label to define their opposition to abortion being a legal medical procedure.

As for those political people who happen to be Catholic, I know there are those who happen to think they’re obligated to follow their religious faith over all when it comes to abortion-related questions. There are some clergy who like to make overly public pronouncements of excommunication for any government official who doesn’t rigidly support viewing abortion as a criminal act.

Are we bound to see government officials now facing a conflict with regards to capital punishment? Or could this become the ultimate reason why we should view a government official’s religious faith as a personal view, rather than one controlling their public policy actions?

YOU’VE PROBABLY FIGURED out that my own leanings go against capital punishment. I was supportive back when Gov. George Ryan effectively ended the death penalty in Illinois (although there are those who view his actions as the most heinous of his record – more so than any of the offenses for which he was convicted and incarcerated), and thought it a good day when Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation that abolished the death penalty altogether.
GACY: For some, he didn't die painfully enough

I still remember the day I came to my leanings – it was May 10, 1994. That was the date John Wayne Gacy was put to death for the dozens of slayings of young men he committed in the 1970s.

I was at the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet when the execution was performed. There was nothing about the execution procedure that was particularly gruesome (Gacy essentially was put to sleep). But I was most offended by the sight of a trio of nuns and a priest who gathered at the prison to pray for Gacy’s soul – only to be harassed, jeered and taunted by the hundreds of people who gathered outside the prison to cheer on Gacy’s death.

A sight I suspect we’re going to see much more of in coming years as the Catholic Church attempts to show compassion for all of mankind.


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