Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I'm involved in a discussion in response to this Amy Welborn post about the bishops' appeal to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to cancel an execution for this morning.

It continues to amaze me how many Catholics want to hold impromptu excommunication sessions for anyone who expresses the slightest distance from the Church's teachings in sexual morality, and say that their "dissent" is the reson why we have secaula abuse scandals, but at the same time talk themselves in knots about how they need not join in with the pope's unambuiguous opposition to capital punishment. (I should not that I'm not aware of any of my adversaries in the debate calling for anyone's excommunication, so this criticism may not apply to them).

It also continues to amaze me how any Catholic could defend capital punshment as implmented here in the US. It's pretty much a lottery -- if you kill someone in an identified group (police officers, racial minorites), or your case is significantly high profile, you might get the death penalty. But you might not. If you kill someone with no advocate, you probably won't. The argument that capital punshment somehow affirms our respect for life is absurd. If we executed all murderers, there might be some merit to this argument. But executing only selected murderers sends the message that some lives are more valuable than others, which is the direct antithesis of any "respect for life" argument.

Because if we say that some lives are more valuable than others, then how do we answer the mother who says that the life of her six-year old daughter with cystic fibrosis is more valuable than tiny embryos that may have to be destroyed to find a cure for her? We can't very well say, "all human life is sacred," because we just said that some are more valuable than others. So, having established that, how do we then tell a mother that her daughter is not more valuable than an embryo that may never be born?

The pope and the Church's arguments against the death penalty and all assaults against human life are quite simple: All people are God's creation, made in His own image and likeness. Destroying human life is thus offensive to God, and violates Jesus's command to love our neighbor. Nobody has directly confronted John Paul II's words, but try to find justification for their views in centuries-old documents. Have these folks considered that JPII has probably also read those documnets, and through prayerful reflection and the work of the Holy Spirit, reached a different conclusion?

It's easy to back Church teaching when they only apply to other people. When we're challenged to change it's harder. It's easy to oppose abortion when you will never have an unwanted pregnancy. But it's difficult to oppose the death penalty when it means you may have to reconsider your values, and let go of a desire for vengeance.

As I said in the comment board, I am saddened by every execution, and am ashamed I haven't done more to prevent them. While I look forward to meeting God after death, I do not imagine that I will enjoy the discussion of executions I did not do enough to prevent.
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