Monday, January 29, 2007

Death Penalty and St. Mary's

Q - I do not understand why this parish does not take a more active stance against the death penalty. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church is firmly against against it.

A - Thanks for your email. I would have to disagree that we have not taken a strong stance against the death penalty. On the day of executions we do all of the following:
  • have the bells toll
  • we put up black ribbons with quotes on the trees surrounding St. Mary's
  • we ask for prayers at the daily Masses
Also, we have homilies and classes that have addressed the issue in addition to political activism. That means we are doing quite a bit.

Of course there is always more that could be done, so if you would like to offer suggestions I encourage you to get involved in the Pro-life committee.

Remember that the death penalty is not an intrinsic moral evil like abortion or euthanasia. In other words, the Church does not absolutely exclude a government's right to have recourse to the death penalty. In fact, a Catholic, in narrow circumstances, can support the death penalty and still be in good standing with the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent." (CCC 2267)
Here is a good explanation of the teaching.