Friday, September 24, 2010

Time to put capital punishment on the radar

By John Andrews, Director
Department of Communications

Last night before bed I read an interview with Sister Helen Prejean, as passionate and convincing an advocate against capital punishment as I have heard.

Then when I came to work this morning I read about the execution of Teresa Lewis in Virginia by lethal injection. Later I watched a report on CNN that a federal judge’s ruling Friday clears the way for the first execution in California in four years. It would take place in the newly constructed “death chamber” at San Quentin Prison.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the involvement of the Catholic Church in issues of government and policy. Is it too much? Not enough? Our response is that when policy has a moral dimension we are obligated to weigh in or, more than that, to proclaim our Gospel values in the public square.

Many of us are drawn to speak out on issues related to our Catholic belief in the dignity of every human life, be it abortion, physician-assisted suicide or even immigration in a slightly different sense. These issues ignite intense discussion around dinner tables and water coolers, in the cyber world and in the media. We’re thinking and talking about these issues, and we should.

By comparison, capital punishment is hardly on the radar.

We call our law enforcement personnel “peacekeepers,” we teach our children, in word anyway, that violence is not acceptable, and we want our legal system to ensure a peaceful society through civilized means. Yet when we employ our laws to execute people in publicly-funded “death chambers,” this sends an entirely different message. It says that the ultimate act of violence is a perfectly acceptable way to solve our problems.

This, of course, couldn’t be further from what we believe as Catholics – the love and mercy of Jesus, the availability of God’s grace to all and, yes, the dignity of every human life.

I offer two suggestions,

1) Read Sr. Prejean’s interview at:

http://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/416/and_justice_for_all

2) Put this issue of capital punishment on your radar.

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