Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Death Penalty: Chaput - Colorado

Let’s end the death penalty, now: NCR: March 11, 2009

Capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion and war: All these issues raise profound questions for Catholics as we reflect on the sanctity of human life. But while they all touch on human dignity, they don’t all have the same moral content.

Euthanasia and abortion are always, intrinsically wrong because they always involve an intentional killing of innocent human life. War and capital punishment, in contrast, can sometimes be morally acceptable as an expression of society’s right to self-defense.

Both Scripture and a long tradition of Catholic thought support the legitimacy of the death penalty under certain limited circumstances. But as Pope John Paul II argued so eloquently, the conditions that require the death penalty for society’s self-defense and the discharge of justice in modern, developed nations almost never exist. As a result, the right road for a civilized society is to abolish the death penalty altogether.

Readers of this column know that I’ve written and spoken many times, for many years, against the death penalty. But I’m hardly alone in that view; bishops and many lay Catholics around the world and across the United States have urged public officials to end capital punishment for more than four decades. Earlier this year the four bishops of Colorado jointly revisited the issue yet again, saying:

As the Catholic bishops of Colorado, and consistent with Christian respect for the sanctity of human life, we oppose the use of capital punishment in our state.

We believe that all people have a natural right to life, because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, who alone is Lord of life from its beginning until its end (cf. Gn 1: 26-28).

Obviously, behavior that threatens or takes lives cannot be tolerated. Those whose actions harm others must be held accountable. Society has a right to establish laws that protect all people and promote the common good. But the need to punish violent criminals does not logically lead, in our day, to the conclusion that capital punishment should be employed.

We grieve for the victims of murder and the terrible suffering of their families. In capital murder cases, we recognize that grave punishment is needed both to serve justice and to ensure the safety of the community. But we also believe, as Pope John Paul II once observed, that improvements in the penal system of developed countries like our own make the death penalty unnecessary to protect the community.

The state of Colorado has other means available to it besides the death penalty to exact justice and render the criminal unable to do harm. We need to continue the reform of our criminal justice system, and we need to impose punishment in a way that protects society from violence while avoiding further killing under official guise.

All human life, from conception to natural death, including the life of a convicted murderer, has intrinsic value. For the sake of our own humanity, we need to turn away from a mistaken idea of justice based—in practice—on further and unneeded violence.

The Colorado General Assembly currently has before it an important and hopeful piece of legislation—House Bill (HB) 1274—that would end the death penalty in our state. Support for capital punishment has steadily eroded around the country in recent years as more people come to see the inadequacy of the death penalty as a deterrent, the racially and ethnically biased manner in which it’s often applied, and the number of innocent persons wrongly condemned to death who have been exonerated by new DNA techniques.

I ask Catholics around the archdiocese to please contact their elected state lawmakers. Please ask our legislators to support HB 1274. We need to end the death penalty now; it’s the right course for a humane society.

For information on who your legislator is and how to contact that person, visit cocatholicconference.org online or call the Colorado Catholic Conference at 303-894-8808.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Archbishop Chaput Credited for Death Penalty Vote

The Colorado House yesterday voted 33-32 to repeal the state's death penalty. The measure now goes to the Senate. An interesting bit of drama occurred on the floor during the vote and only the Durango Herald has picked up on it, my emphases:

Debate lasted only a few minutes Tuesday, apparently because most of the 65 representatives had made up their minds. All except Ed Vigil.

The freshman Democrat from
Fort Garland sat still as the House's electronic board tallied the vote - a 32-32 tie.

Vigil, a former district attorney's investigator, thinks the death penalty is a useful tool. In a 2007 case, Jose Luis Rubi-Nava confessed to killing his girlfriend in Douglas County by dragging her behind his car. The threat of the death penalty secured Rubi-Nava's plea, Vigil said.

"As soon as the death penalty became part of the equation, he pled guilty and got a life sentence," he said.

But Vigil also was thinking about moral appeals he had heard, including from Archbishop Charles Chaput, the senior Roman Catholic clergyman in Colorado.

Vigil bit his lip and ran a hand back through his hair. Other House members stood up and looked his way as a silent minute dragged by.
At last, he reached across the desk and pushed the green button for "yes."

The death penalty
repeal passed 33-32.

1 comment:

bill bannon said...

I' say what I said at St. Louis Catholic. Probably every Pope from the time when Augustine approved the death penalty (and Romans 13:3-4 became canon and later pivotal to Aquinas) til Pius XII's affrimation of the death penalty in 1952 (and he had moore secure prisons than we have now) somewhat prior to John Paul II... all of them would recognize that life sentences simply do not offer sufficient punishment in some cases to satisfy not ccc #2267 but ccc #2266 which no one quotes and
which reads in part: "Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense."
Justice Scalia is the only publically known Catholic to point out that this goal vanishes in #2267 where it is replaced with the safety of society as primary which #2266 said was redressing the disorder as primary (look up Romans 13:3-4 in your NAB Bible and you'll see it sides with #2266 and leaves out deterrence while mentioning redressing).

A life sentence for example could not redress what we are seeing right now in North Carolina where a little girl, Shaniya Davis, 5 years old... appears to have been sold by her mother to a man for sexual use for money and that man seems to have then murdered her and left her in the woods. Anyone who sees life sentences as compensating for that is being indulgent beyond reason.
The military has life sentences of hard labor and that would perhaps suffice but civil life sentences are composed of part time work if any/ three meals a day/ library/ basketball/ no fear of ever paying bills during unemployment/ free medical and dental.
If you think that type of life sentence redresses raping a 5 year old and killing her, I pity you and I pity any Pope who thinks that way. Most Popes throughout history would have ordered such a man killed and fast. The papal executioner Bugatti executed over 500 papal state criminals during a 50 year period from 1800 til about 1850.