In pronouncing the death penalty “contrary to the Gospel,” Francis appears to be saying something that none of his predecessors ever said.
Pope Francis set the cat among the pigeons last week, telling an audience convened to mark the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “the death penalty is an inhumane measure . . . regardless of how it is carried out” and must be regarded as “contrary to the Gospel.”
That got everyone’s attention…
To nonbelievers and non-Catholics, the whole subject may seem little more than Vatican shop talk. Legislators, not popes, write our criminal codes. If Francis wants to change church doctrine, why should outsiders care?
This is why: because the death penalty is a tool of justice that no decent society should unequivocally renounce, and because more innocents die when the worst murderers face only prison. The Catholic church at its best has been a mighty upholder of human dignity. But when remorseless killers have a greater right to life than their victims, human dignity is trampled into the mud. Is that the legacy Pope Francis seeks? …
HWH Comment: Jeff Jacoby may be missing the point. The pope isn’t saying that a killer’s life is more important than the life of the one the killer killed. The pope is saying that the act of killing is wrong – no matter who is doing it and why. The death penalty is not a tool of anything except cold-blooded revenge carried out on behalf of the one killed by supposedly disinterested parties (people other than the family of the victim). A decent society would ban the state-sponsored killing of an individual to avenge the families of victims. The state should not be in the business of killing anybody for the purpose of punishment. There is no moral equivalency between committing a murder against an innocent and the state committing a murder to avenge that death. Both are wrong. Neither is justified – neither the action nor the reaction. Setting the example of civility, especially by the state, is paramount to furthering the goal of global civilization. Continuing the cycle of killing does not move advance that noble cause.
It doesn’t matter if a killer is remorseful or not. It is not our job nor our responsibility to act as the killer acted. That makes us equally guilty.
Pope Francis is correct in his direction to eradicate state-sponsored killing as punishment for crimes committed.