The Pope has updated the Catechism of the Catholic Church to strengthen the Church’s opposition to the death penalty. Rather than saying it should only be used in extreme circumstances, the Church is saying it should not be used at all, while preserving, of course, the right of the state to protect its citizens from wrongdoers.
The Church is saying, as John Paul II also said, that “not even a murderer loses his personal dignity” (Evangelium Vitae, 9).
This development in Church teaching, as explained in a Vatican letter to all the bishops, “centers principally on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life.”
It is a testament, in other words, to what we in the pro-life movement have been saying repeatedly, namely, that we are making progress in advancing the sanctity of human life.
But I’m reminded of a conversation I had in front of an abortion clinic where, as I regularly do, I was defending the children being brought there to be killed. An abortion supporter, protesting my actions, engaged in conversation with me and asked me if I opposed the death penalty.
“I do,” was my response. And I went on to explain, “To me, it’s sad when we think we should solve human problems by throwing away human lives.”
“Yes, that’s right,” the abortion supporter responded, apparently oblivious to the contradiction.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is another abortion supporter who is likewise oblivious.
“The death penalty is a stain on our conscience,” he recently tweeted, proclaiming that he stood “in solidarity with Pope Francis.”
Yet at the very same time, he is trying to expand access to abortion in New York State by pushing for the Reproductive Health Act, which he claims is needed because, after all, New York sets the abortion limit at 24 weeks of pregnancy, allowing abortion after that only if the mother’s life is at risk. No, this is not good enough for him. It needs to be easier to have an abortion in the seventh, eight, and ninth months of the pregnancy.
That doesn’t sound like “solidarity with Pope Francis” to me. Nor does it sound like solidarity with basic human decency.
It is understandable to oppose the death penalty. But what is not understandable is how many people oppose the death penalty but permit abortion.
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They believe we should not kill the guilty, but have no problem killing the innocent.
They can’t tolerate killing criminals, but can’t protest killing babies.
They don’t want death for those convicted with a trial and jury, but won’t save from death those who have no trial and no jury.
They mourn the deaths of those killed by capital punishment, but seem unaware that abortion kills more people in half a day in the United States than have been killed by the death penalty since 1976! (The number of executions since 1976 is 1,479, according to DeathPenaltyInfo.org, but the number of abortions daily is close to 3,000, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.)
The Democratic Party, its platform, and — with rare exceptions — its federal candidates all seem oblivious to this contradiction, and it’s time to call them out on it. Predictably, many will try to score political points in the midterms by invoking the Church’s teaching on the death penalty. We cannot let them get away with it.
If a politician can’t respect the life of a little baby, how is (s)he supposed to respect yours or mine?