It is not often that you see newspapers as different as the National Catholic Register (perceived as traditional) and the National Catholic Reporter (perceived as liberal) unite together for a common cause. But that is exactly what the editorial boards of these outlets, as well as Our Sunday Visitor and America, have done to oppose the death penalty.
Next month, arguments will be presented in front of the U.S. Supreme court in the case of Glossip vs. Gross that will examine the protocol used when lethal injections are administered. Could these practices be considered cruel and unusual punishment?
The Catholic press certainly thinks so. Not only that, but in their joint editorial they explicitly express that “Our hope is that it will hasten the end of the death penalty in the United States.”
What’s interesting to me about their joint statement (that other Catholic networks, such as the diverse Catholic Patheos bloggers are agreeing with) is that the death penalty is still a hotly debated topic, even among Catholics.
Some argue that opposition to the death penalty is a recent development in Catholic social teaching and, therefore, possibly not binding. Others—including the majority of the hierarchy—point to the fact that even if the death penalty was once admissible as a last resort form of self-defense, most countries now have the resources to avoid taking a life by sentencing criminals to secure life imprisonment.
The statement goes on to argue that the last three popes have argued against the death penalty, decrying it as “abhorrent and unnecessary”. It also cites Archbishop Chaput who points out “that killing the guilty does not honor the dead nor does it ennoble the living.” The Catholic Church holds the sacredness of life as one of its first principles and, according to these outlets, the death penalty violates this principle.
While some argue for complete objectivity in the press, I would argue that that is impossible. Each newspaper and media outlet naturally carries with it its own set of biases and views. So while journalists should always strive for balanced and fair reporting, it is only logical that there will be left-leaning papers, right-leaning papers, and everything in between.
In this case, though, what these outlets have in common is their Catholic faith—a faith that teaches clearly on a number of issues. While I’m heartened to see this expression of unity on the death penalty, I also wonder why there haven’t been more unified stances on Catholic teachings that are even more clear-cut than the death penalty.
The Catholic Church has consistently taught about the sanctity of life from conception (against abortion) to natural death (against euthanasia) and the beauty of God’s plan for the marriage of one man and one woman (against gay marriage). Modern society often rejects these truths. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Catholic press (and indeed all Catholics) could similarly stand together to defend these truths?
Unfortunately, too often even Catholics can see these teachings as optional. However, these core teachings go right to the heart of our Catholic faith: God’s love for the life of all of his children and His plan for the happiness of spouses and families. There are legitimate issues that Catholics can disagree about and the press is certainly one of the places for those debates. However, these central teachings are not among them.
I was surprised to open my newsfeed and read this powerful and convincing joint statement. Imagine what could happen if we stood together on even more crucial issues of our time?
[Editorial Note: uCatholic as an organization is in unison with these other Catholic voices in viewing capital punishment, in nearly every case, as unnecessary and unjust and completely agrees and submits to Church teaching on the matter as stated in the Catechism. We pray for the conversion and souls of all offenders facing capital punishment.]
CCC 2267 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 to 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 definitely 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 nonexistent.”]