POPE FRANCIS HAS come out with one of the most profound declarations of his papacy. The Holy Father has declared death penalty as ‘inadmissible’.
Modern society has become so relaxed to the extent of being indifferent to the sanctity of life. Human life, our very existence, has become a commodity to be acquired; to be used and abused and like any commodity, to be disposed of at the whims of its owner. But the issue here is that life belongs to God, not to society, not to the law, not to government.
Men, institutions and governments have no right to appropriate, let alone dispose of, what does not belong to them. That is theft, a crime and a sin. Forget the political mantra that argues that corruption is no theft/crime. The teachings of the Catholic Church enjoin us to respect life and its sanctity from conception to natural death. Any intervention in between is unacceptable. The allowance of exceptions including capital punishment have always been cause for eyebrows if not serious concerns.
Recent Popes have given considerable attention to the matter of life, respect for life, dignity of life, protection of rights, rights of the unborn, and other considerations in support of life. The Church has not been anything but Pro-Life. With most issues of our days however, those who seek to divide us as a means of seeking power or wealth, casually assault the rights to life of fellowmen. In the guise of freedom, and of the rule of law, statutes are written allowing the taking of a man’s life by another. Nations, groups and individuals amass stupendous wealth through the merchandising of instruments of death. The Church has not been quiet and Pope Francis has increased the volume of the Church’s voice.
Perhaps the most common argument in support of death penalty is that some crimes being so hideous in their nature and in their ramifications rise to the threshold of attracting the severest of punishments, not excluding the penalty of death. This is a rather simplistic argument which begs the question; does death penalty carry with it any restitution?
Just punishment must entail restitution; an act of making good to the injured or to society. To be simplistic,say a person by a cruel act causes the death of another, does taking the life of the offender bring back the victim? Does the punishment provide tangible relief for the victim’s family?
Would it not be of greater benefit if the offender is made to provide restitution (not necessarily financial) for the family of the deceased? Even in matters financial, sending a thief to prison without retrieving for the owner what has been stolen is somewhat confusing. But that is another case, irrelevant to be cited here.
Pope Francis has gladdened the hearts of many Catholics and non-Catholics. Of course, some are displeased who believe that the right to take another’s life is their inalienable right. They have taken to the airwaves of electronic media, pages of newspapers and magazines, and platforms of social media.
They argue that Pope Francis has changed the Church; some argue that the Holy Father has changed the Bible. They are calling to mind, the horrendous crimes that call for nothing less than capital punishment. But they never tell us who owns life. Nor do they reflect on the imperfections that attend human arrangements. Have people not been sent to wrongful death through errors in the judicial process?
Some have been on both sides of right to life; they are as vociferously opposed to abortion as they are silent on public and private weaponry, wars and capital punishment as other means of taking life. Support for abortion amounts to support for taking lives before they are born while support for capital punishment is support for taking lives after birth. Neither is justified. The horrors of one do not excuse the other.
The politicization of the right to life movement in some societies benefit from such pick and choose strategy.The result has been a lukewarm attitude to genuine concern for the rights of the unborn. Arguing against abortion, but in support of weaponizing society and capital punishment, turn many away from what is a necessary campaign for life.
Many have stood in opposition to capital punishment at great personal and political cost, sometimes vilified by those who have chosen their own preference for terminating life. Many Catholics have paid dearly for the errors of supporting abortion while their accusers and traducers support capital punishment without remorse. Catholic Geraldine Ferraro was severely assailed by both lay and clerical persons for her support for abortion rights while her opponents touted their own support for capital punishment. Her ticket with Walter Mondale suffered accordingly.
Mario Cuomo, John Kerry, and a host of other Catholic politicians have justifiably paid similarly high price for their support for abortion rights, while their opponents smile to the political prize supporting the right to take another man’s life through the judicial system.
The evil of abortion is real, it is cruel, conscience-numbing, dehumanizing and ungodly. Nothing can defend the taking of a life before it even has a chance to make one choice. If anything, Pope Francis’ declaration against the death penalty will strengthen anti-abortion movements.
May the Lord take away the evils in men’s hearts.