Pope Francis’s condemnation of capital punishment is simple and unambiguous: It is inadmissible. No exceptions for especially heinous crimes; no loopholes allowing execution when other lives might be in jeopardy, as in past Catholic teachings. No, declared the pope; state-sanctioned killing is always an unjustifiable attack on the dignity of human life, it’s always wrong.
My senior year in prep school, one of my teachers was both a recent graduate of the school (which was not even ten years old at the time) and a newly minted “Sixties radical” to boot. He brought this up, using the same commandment as the New York Times to oppose capital punishment. My parish priest (I was a newly minted Roman Catholic) had, in accordance with the teaching of the Church, told us back at the parish that the commandment meant “Thou shalt do no murder.” (Given the place of capital punishment in the old law, that makes sense.) I repeated this to the teacher and he did what his kind are best at: he exploded in my face with rage.
Some things never change…as Andreas Killen pointed out, the issues that were at the forefront in 1973 are still with us, and this is one of them. But now we have a pope, who prefers damage control to solution in the sex abuse crises, going against the teaching of his own church. Personally I think he’s using the capital punishment issue to deflect attention from the abuse crisis, which only gets worse.
But that illustrates the duplicity of those struggling to hold the “moral high ground.” Most of those who oppose the death penalty also support abortion and euthanasia, and now explode in our faces on social media with the hope that many of their opponents can be liquidated. The question is not really keeping people alive but shifting who’s chosen to die from one group to another.
P.S. One of the most impassioned pleas for the restriction of capital punishment except in the most heinous cases comes from Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters, but Jesuits like the Pope and James Martin would sooner have us forget this masterpiece, as it shows what happens when you let the Jesuits run wild on issues of faith and morals.