Killing of another kind

In a Good Friday statement, the adminstrative board of the bishop’s conference calls for an end to the death penalty in the United States. "On this Good Friday, a day when we recall our Savior’s own execution, we appeal to all people of good will, and especially Catholics, to work to end the death penalty."

Placing their views in the context of the consistent ethic of the life, the board argues: "Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminshes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders."

The bishops also write "we are challenged by the evolution in Catholic teaching on this subject." They are astute to acknowledge that many Catholics cling to the belief that their church, having once supported the death penalty, should continue to do so. As with many human practices that have historically rested on self-defense and the protection of innocent life, killing those who kill has a visceral resonance in our basic sense of justice. But today we have an alternative in lifetime imprisonment. We no longer need capital punishment.

And it will be a banner day, when we no longer need bombs to stop the likes of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. We can put them in jail for life.

Published in the 1999-04-09 issue: 
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