Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Blogosphere Reacts to Chaput Saying State Murder Is Wrong

Over at Open Book, the Catholic blogosphere is in a tizzy over remarks by Archbishop Chaput in his latest column that the death penalty is wrong. The column is adapted from the archbishop's address to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Chaput admonishes the bishops that "Choosing against the death penalty is choosing in favor of life. We need to end the death penalty, and we need to do it soon."

I saw the archbishop's column the other day but it never occurred to me to blog on it because Chaput says nothing that is new here. I mean, what part of "Thou shalt not kill ..." do we not understand? Okay, so the Church's argument is more nuanced, than I'm crediting it here. Let's see what the archbishop has to say.

Chaput writes:

"What Catholic teaching on the death penalty does involve is this: a call to set aside unnecessary violence, including violence by the state, in the name of human dignity and building a culture of life. In the wake of the bloodiest century in history, the Church invites us to recover our own humanity by choosing God’s higher road of restraint and mercy instead of state-sanctioned killing that implicates all of us as citizens.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” explains it in these words: If “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor [i.e., the convicted murderer], authority [should] limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person” (2267).

Conservative Catholics tend not to accept this reasoning, preferring to parse the catechism into tiny shards of meaninglessness, each reflecting their own biases. Read the comments at Open Book, and you'll see what I mean.