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The Starting point for our Social Mission:The Compendium

Deacon Keith A. Fournier
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Catholic Online


“The Christian knows that in the social doctrine of the Church can be found the principles for reflection, the criteria for judgment and the directives for action which are the starting point for the promotion of an integral and solidary humanism”

(Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church par.7)



I live in one of several States in these United States that will soon elect a Governor. The race has been rancorous, filled with increasingly distasteful advertisements and laced with the use of charged, old political labels such as “liberal” and “conservative.” Frankly, it is one of the worst campaigns I have seen. The race is in a dead heat, coming down to the wire.

There are real differences between these candidates on a host of political positions. However, the one that has become the most heated, and understandably so, concerns their position on the inherent dignity of every human life. It is in this arena that this State gubernatorial election contest may paint a picture for the coming midterm congressional elections and the looming presidential race of 2008.

Who do you choose?

One of the candidates is a practicing Catholic Christian who is being openly unfaithful to the teaching of his Church concerning the inviolable dignity of every human life from conception to natural death, at least in so far as it relates to children in the first home of the whole human race, their mothers womb. He supports the anti-life legal structure of the age that has adopted into positive law a so called “right” to do what is always wrong - to take the life of an innocent child in the womb. He pays the “lip service” so often paid by politicians, mouthing the mantra that he is “personally opposed to abortion but…” then supports the legalized killing of children in the womb under the subterfuge of privacy. It is so sad. He seems to be a good person with leadership gifts and a record of public service. But, in taking this position, he is being unfaithful to his Catholic faith.

Interestingly, he has also espoused a proper concern, which he says is informed by his Catholic faith, concerning the use of the death penalty in our contemporary age. He opposes it, but, then adds, he would enforce it as long as it is the law. The Catholic teaching opposing the death penalty is predicated upon a very different moral ground than our absolute opposition to abortion. Abortion is intrinsically evil. It is always and everywhere the taking of innocent defenseless life. Catholic teaching opposes the death penalty for other reasons.

First, in considering this life issue we are not dealing, at least presumably, with the death of innocent. The Church opposes this lethal punishment inflicted by the State because it can no longer be justified. Bloodless means of punishment are readily available and the common good does not require its use for the protection of the public. In a civilized Nation, mercy should trump justice. However, in other times in history, and in other circumstances, the Church has not formally opposed the death penalty. There has always been a tradition however against its use, within a stream of Catholic thought.

I oppose the death penalty for a number of reasons. As a former prosecutor, I believe there are many reasons to justify its elimination. For example; our history as a Nation in its disparate application, the advance of the science of DNA which has proven we have made mistakes by convicting innocents. However, these types of reasons are not the grounds that this candidate has chosen to fight this battle on. He has chosen the influence of his Catholic faith; the very ground that he seems to have forgotten as it related to the rights of innocent children in the womb.

So, this candidate’s opposition to the death penalty is now being used as a huge campaign issue by his opponent and his campaign is raising hints of “anti-Catholicism”. The other candidate is a practicing evangelical Protestant Christian. He rightly opposes legalized abortion (though he carves out the “exceptions” which accompany some of the muddled reasoning that surrounds the discussion of the issue). However, he fully supports, in fact openly advocates, the death penalty.

In the last weeks of this campaign, he has chosen to draw the line in the sand over this issue, running a series of advertisements that have filled the airwaves and the mailboxes throughout the State of Virginia.

The race is, as they say, “neck in neck”. Both candidates are appealing to Catholics and, as you can imagine, many are confused.


I believe that this race is a bellwether of trends for the midterm elections and a wake up call for any ...

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