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A Distinction with CLAWS: Opposing both Abortion and Capital Punishment

7/18/2003 - 7:00 AM PST

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By: Keith A Fournier
(c) Third Millennium, LLC

I recently had the task of writing an article and supportive text regarding the efforts of the activist arm of “Your Catholic Voice” movement to encourage its members to work for the confirmation of the Honorable William Pryor to the Federal Bench. The leadership of “Your Catholic Voice” on this vital effort is being undertaken by the Honorable Ray Flynn, the President of our activist arm.

WOW! What a challenge!


Let me make one thing PERFECTLY clear. I oppose the death penalty. I always have and I always will. I consider it to be an integral pert of HOW I UNDERSTAND the call of the Catholic Church to be fully, consistently and faithfully pro-life. I am a deacon of the Church, a lawyer and a public policy activist who has always sought to inform my participation in every aspect of culture, including politics, by my faith.

I also have the privilege of being one of the founders of the “Your Catholic Voice” movement. I know that in all of our efforts we have pledged ourselves to absolute fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church - without compromise.

I also know that one of the main challenges faced by any effective Catholic efforts of political participation is the inability of some Catholics to make distinctions based on prudential judgment. As one who knows the rough and tumble of activist politics, I have experienced the disingenuous efforts of the proponents of the contemporary culture of death to SIEZE THE MOMENT and thus undermine our impact in the political arena, both in the elective and the appointive processes.

Here is the truth. As Catholics we oppose all taking of life---period. We begin with the fundamental conviction that all life is sacred. Innocent human life is especially to be protected. There is a difference.

The Magisterium (teaching office) of the Catholic Church has never taught that Capital punishment is intrinsically evil.
In fact, the history of our beloved Church’s treatment of this difficult issue reveals that capital punishment has, at times, been recognized as falling within the prerogative and jurisdiction of the State. Of course the exercise of this most heinous and frightening punishment was to be exercised only as a means to protect society and serve the common good.

That is not to say that there has not been a consistent opposition to this position in the tradition of our Church as well. There has been. I would actually side with this opposition. I OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISMENT- PERIOD!

However, the Catholic Church has consistently taught that the taking of innocent human life is always and everywhere immoral, wrong and a heinous violation of fundamental human rights. The human person, no matter how small, is a gift from God and has an inalienable right to life. There is a distinction made however between taking innocent lives and the States treatment of the guilty.

Unfaithful Catholics in public life have also sometimes intentionally muddied the waters. It was SAFE for them to hide behind this distinction. They have not opposed abortion, in absolute rebellion against the clear teaching of their Church. They have tried to hide behind a strained notion a private/public dichotomy which is absolutely without support in the teaching of the Church.

Some have opposed capital punishment but supported the so-called right to abortion-apparently viewing the right to life of the guilty as more important than the right to life of the child in the first home of the womb.While others have rightly opposed it. Only a few have courageously opposed both.

However, both major political parties have, for the most part, followed the rush toward supporting capital punishment. Fortunately, the pace of that rush is slowing and the policy is being reconsidered for many valid reasons, even beyond the obvious moral concerns regarding the taking of any human life.

Concerns such as the disparate nature of the use of capital punishment, the mistakes later found in evidence secured through D.N.A. and other advanced tools and the potential of killing the innocent,and the questionable legal representation afforded to the poor and disenfranchised are rightly leading to serious reconsideration of capital punishment. Recent moratoriums like the one in Illinois are a hopeful sign that this practice will soon come to an end.

Your Catholic Voice is faithful to the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church on this and every subject. We oppose capital punishment. HOWEVER, we also recognize the important difference between the taking of innocent human lives and, the States taking potentially guilty adult lives in the application of capital punishment. Most people can also make this distinction. Unfortunately, some of our opponents have played upon the failure of some to do ...

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