Wednesday, July 14, 2004

What about "pro death penalty" legislators?

[NOTE: The following is a cross-post to Catholic Kerry Watch]

FoxNews has posted the transcript of Hannity & Colmes' interview with Marc Balestrieri (thanks to Catholic Light for the tip).

BALESTRIERI: [...] There are other pro-choice Catholic politicians. But unlike any of the other ones, Senator Kerry has gone out of his way to make this an issue against the teaching of the church, in violation of the Vatican's directives and he is using Catholics to...

COLMES: Well, it sounds like you're making it an issue. I'm just wondering, will you -- should you also go after Catholic legislators who are for the death penalty?

BALESTRIERI: Those who are for the death penalty must apply the strict criteria of the Catholic Church, deciding whether or not there's absolutely no other way to protect the community apart from executing the criminal.

COLMES: But why single out John Kerry? There are many legislators who are pro-death penalty, and that's not what the church talks about.

There are many other legislators who agree with John Kerry on the issue of abortion who also happen to be in office. Maybe they're not running for president. So it's clear to me that you're singling out John Kerry because of politics?

BALESTRIERI: Alan, I think it's -- I think it's difficult if you're not a Catholic to understand the exact difference between abortion, which is a heresy, and capital punishment, which is not always the case.

Abortion is an intrinsically evil act. It can never be performed if it's direct and voluntary. Whereas capital punishment is only extrinsically evil, and under certain strict circumstances, it can be permitted. There's a great difference there.

The (mistaken) equasion of the Church's condemnation of abortion and capital punishment has been raised countless times, often with the intent of diverting attention away from the chief issue at hand: the legislator's stance on abortion and the absolute condemnation of the Church. Colmes (the token liberal voice of the Fox News' tag team) mentioned "pro-death penalty" legislators twice, and Mr. Balestriery displayed great patience in correcting him in the brief time that was allotted to him on air.

The errors contained in such an equasion have been addressed by my co-editors in the past, but for those who persist (and I anticipate there will be plenty after Colmes) let's go over this one more time:

The morality of capital punishment involves the question of justice and legitimate defense of society -- namely, whether execution of an "unjust agressor" may be employed in defense of the common good. On this issue the Catechism [2263-2267] teaches:

". . . the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."
Now is not the time (nor is this blog the place) for an extended discussion of the death penalty. Those who wish to do so can peruse the extensive list of articles here, beginning with Cardinal Dulle's "Catholicism and Capital Punishment" First Things 112 (April 2001): 30-35).

It is sufficent here to remember that the Church's condemnation of capital punishment is, for the above reasons, conditional, it's condemnation of abortion absolute. Catholic Tradition has always defended the "inviolable right of every innocent being to life", and "affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion." Likewise, it has always condemned direct euthanasia: the deliberate killing of those who are sick, handicapped, or otherwise deemed "not suitable for life," and found such acts morally unacceptable.

Consequently, the Church distinguishes between -- and does not equate -- its condemnation of abortion/euthanasia and its criticism of capital punishment as a form of defense.

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