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BY John Lilly
Wages of Prudence Isn’t Death
Regarding “Death and Doctrine”
If we are to get rid of the death
penalty — even though both Scripture (see Exodus 20:13 and 21:14, Luke 23:39-43
and Romans 13:4) and the Catechism (No. 2267) allow it — because being in jail
renders murderers “incapable of doing harm,” somebody should tell them.
Take your July 9-15 cover boy,
Clarence Ray Allen, who ordered three more murders while in prison for a
And remember pederast priest John Geoghan? Murdered in prison by a convicted murderer who
obviously wasn’t rendered “incapable of doing harm.”
As rapist/murderer (and liberal
cause celebre) Roger Coleman explained in your April
26, 1987 edition, in prison “if I violate one of [the guards’] rules, I could
get up to 15 days in isolation. But if I violate one of our rules, I could get
killed. So it’s more important to obey ours.”
The Aug. 13, 2001 issue of the Weekly Standard, in “Capital Punishment
Works,” pointed out that three Emory
studied the statistics and concluded that “the execution of each offender seems
to save, on the average, the lives of 18 potential victims.”
So my own “prudential judgment” is
that we need the death penalty.
Editor’s note: Be sure to understand what “prudential judgment” means. To say something
is subject to “prudential judgment” doesn’t mean Catholics are free to choose
either assent or dissent in response to it. It simply means the application of
the Church’s teaching here is subject to conditions that are very particular to
given situations, and must be applied by those in authority. Church teaching
against the death penalty is normative. It has been declared in an encyclical
(the highest vehicle of papal doctrinal teaching), included in the Catechism of
the Catholic Church (the Church’s own record of its official teaching), and has
been reiterated in the Compendium of the Catechism (the Church’s distillation
of the Catechism.) It has been acted on by bishops for years now; Pope John
Paul II himself repeatedly called for stays of execution.
How the teaching against the death
penalty is applied is necessarily in the hands of those with the authority to
apply it. For the rest of us, we are bound to try to assimilate the Church’s
official teaching (through prayer and study) — or, where we are unable to
assent to it, we must at least refrain from denouncing it in public.
I am a regular subscriber to the
Register, a wonderful, inspiring publication that should be in every household.
Thank you for making this useful tool of orthodox Catholic formation and news
I enjoy reading most of the
articles but I get a lot of hope from the Priest Profiles, which show what
amazing things are being accomplished in ordinary parishes by apparently
ordinary priests. In reality, these “ordinary” JPII priests are on fire with
the Holy Spirit and constantly inspire us to follow Christ more closely by
their words and their example.
Thank you for
Maria Caulfield’s profile of Msgr. Anthony Frontiero,
“Romeward Bound” (July 16-22). He is a really fine priest. When
my wife and I were visiting Boston,
we invited him for dinner. It had been quite some time since we had seen him.
Shortly before the appointed hour, he phoned to say that he was going on a sick
call. He explained that the condition of the sick person was such that he
wanted to stay with him for a while. He said was sorry but he could not join us
He could have easily attended the
person for a short while and asked us to delay dinner — but he chose to stay
with the sick person longer, presumably after administering the sacrament of
the sick. How proud we were of him.
Air the Debate, Editors
Despite your assertion that you
are interested only in “honesty,” about the basic fair-mindedness of the
editors, the defense you offer for terming Bob Casey Jr. a “nominal”
pro-lifer raises questions (“Let’s Be Honest,” Editorial, June 25-July 1).
Among other things, you have
seriously misrepresented Casey’s statements about judicial nominees. He, after
all, has stated that he would have voted to confirm both John Roberts and Sam Alito, which puts your concern about his willingness to
support some filibusters in a very different light. You also ignored his
support for the federal ban on embryonic stem-cell research, which makes his
position more solid than that of many supposed “pro-life” Republicans.
Casey has stood unshaken in his
stance against abortion throughout his political career despite the strong
prevailing winds of his party in the other direction. Such courage and
steadfastness deserve better respect than your skepticism. I am
hard-pressed to think of a single issue where Rick Santorum has been willing to
buck his party on matters of moral principle, as some of some of his party
colleagues who are Christians first and Republicans second have done. (Tom
Coburn and Mike DeWine come to mind.) Your editorial, in fact, sounds more
like veiled partisanship than honest neutrality — and that is a shame because
the race, and all its issues and implications, deserves full, detailed
and unbiased coverage as it proceeds.
For years, pro-lifers of moderate
to liberal views on other issues have set those aside to vote for
often far-right Republicans because of the overriding importance of stopping
the murder of children. There is now a chance, in the Santorum/Casey race, for
some serious debate over how Catholic teaching on lesser but
still-important issues ought to be addressed politically. It is the only
current race I know of with that potential, and it would do a grave disservice
to short-circuit that discussion by refusing to acknowledge as long-standing
and clearly articulated the pro-life views of Casey. Catholics ought to be
happy to have such a situation.
There are certainly arguments
to be made that, even if the two men’s positions on abortion were
equal (which, in fact, they seem to be), one might still think Santorum
the better choice. His position in Senate leadership, and party control of the
Senate, both come to mind. But before the voters make
that choice, strong arguments for the opposing vote ought to be aired
and discussed and tough questions need to be asked of Santorum as well as
Casey. The debate the contest allows about Catholic positions on other issues
is a rare and very valuable opportunity and Register editors seem to be
ignorant of that potential fruitfulness.
Many thanks to
Register reader Mary Zaepfel for sharing her family’s reasons for becoming
dedicated home schoolers (“Catholic-School Chagrin,”
Letters July 16-22). I’m certain that many, if not all, of those reasons present serious
considerations for many other Catholic families determining whether to educate
their children at Catholic, public or home schools.
Personally, I believe that formal
education from authentically Catholic schools is essential to sustaining our
Catholic faith in the United
States. Without it, we can only expect a
continuing decline, measured by lack of religious vocations and increasing
numbers of marginal faithful (cafeteria Catholics), among other indicators.
In the meantime, thank God for the
home schoolers who are “taking the bull by the horns”
to address the need for authentic Catholic education.
K. Dale Anderson
Embryos in an Election Year
Regarding “A Courageous No”
(Editorial, Aug 6-12):
It’s disheartening for me to
witness the unfairness of the stem-cell debate, because of the ignorance of the
American public on this crucial issue of our time. Embryonic stem cells are
still in the beginning stages of research, according to Dr. William Hurlbut, the Stanford
University professor on
the President’s Council on Bioethics. So far, they have not produced a single
cure for disease. So why all the fuss?
Obtaining embryonic stem cells
currently involves the death of a viable human being at the earliest stage of
her or his life. President Bush has permitted funding for 21 lines of embryonic
stem cells that had already been killed. He has consistently held to his
position that further killing of embryos will not be funded by the federal
government under his watch. His stand is that destruction of one human being to
cure another is immoral. He has not prohibited research, just funding.
Privately funded research continues in the United States at this time.
President Bush’s stance is a
principled one, and it has a basis in medical research. Adult stem cells have
cured many individuals, from such diseases as spinal cord injuries, heart
attacks and Parkinson’s. They have proven successful in more than 1,000
clinical trials. They are morally acceptable because they are obtained from
donors who are not killed as a result of donation, and come from such sources
as umbilical cord blood, brain tissue, and bone marrow of living adult donors.
Japanese researchers have actually used adult stem cells to grow heart tissue
in Petri dishes to replaced diseased heart tissue in patients. There are
innumerable possibilities with adult stem cells that outshine the hope offered
by embryonic stem cells, which have a tendency grow disproportionately and
produce tumors in recipients.
So why all the
disparaging rhetoric, implying that Bush is a religious zealot who opposes
scientific advancement? This, ladies and gentlemen, is an election year.
East Moriches, New York
Don’t Believe the Hype
Dr. Markus Grompe’s
letter “Stem Cells: Victory Belongs to the Accurate” (July 23 - Aug 5) was
critical of the Register for printing an article, “Saved by Stem Cells” (July
Grompe abandons the “scientific facts”
as he admonishes the Register and speculates unprofessionally that, since mice
are being cured, in a “few years” people will be cured with “embryo-derived
cells” (doublespeak for cloned cells).
The scientific facts regarding
human cloning are that it has been unsuccessful because of numerous
problems. The fraud of a Korean researcher claiming successful human
cloning scandalized the scientific community.
Also, stem cells extracted from
adult and umbilical-cord blood are providing marvelous lifesaving cures and
treatments for human beings, not mice. Many examples are provided at
stemcellresearch.org. In addition, there are more than 1,000 human clinical
trials underway using adult stem cells, but none using embryonic stem cells.
When, oh when, is the hype going
to stop over embryonic stem-cell research, cloning and fetal-tissue
experimentation — and when are researchers going to admit that adult stem cells
are saving lives and helping people tremendously?
Silver Spring, Maryland