The Wages of Prudence Isn’t Death

Regarding “Death and Doctrine” (July 9-15):

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 fourth.

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 University professors 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.

Don Schenk

 Allentown, Pennsylvania

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.

Priest Power

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 widely available.

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 for dinner.

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.

Cedric de Souza

Alberta, Canada

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. 


Mark Gronceski

Warren, Ohio

Educating Catholics

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

Randallstown, Maryland

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.


Leticia C. Velasquez

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 2-8).

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 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?

Carolyn Naughton
Silver Spring, Maryland