In your report of Archbishop Charles Chaput's remarks in Mundelein, Ill., one can only agree that abortion and the death penalty “don't have equivalent moral gravity —” (“Denver's Archbishop Chaput: Cafeteria Catholicism Found in All Flavors,” April 21-27).
But it is a high jump to then conclude that that “When Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia publicly disputes Church teaching on the death penalty, the message he sends is not all that different from Frances Kissling [of Catholics for a Free Choice] disputing what the Church teaches about abortion.”
First of all, abortion is a deadly moral evil that can under no circumstances ever be justified or left open to discussion. It is, simply, infanticide — the murder of an innocent human being in violation of the fifth commandment: “Thou shalt not murder.”
That the civil authority should employ the death penalty only in rare instances is altogether desirable and appropriate. Moreover, great care must be exercised in ascertaining beyond the shadow of a doubt that the one to be so penalized is, indeed, the murderer. But it is not beyond rational theological discussion to question whether the death penalty should be retained or abolished.
The real question is whether the state, [acting] for the common good, has the right to impose the death penalty. It is, at best, an oversimplification to hold that it does not or that it is never to be imposed.
FATHER REGIS N. BARWIG Oshkosh, Wisconsin
The Professor and the Pope
Regarding “Death Penalty Symposium” (March 24-30):
Professor Charles Rice, in his criticism of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's comments on the death penalty, argues that the papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae sets forth a “new test” for determining when capital punishment may morally be applied.
Allowing for the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church reaffirms the Church's traditional teaching that the state has the right to impose the death penalty and that the primary aim of punishment is retribution (No. 2266), he says: “Because of the importance of the conversion of the criminal, however, retribution will not justify execution unless the new test for the use of that penalty is satisfied. It must be ‘the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor’ (Catechism, No. 2267). If this were merely John Paul's personal opinion and not a binding teaching, he would not have put it in the Catechism.”
Does the Catechism say that execution, in order to be moral, “must be ‘the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor’”? Here are its words:
“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 with the dignity of the human person.”
Indeed, the word must better represents the phrase “authority will limit itself to such means” than does the word should, which was employed in the earlier version of No. 2267. The more imperative term of the rewrite tends to back up Rice's claim that the Pope means the words to bind. Can they? The question of whether to execute or to incarcerate in the case of a particular crime appears to be radically dependent on the circumstances surrounding the crime.
These circumstances may require imposition of the death penalty to save society from evils greater than the danger of death or bodily harm.
When incarceration falls too far short of the redress proportionate to a crime calling for the death penalty, law loses its instructive force, the difference between guilt and innocence is slighted, and life “here below,” which should be held of small account by comparison with the life to come, is exalted above the requirements of truth and justice.
The rewrite of No. 2267 is faulty and should be withdrawn.
THOMAS LINS Houston
Happy 75th, Register
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! There are no words to express my gratitude for all the wealth I have received from your paper.
Hope the paper is around many more years. God bless!
BARB DEPIES New Holstein, Wisconsin
A Disunited United Nations
Regarding “The Bomb That Went Psssst” by Austin Ruse (Commentary & Opinion, April 7-13):
The commissioner responsible for employment and social affairs of the European Commission of the United Nations noted “alarming” statistics that show “one person in three will be at least 60 years old by 2050.” She says the solution is simple: Have more children.
In the meantime, the Population Control Council of the United Nations is advocating and promoting the killing of more and more innocent, unborn babies by abortion.
Another case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing!
GERARD P. MCEVOY Malverne, New York
What's Going On
Regarding “What Is Going On in the U.S.?” (April 21-27):
As a member of the Catholic Church for many years and having raised a brood of Catholics in my faith, no one can be more depressed than I am over the state of some seminaries, and some bishops, who did not know — or ignored — what has been going on. Worse still has been their use of our money to coverup, and their passing on of the sinners to other [dioceses, thus placing more victims in harm's way].
There is only one possible affirmative aspect to all of this: Pedophilia and homosexual activity are now both out on the table. This may be the way God has chosen to wake up the world to what homosexual behavior is doing, and how it will destroy our society and our families. Fathers, mothers, grandmothers, teachers and preachers have tried to explain this disorder and how it involves acts against the laws of nature. But youth will not listen; arguments over the kitchen table have not convinced them of where these sins were leading. I know one family in which three sons died of AIDS.
Thank God the subject is now open! Or is it? It seems to be getting buried under discussions of “pedophilia” [even though very few of the cases involved pedophilic acts], while the obvious involvement of homosexual behavior is denied. [More than 90% of the accusations have come from men, not women; and they were molested when they were teen-agers, not children.]
We are ignoring the Bible teaching about Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Scriptures that clearly state that it is an abomination before God for a man to lie down with a man.
The Catholic laity has an important role to play here. We must speak up and support the 45,000 faithful priests in our country. How disillusioned they must be, and how we must rally to support them!
True Catholic men and women of courage must face and study these issues so as to be able to speak with knowledge, and to be able to proclaim sexual truth. We can no longer hide our heads in the sand. We must no longer be intimidated by friends, peer culture or the media. As we have seen, the consequences [of inaction] can be overwhelming.
DELPHINE A. MCCLELLAN Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin