Thoughts on Immigration Issues
American Energy Act
Preventing Illegal Immigration
Christianity and the Social Crisis
The Church and Human Rights
When Tragedy Becomes a Statistic
More Money Needed for International Food Aid
Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)
Fading Faith in Free Trade
Global Trade; Who's Helped? Who's Still Hurting
The Fullness of Life
The Death Penalty
The USCCB's Secretariat of Hispanic Affairs reports that more than 35% of our U.S. Catholic population is Hispanic. Hispanics, since 1960, have contributed 71% to the growth of the Church. More than 50% of all U.S. Catholics younger than age 25 are of Hispanic heritage. More than two-thirds of all Hispanics in the U.S. (45.5 million) consider themselves Catholic. By 2050 it is estimated that our Hispanic population will exceed 102 million.
This growing Hispanic presence in the United States is addressed in the book, "A Civilization of Love" by Carl Anderson (HarperOne, 2009, ISBN-10: 0061335320). Carl Anderson is "the Supreme Knight," the head of the Knights of Columbus. In this book, he reflects upon what American Catholics can do to transform America into a civilization of love. His answer to resolving the immigration issue is to fix the economic inequality between the U.S. and Mexico and other Central and Latin American countries. The Church can influence the outcome, as can key Catholics in business and finance. Anderson deplores the hostility with which immigrants are regarded, reminding us that our European predecessors, too, were led to the U.S. to escape poverty.
Source: ZENIT, 12/7/09
Walt Lundin, January 2010
Summarized from article on immigration issues by Tim Padgett in Oct. 15, 2007 America magazine.
Internal reforms in the local economy of Mexico are a much more effective means of preventing illegal immigration to the US than law-enforcement approaches to border policing by the US, according to Mexican journalists and policymakers. Even the conservative president of Mexico, Calderon, was so strongly challenged in the 2006 elections by leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, that Calderon had to co-opt some of Obrador's rhetoric in order to win.
Microcredit, small business loans to the most remote and economically depressed regions, got a boost when Bangladeshi micro-credit guru Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel prize for economics. It fills a great need in Mexico. Banking and credit resources are sparse there; in the developed world, there are usually fewer than 2000 people per bank branch, but in some Mexican states like Oaxaca, the number is 38,000. And Mexico's banks virtually shut out small enterprises with exorbitant interest and lots of red tape. Though the country's financial system is one of the hemisphere's largest, it actually loans very little to its own economy, and virtually none in the rural areas where most illegal immigrants come from.
Many of those immigrants are now doing what old-line banks won't: pooling funds to start micro-credit banks to help fund local businesses that allow residents to work at home instead of travelling to the US to make a living. 95% of the loans made by a microbank in Santa Cruz Mixtepec, in the southern Oaxacan mountains, have been repaid on time so far.
The sorts of businesses funded by these microloans include a metal window-frame shop, tomato greenhouses, and other products which local consumers can utilize. Thus, profits are not drained away to overseas multinational corporations, but instead reinvested in other local concerns, and these loans have a ripple effect throughout the local economies, in contrast to US-free-trade-policy-supported border-dwelling, polluting maquilladoro factories. NAFTA has failed as a solution to illegal immigration because the wealth it creates does not flow through Mexico's economic bloodstream and create incentives for Mexicans to stay home. A multibillion-dollar fence might make xenophobes feel safer, but the money would be better channelled into foreign aid for the microbanks loaning to small businesses in the interior of Mexico, and to pressure the Mexican government to help, too.
This note is a paraphrase and summary of a review that appeared in Commonweal Magazine, October 26, 2007, by Casey Nelson Blake (http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=2038&var_recherche=Casey+Nelson+Blake).
Christianity and the Social Crisis was written in 1907 by Walter Rauschenbusch. His objective was to tear down the wall that separated faith from the public world. He called on the church to address the suffering and degradation that accompanied the rapid industrialization of the United States.
A century after its appearance, Paul Raushenbush - a great-grandson of both Walter Rauschenbusch and Louis Brandeis - has edited a new edition titled Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century (HarperOne), which intersperses the original text with commentaries by several contemporary authors. Paul Raushenbush intends this new edition as more than a tribute to his ancestor’s legacy. Christianity and the Social Crisis remains a powerful statement of the social promise of prophetic Christianity, and its republication in this form is a forceful intervention in contemporary debates in American religion and politics. The book is an indispensable resource for our own age of crisis.
What Walter Rauschenbusch offered his Christian readers was a revisionist account of their history and theology. As Stanley Hauerwas observes, Christianity and the Social Crisis “is best read as a sermon seeking to convict Christians of our sins as well as call us to the redeeming work of the kingdom of God.” Rauschenbusch championed the uncompromising stance of prophetic Judaism, Jesus’ refusal of caste and custom, and the communal democracy of the early Christian church as the core of faith. Those traditions lost their force, according to Rauschenbusch, with the ascendancy of ceremonialism, priestly hierarchy, and an otherworldly orientation that easily accommodated secular authority. Even worse, in his view, was the individualistic gospel of personal salvation that followed on centuries of empire and political oppression. By the end of the nineteenth century, a narrow religious individualism had left the faithful shorn of spiritual and communal support as they faced the onslaught of an industrializing economy. Rauschenbusch urged a return to the example of an early Christian counterculture that refused the claims of the powerful and held that “the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Rauschenbusch’s book revived the proud tradition of the American jeremiad to confront readers with the unsettling, indeed shocking gospel of Jesus and his early followers. A middle-class church grown lazy and comfortable, indifferent to social evil as it called upon individual sinners to repent, stood condemned by the very creed it professed to uphold. Even as he underscored that “Jesus was not a social reformer of the modern type” - that Jesus’ greatest lesson for his followers was “how to live a religious life” - Rauschenbusch believed Jesus’ teachings were a desperately needed corrective to modern complacency. “Jesus was not a child of this world,” he wrote. “He nourished within his soul the ideal of a common life so radically different from the present that it involved a reversal of values, a revolutionary displacement of existing relations.”
Archbishop Mamberti, the secretary for the Vatican’s relations with states, in addressing the 62nd session of the U.N. stated:
“Many of the problems that today are attributed almost exclusively to cultural and religious differences have their origin in economic and social injustices." He went on to call for a fully operational peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan and for a solution for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians which is capable of recognizing the legitimate expectations of each side. Referring to the crisis in Myanmar he noted that Pope Benedict's appeal called for “dialogue, good will and a spirit of humanity. May a solution be found quickly for the good of the country and a better future for all its inhabitants?”
Archbishop Mamberti went on to assert the inherent right to life is to be respected everywhere. He said that we must work to stop and reverse the culture of death embraced by some social and legal structures that try to make the suppression of life acceptable by disguising it as a medical or social service. In this sense, the abolition of the death penalty should also be seen as a consequence of full respect for the right to life.
On the issue of equality, he noted that “the quest for equality between men and women has achieved positive results. Nevertheless, inequalities in the exercise of basic human rights unfortunately persists in many places. This leads to a breakdown in the social fabric and results in women’s objectification and exploitation. The vindication of equality needs to be accompanied by the awareness that it goes hand in hand with and does not endanger, much less contradict, the recognition of both the difference and complementarity between men and women.”
He concluded that “Faith in human dignity demands that the problem of migrations is approached in the context of human rights, family rights, and children’s rights.” He said that “while it is essential to fight human trafficking and it is legitimate to curb illegal migration, no one can justify measures which put lives at risk or gravely offend human dignity and rights.”
Terry McCaffrey, Parish Human Concerns Committee, December 2007. From the October 25th 2007 edition of Origins Magazine.
CHILDREN, HIV/AIDS AND OTHER DISEASES
An article in the Spring 2006 issue of "Stanford Medicine" is entitled: "The Unhealthiest Place on the Planet for Children - Sub-Saharan Africa." It tells a sad story. We must take care that the enormity of the numbers does not desensitize us to the tragedies of the individual lives.
In sub-Saharan Africa, nine children under the age of five die every minute - 4.8 million a year. Cause of death: malaria, diarrheal disease, respiratory infections, AIDS. (AIDS is the biggie.) Contributing causes: Poverty, malnutrition, bad water, bad sanitation, ineffective delivery systems.
[Parishioners will recall that Fr. Kiriti from Kenya spent time here recently.] In his country 30,000-40,000 infants are born HIV-positive every year. Sixty to seventy percent die before age five. Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs given to mothers before and after labor and to the newborn just after birth would reduce deaths to almost zero. This is the experience of developed nations.1 President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the UN's Global Fund to Fight AIDS and private donations help pay for ARV drugs. (In Kenya only 2% of the people have access to these drugs.) In sub-Saharan Africa, 26 million are HIV-positive. Of these, 4.8 million need drugs to survive.
In 2003 the UN tried to jump-start delivery of AIDS drugs with the World Health Organization's "3 x 5" program: Treat 3 million by 2005. As a result, global spending increased from $4.7 billion (2003) to $8.3 billion (2005). The program also set a goal for industrialized nations to provide universal access to drugs by 2010. A hopeful note is that the cost of ARV drugs has dropped 53%. A discouraging note is that their present cost is out of the reach of many, many wage earners.2 While prospects for attaining the goals are slim, the UN feels the effort is worthwhile.
WHAT TO DO?
The UN Millennium Project aims to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015. The amounts pledged should get the job done. The amounts delivered are falling short. All participating nations must be encouraged to match word with deed and put their money where their mouths are. (Our parishioners will recall signing letters to lawmakers to do just that - most recently in March 2006.)
AIDS ORPHANS - A BY-PRODUCT
In sub-Saharan Africa, about 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS (650,000 in Kenya). This is a traumatic blow to children. An added danger is that because orphanages and existing social programs are overwhelmed, the children must scavenge to survive. They become ripe for sexual predators and for recruitment by terrorist groups.
"The demands of the common good . . . [include] the provision of essential services to all, some of which are . . . basic health care. . . . Nor must one forget the contribution that every nation is required in duty to make towards a truly worldwide cooperation for the common good of the whole of humanity and for future generations also."3
Why We're behind the Curve
In the 2005 budget year the U.S. Agency for International Development had $1.183 billion for food aid. Three-quarters of it was planned for development programs -to demonstrate and teach variable crop rotation, water conservation and irrigation; to improve roads, and instruct mothers in healthy nutritional and sanitation methods. Regrettably, most of the money had to go for emergency aid.
Andrew S. Natsos, who administers A.I.D., fears the same will happen this year. The cost of responding to emergencies is said to be seven times the cost of preventing them. The shortfall has been compared to a city budget that cancels money for smoke detectors and fire safety inspections to buy a new fire engine.
Another billion dollars (not expected to be forthcoming) would cover both emergency needs AND long-range development efforts. These programs would be managed by non-governmental organizations - Save the Children, WorldVision, Catholic Relief Services and others.
Catholic social teaching is clear: We should feed the hungry (but we should not create dependencies). Our solidarity with all people asserts the obligation to help others in a world that is interconnected and increasingly plagued with hunger and misery. Pope Paul VI wrote: "Development is the new name for peace." President Bush (State of the Union message, 2005:) "If whole regions of the world remain in despair* and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting ground for terror."
Conclusion: Pope Paul VI - it is the moral thing to relieve hunger. President Bush - it is in our national interest to relieve hunger.
Concerned readers are urged to write to policy makers in Washington, D.C.
*Some places of despair: Angola: Seventy percent live on less than 70 cents a day. India: About 300 million (more than our U.S. population) live on less than a dollar a day.
[Information for this reflection was taken from "America", Oct. 10, 2005 "The New Name for Peace"]
Testimony of Archbishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imaro of San Marcos, Guatemala, before the Congressional Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere:
The archbishop expressed deep concerns about the present plan. He reiterated the plea of Pope John Paul II to consider the effect of trade policies on those who live in poverty, not just on the benefits to business and economic growth.
In Guatemala 56% of the population is poor (16% extremely poor and living in rural areas). Almost a quarter of Guatemala's Gross Domestic Product comes from agriculture that employs the rural poor. "But they cannot compete against the U.S. Treasure and the $170 billion subsidies . . . in your farm bill of 2002."
The inability of rural farm families to compete against subsidized commodity imports or overcome limited access to [patented] seed and fertilizers drives the ablebodied to move to the U.S. for work or to jobs in local maquilas that lack labor rights and safe working conditions.
Archbishop Ramazzini recalled Pope John Paul's words ["Ecclesia in America"] "If globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot be but negative."
Said the archbishop: "The path of trade integration laid down by the free trade agreement . . . has been presented as a wide avenue along all can travel to a greater prosperity. In reality it is a narrow path across a deep gorge that only the strongest can travel. It offers hope only to a few, and, I fear, no hope to those whom the Pope calls 'the weakest, the most powerless and the poorest.' "
[The full text may be found in Origins, Vol. 34, No. 46, 5/5/05]
The following is a summary of an article appearing in "America" (July 5-12, 2004) by Robert A. Senser [former U.S. Foreign Service employee; editor of bulletin"Human Rights for Workers"]
Some economists are now having second thoughts about free trade policies. Of particular concern are the protection of human rights, worker health and safety standards and environmental protection.
One economist, Joseph E. Stiglitz, [2001 Nobel prize, chairman Council of Economic Advisors in 1st Clinton administration, senior VP World Bank] says, "At the end of the Cold War, the U.S., as the sole superpower, had an opportunity and a responsibility to reshape the global economic order based on principles like social justice. . . . But we lacked a vision. The financial and commercial sector in the U.S. did have a vision. They might not believe in the government having an active role, except when it advanced their interest. The active role they pushed for was to gain market access. . . . As a result we got some very unbalanced trade agreements."
Stiglitz (and economist Jagdish Baghwati) take issue with two particular sore points.
1. Protection of intellectual properties [i.e. patents and copyrights] - "stronger intellectual property rights typically make some better off (the drug companies) and many worse off (those who might otherwise have been able to purchase the drugs."
2. Bhagwati, on the question of whether capital should have an unrestricted freedom to flow from one country to another, says this is in the interest of Wall Street "which it equates with the good of the world."
Paul C. Roberts [Asst. Secty of Treasury in Reagan administration] fears present policies on movement of capital threaten to turn the U.S into a third world economy in 20 years. Unfettered movement of capital means factories and machinery can be moved abroad to populous, labor-surplus countries like China and India.
Author Senser says it is ironic that owners of capital (investments and property real and intellectual) receive beneficial protection under trade policies while jobs, not "owned", do not.
[A review of an article in "America" 12/12/05 by Rev. Andrew Small, O.M.I., foreign policy advisor to the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops and Vatican delegate to the Dec. World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong]
National and international concerns for the poor is made visible in donations to victims of tsunami, Katrina, earthquake and HIV/AIDS and by cancellation of the debts of 19 very poor nations. But negatively, "the poor are getting poorer, and the gap between the rich and poor is getting wider." The combined wealth of the 500 richest people in the world is greater than that of the 416 million poorest. Ten percent of the globe earns over 50% of the world's income; 40% earn 5%.
[The Hong Kong meeting ended in deadlock, the big hang-up being over trade terms afforded poor countries. Rich countries were reluctant to reduce barriers (tariffs, quotas and subsidies) to the entry of products - esp. agricultural - from poor nations.]
About 1.3 billion people in developing nations are engaged in agriculture. They'd be better off if they had a market to sell what they grow or make. Unfortunately, tariffs tend to be highest on the products that poor people and poor countries produce: agricultural commodities and garments, footwear and food products. (The author says you can sell peanuts but don't try to sell peanut butter.} "Thus Bangladesh (annual per capita income $440) pays more in tariffs than France (annual per capita income $24,000), even though France sells 15 time more goods than Bangladesh.)
Fr. Small suggests there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Trade strategies should be accommodated to the particular needs and circumstances of individual countries and there must be flexible policies to meet changing conditions.
Readers who feel that trade policies and treaties should work to promote the common good and the well-being of all [or at least of more] are urged to write Congress and the administration. Investors [some 70 million households in the U.S.] can influence their companies to act in a socially responsible mode and, while doing well, do good also.
[From "The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" #364: "The Church's social doctrine has time and again called attention to aberrations in the system of international trade which often, owing to protectionist policies, discriminates against products coming from poorer countries and hinders the growth of industrial activity in and the transfer of technology to these countries. The continuing deterioration in terms of the exchange of raw materials and the widening of the gap between rich and poor countries has prompted the social Magisterium to point out the importance of ethical criteria that should form the basis of international economic relations: the pursuit of the common good and the universal destination of goods, equity in trade relationships, and attention to the rights and needs of the poor in policies concerning trade and international cooperation. Otherwise 'the poor nations remain ever poor while the rich ones become still richer.'"]
On April 27, 2003, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (Washington, D.C.) wrote a pastoral letter on "The Fullness of Life" on the subject of HIV/AIDS. Using the Gospel text "I came that they might have life and have it to the full." [John l0:l0] the Cardinal described how HIV/AIDS infects men, women and children and how new drugs permit sufferers to lead longer and more productive lives.
Sub-Saharan Africa now has 30 million people infected, of whom 3 million are children under age 15. In Botswana and Zimbabwe 33% of adults are infected. The resulting sickness and deaths create orphans and homelessness and cause enormous social, economic and political devastation.
We [the affluent developed nations] must be in solidarity with the sufferers. Cardinal McCarrick quotes Pope John Paul II on solidarity: "Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and to each individual, because we are really responsible to all."
Our efforts must both treat and prevent. The Catholic Church worldwide provides 25% of all AIDS care. The Church encourages chastity, fidelity and sexual abstinence outside marriage This Church stance is counter-cultural and reflects a crisis of values. Here the Cardinal cites St. Thomas Aquinas: "The great kindness we can render to any man consists in leading him to the truth," and quotes St. Paul's Letter to the Romans [12:2], "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect."
Both counselling and early testing are required, along with CHEAP DRUGS [emphasis supplied]. [Parishioners will recall that our parish Human Concerns Committee has provided letter-writing opportunities to Congress urging maximum funding for African disease and hunger relief.]
[For the full text see Origins,6/l9/03.]
"Perspectives on the Death Penalty" was a workshop presented at the 2009 Faith Formation Conference, facilitated by Terry McCaffrey, member and president of the California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty (CPF). To read an article about this conference which appeared in the Valley Catholic, click here.
Reflections on the Death Penalty -- October 12, 2006:
October is Respect LIfe Month. In the words of Bishop McGrath from San Jose "Life is to be respected at all stages." This means that we support the life of the unborn and it also means that we support the life of those who kill.
Although I am fortunate that none of my loved ones has been murdered, I would like to share some of my experiences with those that have been touched by the death penalty. I have met family members hat have lost a loved one to violence. Their pain is enormous. Some are very angry. But some have transformed their pain and have come to forgive the perpetrator.
But there are others who are also suffering. I have met a mother whose son is on death row. Every other weekend she travels from Santa Monica to visit her son in San Quentin. She is devastated.
Then there are those who carry out executions. A few years ago I interviewed a Warden who was in charge of executing people. In his interview he said, each night after an execution, "I went home to my house in the middle of the night and climbed into the shower and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. But you can't make yourself feel clean."
"I was troubled as I stood and watched these guys die in the gas chamber thinking: What are my children deep down thinking of their father? And ultimately what is my God going to ask of me when my time comes to be judged?"
So you see there is plenty of pain to go all around.
For me the crucial issue about the death penalty is what does Jesus have to say. We have a direct answer. When Jesus was confronted by the woman who was about to be stoned to death he said, "Let you who is without sin cast the first stone." Jesus was about love, compassion and forgiveness. There is no love and compassion about killing someone.
The message of forgiveness and reconciliation is a very difficult one to bridge. Yet in our culture of violence we have a recent sterling example that stands out. You will all be familiar with the killing of five Amish school girls in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. The universal response of the Amish community was one of forgiveness. In fact they have set up a trust fund to take care of the family of the perpetrator of this crime.
The challenge of the Gospel is not an easy path to follow. This is the challenge we face regarding the death penalty.
A Catholic Response to the Death Penalty
The Catholic Church has been an aggressive opponent of capital punishment since at least 1995 when Pope John Paul II issued Evangelium Vitae. He argued that the extent of punishment ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. “Today, however, such cases are very rare if not practically nonexistent.” He went on to say that if bloodless means are sufficient to protect public order and safety they are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. (The new Catechism of the Catholic Church also reflects this position.) He mentioned that support for the death penalty is generally rooted in the desire for revenge and that justice can never be achieved through vengeance.
John Paul II reminds us that Jesus’ position on the death penalty was clear: turn the other cheek and forgive. Pope Benedict XVI in his first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, states that the Holy Spirit harmonizes our hearts with the heart of Christ so that we see others with the eyes of Christ. Catholics are committed to justice and called to advocacy and it is the responsibility of lay faithful to work directly for a just ordering of society. During her recent visit to the Vatican, the president of the Philippines was greeted by Pope Benedict with the words, “Well done!” The Pope was referring to her decisive role in the abolition of the death penalty in her country.
In the 1994, the U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote in their pastoral message, Confronting a Culture of Violence, that our society looks to a reliance on the death penalty to deal with crime and that we are tragically turning to violence in the search for quick and easy answers to complex human problems. Violence is not the solution; it is the most clear sign of our failures. We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. The cycle of violence diminishes us all, especially our children. How do we teach the young to curb their violence when we embrace it as the solution to social problems? Violence is a lie for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity.
“We believe that capital punishment is not just a question of public policy, but is at its very core a moral issue, and therefore a religious issue and we must speak to it.” Archbishop John Roach, St. Paul-Minneapolis.
Evolving Standards of Justice
We can observe an evolution in religious teaching as societal conditions and attitudes have evolved. History tells us the application of the death penalty (including the Church's penalty for heresy) was more frequent and more savage. Today, with few exceptions, developed and industrialized nations execute quickly and more humanely; indeed, most of them have abolished the death penalty. According to Amnesty International, in 2005, 94 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the USA. Most European and Latin American countries have abolished capital punishment. (In the U.S. there are 12 states and the District of Columbia without the death penalty.) Notably, Pope John Paul II and his bishops have been very vigorous in their opposition. But doesn't it almost go against human nature and our sense of justice to feel concern about executing a "clearly-guilty" and "fairly-convicted" killer who, besides a dead victim, has offended the grieving families and friends and a society whose fabric of order has been torn by that act? "An eye for an eye . . . " is scriptural, and lt seems SO RIGHT! in such a case. Lex talionis - the law of retaliation.
A Little History
In the following we rely on two additional sources: 1. "Dictionary of Biblical Theology", Xavier Leon-Dufour, 2nd ed. 1973 (vide "Vengeance") 2. Dictionary of the Bible", John L. McKenzie, S.J., 1965 (vide "Avenger" and "Murder".]
In a nomadic society, before settlements and laws became fixed, the clan was the protector of it members or it killed a murderer and thus safeguarded justice. (But nothing then prevented the killer's clan from retaliating, and the resulting feuds went on and on.) With the advance of a more ordered civilization the right of retribution passed to society and its laws. Gradually there were restraints on excesses of anger (eye for eye Ex. 21:23-25 = tit for tat). There was a call for measured retaliation (Dt. 19:6); determination of intent (Dt. 19:4); restraint on revenge against countrymen (Lv. 19:17-18), and pardon of countrymen (Jg. 15: 3,7) . All this showed less rigor, more restraint and more selectivity. [Still, this was no namby-pamby justice system. The law killed for adultery, idolatry, false prophecy, working on the Sabbath, sorcery, cursing God, and disobedience to religious authorities.]
Lastly, it was Jesus who said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." - the ultimate rejection of vengeance. . . . God/Man said this.
The Real Question
The rationale for the Catechism's stricture against the death penalty is public order and the safety of persons. There exists in the U.S. (and in all non-death penalty nations) a sentence of Life Without Parole (LWOP) = "throw away the key" to provide this safeguard. LWOP, moreover, does not risk the execution of an innocent person. Countless news stories have shown the danger: In the past 20 years 112 people have been removed from Death Row after appellate judicial review. Some reasons? Witness perjury, police/prosecutorial/juror misconduct, defendant's mental incapacity, inadequate defense counsel and, more recently, the certainty of DNA evidence. These instances raise question about the moral certitude of "clearly-guilty" and "fairly-convicted". Can there ever be foolproof, error-free death penalty convictions? It is good we ask these questions now. Since 1976 more than 880 men and women have been executed. In our state more than 630 await execution. We worship a God of justice and a God of love and forgiveness and mercy. How does He keep it all straight?
Update October 2006
Thirty-eight states have constitutions which allow capital punishment. Twelve do not. From time to time there are efforts to allow executions in those twelve, some to expand the application of the death penalty beyond the limits now allowed in some states and some to eliminate capital punishment where now allowed. What follows is a look at recent efforts.
WISCONSIN: The November ballot has an advisory (non-binding) referendum to ask voters whether the death penalty should be restored after an absence of 153 years. This would be for cases involving a person convicted of first-degree intentional homicide if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence.
The Assembly had passed a similar measure earlier; the Senate voted 18-15 for the referendum. The incumbent governor opposes capital punishment; his opponent favors it. Both are Catholic.
A recent poll reflects that 55.6% of voters favor the measure but, when given a choice between execution and life without parole, 45% chose death and 50% preferred imprisonment.
In opposing the measure, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference pointed out that the state has a murder rate below the national average and one far below many states which perform executions frequently.
KANSAS: The Kansas Catholic Conference continues to work to repeal the Kansas death penalty. Background: After the Kansas Supreme Court found one provision of the law unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of the U.S. reversed (5-4) the decision. At issue: Is it unfair to defendants to mandate a death sentence when a jury finds that the aggravating and mitigating circumstances are equal? The Kansas bishops: "In this case the Supreme Court said a tie goes to the state instead of the defendant."
MICHIGAN: There have been no executions, even before Michigan became a state in 1837. Its constitution bans capital punishment and its laws mandate life without parole for first-degree murder. Earlier this year a man committed three violent murders, and the killings moved the district's assemblyman to move to permit executions.
A 2/3 vote in both houses is necessary to change the constitution. The issue awaits consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.
MISSOURI: In June a U.S. District Court found that the state's execution procedure could cause "unconstitutional pain and suffering." (In California and several other states this same issue has been raised.) The court decision has been appealed by the Attorney General.
The bishops of Missouri wrote a pastoral letter urging messages to state and national legislators to push for a halt to executions and an end to capital punishment. ". . . more violence is not a solution to society's problems."
NEVADA: The state recorded its twelfth execution since capital punishment was restored in 1977. The prisoner denied his guilt but waived his right to appeal, saying he preferred death to imprisonment during the lengthy appeals process. (A curious fact: Of the 11 others executed earlier, all but one waived appeal.)
NEW JERSEY: The state has formed a Death Penalty Study Commission. A spokesman for the state's bishops testified that 54% of churchgoers favored life without parole to execution. In other testimony, victims' family members belonging to Murder Victims' Family Members for Reconciliation gave their testimony that they did not seek the death penalty for killers of their families.
TENNESSEE: In June the state executed the second person in the past 46 years. The state's bishops prayed for the victims, their families and for the killer and his family and said, in a statement, " . . . our modern society clearly has means to provide for the safety of its members without resorting to capital punishment."
VIRGINIA: The governor postponed an execution for six months pending a further study of the prisoner's mental retardation or mental illness Without further analysis, he said, he would consider neither execution nor clemency.
Also, the Virginia Catholic Conferences is opposing three bills which expand the circumstances allowing the a death sentence to be imposed.
HOW ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD?
PHILIPPINES: President Macapagel-Arroyo signed a law to replace life without parole for capital punishment. At the same time she commuted the death sentences of all 1205 people on death row to LWOP. (Pope Benedict XVI praised her action.)
POLAND: Poland's president urged the European Union to return to capital punishment. (Membership in the EU requires or strongly urges abolition of the death penalty.) The proposal was rejected.
PERU: Peru's bishops opposed a measure to apply the death penalty to individuals who sexually assault and murder minors. Their statement underlined the primacy and inviolability of human life and declared that all killing is an offense against God, the sole owner of life.
ALGERIA: Algeria announced in a radio address a plan to end capital punishment. It will be the first Arab country to do so. Algeria has not had an execution in 13 years. Abolition "is an urgent measure essential for the constitution of a state based on rights," and capital punishment is "totally absurd and has no effect on the reduction of crime," said a spokesman.
CHINA: In April China ratified an extradition treaty with Spain in which it agreed not to execute repatriated criminals. (Last year China executed more than four times as many people as all other countries combined.)
GREAT BRITAIN: Forty years ago the death penalty was abolished. Ever since then there has been a strong sentiment to restore it. Now, polls show, for the first time public support for restoration has dropped to 49%.
KYRGYZSTAN: A death penalty moratorium has been in place since 1998, and legislators seem to be moving toward abolition.
RUSSIA: There has been a moratorium for 10 years. Recently, despite very, very strong pressure for the execution of the only surviving participant in the Beslan school massacre (330 deaths), a judge imposed a sentence of life without parole.
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, October 2007
Update January 2007
MOLDOVA abolished the death penalty.
RWANDA pledged to pass legislation by the end of 2006 [unable to learn if this occurred] to abolish the death penalty. Rwanda wants to hold war crimes trials for 1994 genocide. Most countries holding those accused will not extradite to a death penalty nation.
The president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace made a statement soon after the hanging of Saddam Hussein. "The killing of the guilty is not the way to rebuild justice and reconcile society; rather there is a risk of nourishing the spirit of revenge and inciting fresh violence."
Under domestic and international criticism, CHINA adopted new rules requiring Supreme Court review of all death sentences. Final review had been relegated to provincial courts in 1983. [Some observers estimate that China has accounted for 80% of the world's executions.]
JAPANese courts sentenced 60 people to death in 2006, the largest number in 26 years. Japan has been experiencing an increase in violent crimes. [Ninety people are now on Japan's Death Row.]
ITALY - Just after Hussein's hanging the Italian government petitioned the U.N. to begin a process for an international moratorium on the death penalty. [The Italian constitution bans the death penalty.]
In July 2006 the U.N. Human Rights Commission recommended a U.S. moratorium on the death penalty. ". . . the death penalty may be imposed disproportionately on ethnic minorities as well as on low income groups, a problem which does not seem to be fully acknowledged." The panel also urged the U.S. to limit the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty and to review its suggestion of disproportionate application. [The panel has no authority to enforce its recommendations.]
The U.N.'s new Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, commented on Hussein's hanging. He said that capital punishment is an issue for each country to decide. Later, his spokeswoman said his opinion was a personal one. She acknowledged that the U.N. policy is against executions. [South Korea, Ki-moon's country, has not banned the death penalty.]
MISSOURI halted executions because of a challenge to its lethal injection procedures. [See TE, CA, MD, SD and FL below.]
SOUTH CAROLINA's governor signed a bill which allows the death penalty on those convicted of two or more sex crimes against children under age 11.
TENNESSEE - The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a state Supreme Court decision that its method of execution was not "cruel and unusual."
VERMONT - A federal jury imposed the death penalty on a murderer. This was the first death sentence issued since 1954. [The state eliminated the death penalty in 1987.]
CALIFORNIA - Last year U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel ordered the state to review its execution protocols. Recently the Attorney General informed him that a report would be forthcoming in May. The Attorney General asked for secrecy about the deliberations and anonymity for the consultants used.
NEW JERSEY - A 13-person legislative commission called for abolition of the death penalty. One member dissented. The governor said he supports the recommendation.
MARYLAND's death penalty protocols are under court review. Meanwhile, the newly-elected governor announced plans to ask the legislature to repeal the death penalty.
TEXAS - Over the past 10 years the number of death penalty sentences has dropped 65%, (40 in 1996; 14 in FY 2006) The number of murders was pretty stable - 1476 in 1996; 1405 in 2005.
FLORIDA's Gov. Bush ordered a moratorium on executions and formed an expert panel to review procedures, this after the last execution took more than twice as long and required a second lethal injection.
NORTH DAKOTA - The bishop of Fargo criticized the death penalty sentence imposed by a federal jury on a man guilty of murdering a college student: ". . . it reinforces the false perspective of revenge as justice."
SOUTH DAKOTA - Gov. Grounds stayed a lethal injection execution until July, pending a legislative review of a required 2-drug injection and a planned 3-drug method.
WISCONSIN - [See Death Penalty Updates No. I for background.] Death penalty reinstatement advocates are dubious of the outcome of the pending vote. The make-up of the Senate changed with the November election, and the re-elected governor is likely to veto an affirmative vote.
PUERTO RICO - A federal jury sentenced a killer to life instead of death, despite the urging of the U.S. prosecutor. (Puerto Rico's territorial legislature abolished the death penalty 80 years ago.)
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS - The annual convention of the KofC in August resolved ". . . to speak out to our elected representatives about our continued opposition to the death penalty." (KofC opposition dates from 2000.)
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, July 2007
Update August 2007
NEW JERSEY - The Senate Judiciary Committee (8-2) approved repeal of capital punishment. The measure will go to the Senate in Nov. or Dec., then to the Assembly. The governor has said he'll sign it.
NEW YORK - [New York's highest court ruled in 2004 that major portions of the current execution law were unconstitutional.] The Senate has now passed a bill to restore capital punishment for killers of police and correctional officers; however the Speaker of the Assembly said the measure would not likely be considered there.
(In both states Catholic bishops issued strong statements for repeal and against restoration.)
CLOSE - - - BUT NO CIGAR
MARYLAND - The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (5-5) killed a measure to end executions. The House of Delegates had indicated strong backing for abolition.
MONTANA - The Senate (27-21) approved abolition; the House Judiciary Committee (9-8) tabled it.
NEBRASKA - The unicameral legislature defeated (25-24) a bill to end executions. (The governor had said he'd veto the measure if it passed.)
NEW MEXICO - A House-passed (41-28) repeal was tabled by the Senate Judiciary Committee (4-5).
NEW HAMPSHIRE - The House (no vote count available) rejected a bill to replace the death penalty with life without parole.
Even these narrow misses have cumulative value One criterion used by the Supreme Court is "evolving standards of decency". This concept was mentioned in its decision to ban executions of juvenile offenders. (The Court noted thathirty states had already banned this already.)
NORTH CAROLINA - The Medical Board adopted a policy that physicians should not facilitate executions beyond being present, as state law requires. (Many state medical boards discourage physician participation.)
INDIANA - The state American Bar Association Assessment Team called for a moratorium. It said only 10 of the ABA's 79 death penalty criteria had been met. Among the deficiencies:
IRELAND - Mr. Justice Scalia (Irish Times, Mar. 7), speaking at University College Dublin said he would resign from the bench if he learned that Catholic doctrine prohibited the death penalty. (A month earlier the Vatican sent a message to the 3rd annual World Congress calling capital punishment "an affront to human dignity."
SOUTH AFRICA - The President, despite a rising crime rate, said reinstatement of the death penalty was not an option.
ZAMBIA - The President said he'll sign no death warrants. He pledged to commute all current executions to life without parole.
FRANCE - Parliament banned executions and made the ban a part of the Constitution.
MOROCCO is the first Arab state to abolish capital punishment. Said a proponent, "The positive aspects of Islam need to be stressed. It does not order people to kill, carry out reprisals or state executions."
Worldwide there were 1,591 executions in 2006, down from 2005's 2,198. Executions were heavily concentrated in China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and the United States.
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, August 2007
June 11 was the annual World Day against Child Labor. The International Labor Organization, one of the watchdogs over global labor abuses, reported that the number of child workers fell 11% globally over the past four years. Especially gratifying, the number of children doing hazardous work decreased overall 26% and, in the 5-14 year age group, by 33%. (In raw numbers [year 2004] there were 218 million child laborers, with 126 million in hazardous work. More boys work than girls. Latin America and the Caribbean showed the greatest progress. Only 5% of the children in those regions worked. Child labor levels in sub-Saharan Africa remained high. Child labor is most prevalent in nations heavily reliant on agriculture.
Since 1891 (Rerum Novarum) the Church has opposed child labor abuses. Pope Leo XIII stated children should not work before their minds and bodies were sufficiently developed In 1996 Pope John Paul II described onerous child labor as a form of violence. Nonetheless, the Church does recognize that some child labor contributes significantly (and indispensably) to family income. The Church's concern is over "veritable slavery" which chooses utility over human dignity. [#29, "Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine]
A spokesperson for the Indian bishops' Commission for Labor said that India leads the world in the use of child labor. This is caused by poverty, but also by broken families and "vices of the heads of families." Because children are a nation's future, the bishops urged that more nutrition, education, health care and child rights be provided.
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In 2004 a total of 510,000 children died from AIDS - 450,000 of them in sub-Saharan Africa. In developed nations 300 died.
1Principal sources for this article are the Stanford article cited and various newspaper reports.
2In sub-Saharan Africa, 7 million live on less that $1 per day.
3"Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church", #166 [citing Mater et Magistra].