Friday, March 6, 2015

The Death Penalty Culture Wars

We are all familiar at this stage with the media's narrative on Pope Francis. He wants the Church to focus less on abortion and more on miscellaneous niceties that do not offend the great mass of thoughtless consumers who happen to have been born into the One True Faith.

What niceties? Finding ways to appease guerrilla homosexualists who stamp their prissy little boots and demand to be accepted as a man and woman's relationship would be (try telling that to your immaculate mother nature guys). Divorced and remarried people who regard their marriage vows and Our Lord's emphatic words on adultery as transient as their love for their spouse (difficult situation or not).

And what are the ones that they are running away from? Killing children in the womb of their mothers. The unnatural death drive of the uncontrollable known as birth control.

In the middle ground of these two extremities of post-conciliar shoe gazing are the accepted Catholic areas of interest, poverty and capital punishment. Are liberals in the Church interested in poverty? Of course, but what are their motivations? There is nothing more shallow or disingenuous than the recent outbreak of liberal clerics claiming that they intend on going to the margins and leaving comfort zones in order to help the marginalised! What it really amounts to is a few soundbites about how they are not that against homosexuality. Nothing to do with the poor. And for those who speak about the poor, it is often with an extreme emphasis on their bodies rather than their souls.

As for capital punishment? The topic was thrust to the forefront of American Catholic discussion this week with an editorial comment in the pages of The National Catholic Reporter, The National Catholic Register, America Magazine and Our Sunday Visitor.  Although the position is admirable, one does wonder why liberal Catholics find it so easy to accept the Church's position on the death penalty (as well as to these imaginary margins that Pope Francis has sent them to) but seem to be so ambiguous, indifferent even, to the plight of unborn children who are bludgeoned to death by executioners in white coats and white collars.

That the Church is so timid on anything that goes against the common consensus and only congratulates itself on that which society regards as admirable is a serious flaw, a stumbling block in Pope Francis's concept of the Church winning converts by attraction only. He forgets that proselytism can be attractive in its own right. Is it foreseeable that a person who reads up on the Church's position on the death penalty might then be tempted to be equally interested in her teachings on abortion? Perhaps, but why should it be hidden? The two are inseparable. If you can not remove an admitted killer's right to life, how can you then remove an unborn innocent child's right to life? Certainly, I recall seeing the Sean Penn (!) movie  Dead Man Walking and being motivated to read up on the Catholic background of the story about a prisoner on death row, but can the public at large be expected to do likewise? It seems as though a public relations friendly Church is slowly being moulded, anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion but quiet about both because they are not popular.

The strange scenario of the death penalty in the United States is a curious one. It is the only 'civilised' country in the entire world that is so barbaric when it comes to punishing criminals. And just like it is with abortion, racial and disability inequalities purvey the gruesome landscape of lethal injections. In the same way that Down Syndrome babies suffer horrible at the hands of abortionists, those of exceptionally low IQs have been victim of the Death Penalty. In the same fashion with which Margaret Sanger's greatest legacy is the genocide of black babies, so too have black people made up nearly half of all death row inmates. Only Iran, North Korea and other caveman extremities have as brutal an approach as the United States has to this problem.

Poverty and the death penalty are both pro life issues. However, they cannot be separated from abortion, contraception or homosexuality. Evil is all consuming and leniency to a little is an invitation to a barrage. The Church has a popular position for once, but it is only popular because society and media alike misinterpret it as New Age sentimental pacifism. We do not oppose the death penalty (in the vast majority of cases) because we dislike all violence or because we flinch at difficulty. We do not disdain poverty because we desire wealth. In both, we find repugnance because of how we judge abortion, contraception and the same-sex marriage media juggernaut.

Let us not despair. Even if this gruesomeness should persist, it is God who has the final say.

The problem with the death penalty in the USA is not the death penalty per se, which can actually be an encouragement for the sinner to repent, the problem is that it is a cheap and tacky solution to an incompetent justice system which merely reflects the equally imbalanced social structures. It is worth remembering though, that even though society is against the death penalty, the Church sees that there are some situations where a person who is absolutely guilty can be given an avenue for some sort of redemption in offering up their lives.

This is from a piece that I read earlier this week

In America, where the death rows—like the prisons generally—are largely filled with men from the lower rungs of the socio­economic ladder, last-meal requests are dominated by the country’s mass-market comfort foods: fries, soda, fried chicken, pie. Sprinkled in this mix is a lot of what social scientists call “status foods”—steak, lobster, shrimp—the kinds of foods that in popular culture conjure up the image of affluence. Every once in a while, though, a request harkens back to what, in the Judeo-Christian West, is the original last meal—the Last Supper, when Jesus Christ, foreseeing his death on the cross, dined one final time with his disciples. Jonathan Wayne Nobles, who was executed in Texas in 1998 for stabbing to death two young women, requested the Eucharist sacrament. Nobles had converted to Catholicism while incarcerated, becoming a lay member of the clergy, and made what was by all accounts a sincere and extended show of remorse while strapped to the gurney. He sang “Silent Night” as the chemicals were released into his veins. 

'Last Confession' - Ilya Repin

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