TO THE EDITOR:
The recent papal teaching against the death penalty under all circumstances has become even more relevant since many politicians have spoken of the death penalty as a possibility after the terrible massacres at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the night club in Thousand Oaks, California. We Catholics should not allow the pope’s statement outlawing the death penalty to be seen as debatable. The time to act and teach authentically without hesitation is now. I was pleased to read the newspaper’s editorial several weeks ago entitled, “Death penalty no longer admissible.” However, I thought the strong statement of Pope Francis was weakened by the writer’s inclusion of the Development of Doctrine reference in the Catholic Church. The very last line, “This debate will continue to be interesting” was not clear which debate you were referring to, the development of Doctrine or the Death Penalty. I think your readers would be better served by reminding us that the Pope’s statement was in line with the outlawing of the death penalty in most of Western Europe, South America and many U.S. States, including Rhode Island. More importantly, abolition of the death penalty reflects the plea of Jesus for mercy and the possibility of conversion. It also makes our Respect for Life teaching more consistent and inclusive. For Catholics, the Death Penalty is no longer a matter of “debate,” but rather a challenge to help the world come to accept the teaching of Pope Francis and to help victims’ families to offer forgiveness to criminals on the road to rehabilitation. Any contrary debate should be over as soon as possible with better teaching.
Father Eugene J. McKenna, Senior Priest, Matunuck