According to an article I read in The Guardian, Pope Francis has issued a call to do away with life sentences, calling them a ‘hidden death penalty.’
I know that the Holy Father comes from Argentina, and that he lived through a brutal regime in which the government engaged in random arrests, incarceration, torture and even murder of its own citizens. I have no doubt that his feelings about life sentences are informed by his own life experiences. I would guess that, if I was looking at the issue from the perspective of brutal, totalitarian regimes, I would agree with him about this.
Under those circumstances, life sentences can indeed become a “hidden death penalty.”
However, life sentences are also a necessary alternative to the death penalty. Without life sentences, there would be no option in dealing with certain types of criminals except to put them to death.
The reason I say this is that there are people who are too dangerous to ever be allowed to walk free. It is as simple and as hard as that. Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson (and his girls), the BTK killer and all their kin must be kept from the public in order to maintain the public safety.
There are three alternatives here.
1. Let them out after a few years and then go to the funerals of their new victims.
2. Keep them locked up.
3. Kill them.
I have chosen to keep them locked up. The reason I made that choice was that I did not want to use the death penalty to kill them. However, if the choice was the death penalty or letting them out to kill again, I would be forced to chose the death penalty.
A just and stable government is always the greater good. That is the controlling principle by which I operated while I was an elected official. I think it should be the controlling principle for all governance.
It is impossible to have a government that is either just or stable if killers are allowed to roam free to kill at will. It is also a fact that certain crimes against persons and society are so grievous that the perpetrators must, in justice, spend the rest of their lives outside of society.
This flies in the face of Christian mercy, of the idea that all people are redeemable. I know that. But it is a necessary component to good governance and establishing a legal order which places a sufficient weight on the value of human life,
You may not kill people.
That has to be the bottom line for all good governance concerning human life. The wanton murder of an innocent human being must be set aside as a crime so grave, so final, that its finality is reflected in the punishment. I am not advocating an eye for an eye. I do not favor the death penalty, and I’ve got the votes and the scars to prove it.
But I believe absolutely that a just and stable government is always the greater good. The horrors the people of Argentina experienced under an unjust government are just one example of what can happen when those who hold the power of state use that power in unjust ways.
In order to maintain what the Founding Fathers called “domestic tranquility” we must have prisons. We must have just laws and redress from government abuse of its power. Every citizen must have the right to seek redress through the courts. And we must have laws that place sufficient gravity on the value of human life to protect the citizenry.
I believe that life sentences, including the option of a life sentence without parole, (which I authored legislation to create in Oklahoma) are a necessary component in maintaining the public order, and an equally necessary alternative to the death penalty.
I was bugged all day long yesterday by one of my own posts. The post in question in this one. It was the post in which I compared the recent Synod on the Family with the United States Congress.
I tried twice last night to write another post, essentially taking back some of the sharp-edged harshness of that one, but I couldn’t get there.
Here’s what I finally came around to.
I was wrong (and this is what was bugging me) to paint all the bishops who participated in the Synod with one brush. In truth and in fact only a smattering of the participants managed to set things on their ear with their reinterpretations of the Gospels along popular lines. The Synod participants as a group backed away from this and issued a final report that stood in accordance with 2,000 years of Christian teaching on the family.
The reason I couldn’t write a major I-was-wrong about that post as a whole is that I don’t honestly think I was wrong. I believe the Synod was a failure, and the reason it was a failure was the polarization among the bishops themselves. Faithful Catholics read that final report with a massive “thanks be to God” that it didn’t do harm. Unfortunately, it also didn’t do much good.
The things I said in the post are my honest assessment of a few of our bishops. The major positive accomplishment of the Synod is not the final report. It is that it may have shone the light of reality on some of these woefully out-of-touch men. Since the whole of Church governance is built on the bishops, that is, if it’s true, a significant and healthy thing. It is also why ducking our heads and pretending that they aren’t, in fact, out of touch and trying to lead us down the broad way, is a form of disloyalty to the Church.
Powerful people need the truth more than most for the simple reason that they so seldom hear it.
I may be wrong, and if it turns out that I am, I will not hesitate to say so. But for now that’s what I think and I can’t unthink it just because the people in question are bishops of my Church.
We need to thank the bishops who stood against all the nonsensical ideas and backed away from the theological cliff. Hopefully next year we will see developments that actually support and aid the family as well as develop pastoral practices to heal the reality of those who are living the lies of our broader culture.
How was the Synod on the Family like the United States Congress? Here are four ways.
1. We switched from hoping that they would accomplish something good to praying that they didn’t do any harm. By the time the Relatio came out, most faithful Catholics were just hoping and praying that the Synod managed to get through the next week and adjourn without trashing the sacraments and deep-sixing 2,000 years of Catholic teaching. We were no longer looking to the Synod for leadership, and we were certainly not expecting anything that would actually help Catholic families in they struggle to live our faith in a post-Christian world. We were just hoping that they didn’t start re-writing the Scriptures to suit the ACLU and the scriptwriters in Hollywood.
2. The Synod didn’t seem to be concerned with us, or with the Church. It gave the appearance of being all about the bishops’ private agendas and their fights with one another. At least a few of the bishops seem to be in rock-star envy of Pope Frances. The sound of one’s own voice is addicting, and several of our bishops appear to be in serious need of a sound-bite 12-step program. None of this would have mattered if they had not used their time on air to attack one another, (one of them even took off after the Pope) and to prattle on about their great desire to re-make the Church in their own image. It was a sad, sorry display of ego-driven sniping, carping tom-foolery by men who claim they speak for the humble Carpenter of Nazareth.
3. The Synod exposed a number of the bishops as men who are too insulated, too flattered, too pampered and too proud of themselves to properly do their jobs. Does anybody tell these guys they’re full of it when they’re full of it? Does anyone in the circle of people around them remind them that they are but dust? I’ve seen, up close and personal, how easily constant flattery and being treated as if you were special can destroy a person’s equilibrium. I’ve seen it enough that I recognize its effects on a person when that person is in front of me, or, as in this case, on a news video. A number of our bishops need a year or so of sacking groceries in a t shirt and blue jeans to get their minds right.
4. The Synod talked about Religion with a capital R, but it didn’t seem to care about faith and following Christ all that much. Was I the only observer who noticed how often these men talked about themselves and one another and how seldom they referenced Our Lord? Jesus was mostly absent from their comments, as was faith. They did not give me the impression that they were trying to follow Christ and Him crucified. I mean that. They were singularly lacking in humility, gentleness, common kindness and common sense.
All in all, I was relieved when these boys in red and black wrote up their final results and went home. I am not looking forward to the next go-round at all.
I don’t want pious play acting from my bishops. I certainly don’t expect perfection. In fact, I know that they are as incapable of perfection as any other person who walks this planet. I know and acknowledge what so many Catholics, priests and bishops collude in trying to ignore: These men are just people. I don’t want perfection. I would know it was a lie if they tried to pretend it. I certainly don’t want the stuffy royal distancing that would help them maintain a false facade of holy perfection.
The day is past when the Church can grow and witness to the Gospels on a diet of religious cornflakes and Queen Elizabeth waves from distant clergy.
We don’t need CEOs in miters, playing to each other. We need men who are alive with the call to convert the world. The Church has lost its missionary fervor. It must regain it.
All I ask of my clergy is authenticity. I don’t mean a fantasy, never-sinned perfection. I don’t care if my priests and bishops fall down and skin their knees. I don’t hold that against them any more than they’ve held my sins against me. We are all down here in the pits together in this life and we need to forgive and love one another without grinding our failures in each other’s faces.
My concern about the bishops who made all the noise at the Synod isn’t that some of them are rather obvious snobs and that some of them are in love with being in front of a camera. Being a show boat is probably one of the job requirements for being a bishop. If you’re the sort of person who detests being the center of attention, you probably would never want to be a priest in the first place.
My concern — and it is a concern, not a condemnation — is that at least a few of them are getting dangerously close to abandoning the call of every Christian on this planet, which is to follow Christ the Lord. We are — all of us, from back-row pew sitter to prince of the Church, required to yield ourselves over to Him and His leadership.
I didn’t see that in this Synod. What I saw was a lot of in-fighting and politics, a tiny bit of faith-talk when it fit the scenario and an overwhelming me-me-me. In that it was remarkably like that other all-too-human deliberative body, the United States Congress.
Pope Adds African Cardinal to Synod Drafting Committee. Cardinal Pell Says ‘We’re Not Collapsing in a Heap’
Public Catholic reader Ken alerted me to the fact that Pope Frances has added another member to the drafting committee for the final report from the First Synod on the Family.
This report will not directly affect Church teaching. It will be used for further discussion during the next year.
The new member is rather interesting, considering Cardinal Kasper’s foot in mouth comment about African bishops a couple of days ago. He is Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, of South Africa.
The Holy Father also added Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne to the committee.
In the meantime, Cardinal Pell has given an interview to Catholic News Service in which he says,
We’re not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap. We’ve got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic Churches in one or two countries, and going out of business.
The midterm report was ‘tendentious, skewed; it didn’t represent accurately the feelings of the Synod fathers. In the immediate reaction to it, when there wa an hour, an hour and half of discussion, three-quarters of those who spoke had some problems with it.
It promises to be way past interesting, reading the final report and seeing what the “Synod fathers” have done. I imagine that this “final” report will be drug around, cut apart, analyzed, applauded and attacked until we get to the “real” synod and the whole things starts over again.
Cardinal Kasper says he didn’t say it.
The reporter says he’s got it on tape.
“It” is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview that Cardinal Kasper gave yesterday. I can understand why Cardinal Kasper is doing his best to unsay what he said. He truly did open his clerical mouth and insert both his priestly feet.
His terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview began with a few off-the-cuff remarks about how the bishops from Africa were opposing what Cardinal Kasper wants the Synod on the Family to do. If the quotes are correct, the Cardinal came across like a grand dame sniffing her titled nose at the effrontery of serving salads on warm salad plates. He might as well have said, It is, you see, just not done, but then, you know these colonials; all feathers and drums with no class.
He ended that little riff with a snippy comment to the effect that, while African bishops had to deal with their reality, that didn’t mean that their opinions should be taken seriously by the bishops from the more enlightened parts of the world.
If you want to listen to the interview, go here. If you can read German (I can’t) I’m told you will find the Cardinal’s denial of the whole thing here. If you’d like to read intelligent commentary — as opposed to the big nnnnhhhh I’ve giving you here — check out Deacon Greg Kandra and The Anchoress.
I punted on “the interview” and didn’t write about it yesterday because I’d already decided that Cardinal Kasper was a few cards short of a full theological deck.
I know. Who am I to say that? The answer, of course, is that I’m nobody. I am a pew-sitting convert from Oklahoma, of all backward places.
But I can’t help thinking with my backward little Okie brain (which I’m sure would rank considerably below an African brain.) What I’ve been thinking for a while now is that Cardinal Kasper’s recent spate of press conferences sound like an interview for the position of Catholicism’s answer to Episcopalian Bishop Shelby Spong.
Cardinal Kasper seems to like being interviewed, at least most of the time. He’s been running to the press on a regular basis to engage in an unseemly spite fight with his brother bishops. The quotes from his foot-in-mouth interview were a bit of a face-palm moment for some people, but I was, by the time I read them, all done with paying attention to Cardinal Kasper and his press peccadilloes.
Cardinal Kasper’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview doesn’t, in my opinion, reveal him to be a racist so much as it pinpoints him as a self-important snob. That’s pretty much the message I got from Cardinal Kasper’s comment.
Those “Africans” and their backward countries just can’t be expected to exercise the enlightened Christianity of the Church of What’s Happening Now. Poor things. They can’t help it. We need to be nice to them, but certainly not let their third-world hang-ups get in the way of our first-world compassion and tolerance.
The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview has boiled itself down to a he-said-it-and-I’ve-got-him-on-tape-saying-it/I-didn’t-say-it-and-I’m-not-that-kind-of-guy deal between Cardinal Kasper and Edward Pentin, the reporter who told on him. I can’t see any way that is going to end well for the Cardinal. My advice to him is just belly up to the bar and tell the truth, which is most likely “I didn’t mean it the way it came out.” He can follow that by saying “I denied it because I was embarrassed to admit it.”
That would be humiliating, especially for someone as much in love with himself as the Cardinal appears to be. But it might also end up being spiritually edifying to him.
As for me, I have no desire whatsoever to flog the poor Cardinal for his foot in mouth disease. It really does happen to all of us from time to time. The truth is:
Things often look all different in print than they sounded in your own ears when you were saying them. That’s just a fact.
Anybody who talks to the press a lot is going to, as we Okies say, come a cropper at some point. That’s another fact.
I don’t want to keel-haul Cardinal Kasper for his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview.
I don’t even want to scold him for it.
My beef with the Cardinal is more fundamental. It’s about that Jesus guy.
You know. The One Who said What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Note: The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview is a play on the title of a book by Judith Viorst.