Even though I am
not Catholic, I am joining with the joint editorials in the Catholic blogosphere to call for the end to the death penalty.
I grew up Protestant. We thought the death penalty was great. It was the whole Noah thing – ‘Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.’ The fact that I can tell you that this is Genesis 9:6 (and use the colon to denote chapter and verse) should be some indication of my Protestant street cred.
I carried my convictions with me to Catholic school. When the nascent National Forensics Team started, I jumped on the bandwagon with my biblical argument, arguing like the great Protestant apologists that it just made common sense for the state to kill people who kill. My Catholic friends, especially the Filipino ones who had just grown up in the Church, jumped on me, if not for my argument, but because I pronounced ‘philosophical’ as ‘phiLOsophical’ as opposed to ‘philoSOphical.’ For all the pretensions to a ‘speak English’ policy, neither philosophy nor pronunciation is a strong suit in conservative Protestant circles.
In sophomore year, our Catholic moral theology teacher – a self-proclaimed practitioner of Eastern spiritual traditions – bashed a hole in my fundamentalism. The contemporary Catholic intelligentsia would have thought her a floozy: we meditated, we paid attention to our shakras, we cleared our minds, we got fairly close to what Pope Francis pejoratively called ‘taking a bath in the cosmos.’ What I didn’t know was that her strong suit was actually Catholic social teaching. What I didn’t know was that she was teaching it without teaching it. We never read Cardinal Bernardin on the seamless garment or John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.
What we did do was watch Dead Man Walking. The whole thing. Even the graphic parts. And then we had to write a report on it. It was one of those things from high school that I’ll never be able to get out of my head because it’s stuck in my heart.
No wonder Catholic social teaching made so much sense when I returned to it in graduate school. Thank you, Ms Armstrong. Everything I know about Catholic social teaching I learned at Moreau Catholic High School in sophomore moral theology.
And yes, let’s end the death penalty.