Death penalty dilemmas. (News).At a recent major conference on religion and the death penalty, a considerable amount of grumbling could be heard from audience members who had expected a more representative and contentious debate between religious proponents of the abolition and retention of capital punishment capital punishment, imposition of a penalty of death by the state. History
Capital punishment was widely applied in ancient times; it can be found (c.1750 B.C.) in the Code of Hammurabi. . Weighted heavily toward the retentionist position, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's January conference did, however, provide an intriguing window on the struggles of conservative Catholic public officials with their church's anti-death-penalty teachings (for transcripts see pewforum.org).
Speaking at the University of Chicago conference, both United States Supreme Court United States Supreme Court: see Supreme Court, United States. Justice Antonin Scalia and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating Francis Anthony "Frank" Keating (February 10, 1944) is an American politician from Oklahoma. Keating served as the 25th Governor of Oklahoma. His first term began in 1995 and ended in 1999. Keating won reelection to a second term, which ended in 2003. took issue with the Catholic Church's current official teaching on the death penalty. In recent documents the church has said that because other means of protecting society are now available, there is practically no longer any justification for the use of capital punishment.
Although his state last year surpassed even Texas to lead the nation in the number of executions, Keating argued that, considering the far greater number of homicides, executions in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. are already "rare if not nonexistent non·ex·is·tence
1. The condition of not existing.
2. Something that does not exist.
non ," as the pope has urged. As a Catholic governor in an overwhelmingly non-Catholic state, Keating said "it's no fun" to frequently find himself in public battles with Oklahoma's Catholic bishops over the death penalty. "I kind of hide under the bed when they start firing the big guns." Pointing to the church's long-standing previous support for capital punishment, Keating added that he thinks "the church's position on abortion is far more mature than its position on capital punishment."
That sentiment was echoed by Scalia, who said, "I have given this new position [on capital punishment] thoughtful and respectful consideration, and I have rejected it.... Unlike such other hard Catholic doctrines as the prohibition of [artificial] birth control and of abortion, this doctrine is not a moral position that Christianity has always maintained." He pointed out that the church's position against capital punishment "does not represent ex cathedra ex ca·the·dra
adv. & adj.
With the authority derived from one's office or position: the pope speaking ex cathedra; ex cathedra determinations. teaching" (i.e., a formal, infallible in·fal·li·ble
1. Incapable of erring: an infallible guide; an infallible source of information.
2. pronouncement from the pope), although he was wrong in asserting that its teachings on abortion and birth control were ex cathedra. Scalia said he did not find the death penalty immoral and added that he was "happy to have reached that conclusion because I like my job and would rather not resign. And I am happy because I do not think it would be a good thing if American Catholics running for legislative office had to oppose the death penalty. Most of them would not be elected." As for the anti-death-penalty revision of the Catechism catechism (kăt`əkĭzəm) [Gr.,=oral instruction], originally oral instruction in religion, later written instruction. Catechisms are usually written in the form of questions and answers. of the Catholic Church--a rare and thus significant act--Scalia dismissed it as "just the phenomenon of the clerical bureaucracy saying, `Yes, boss.'"