Catholics Calling for Repeal of the Death Penalty

Please consider this guest post by Mike Janocik. While CV opposes the death penalty, with Pope John Paul II who argued that it is no longer necessary to protect the common good, we have not yet called for its full repeal. We take seriously Mr. Janocik’s call to reexamine the death penalty and reflect upon what Catholics are called to do in this particular circumstance — Ed. 

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Catholics are at the forefront of a national trend that is gaining momentum within conservative political circles. Motivated by our deep concern for protecting life, we are joining others to call for repeal of the death penalty in America.

A vivid demonstration of this took place a few months ago and Maryland was the stage. While lawmakers at the capitol in Annapolis were voting to repeal capital punishment, Catholics joined by other conservatives from around the nation were a few miles away at the legendary Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to launch a new group – Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

Screen shot 2013-06-10 at 2.14.37 PMI traveled from my home in Kentucky to join other politically active conservatives – a Republican city councilman from Kansas, a Republican precinct chairman from Texas and a former Republican House Majority Leader from Montana – in reaching out to other conservatives. The response validated what we all knew – conservatives are increasingly questioning the exorbitant costs of capital cases, are worried about the real possibility of executing innocent people, and see the death penalty as inconsistent with promoting a culture of life.

Like many conservative Republicans, I used to be pro-life and pro-death penalty. It was a position contrary to church teaching and, as a strong Catholic, this inconsistency troubled me. If all life is valuable, how can we justify taking life through executions when other means can protect society? Moreover, how can we justify a system of capital punishment that makes mistakes and sometimes threatens innocent life? As someone who deeply values the sanctity of human life and has dedicated myself to protecting life, I no longer could ignore the grave concerns raised by capital punishment. Now, the same principles motivating me to end abortion also inspire me to end the death penalty.

When I first joined Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty I quickly discovered that nationally known conservative leaders, who are also Catholic, were actively and enthusiastically supporting the new group’s efforts.

Richard A. Viguerie, known as the “Funding Father” of the conservative movement and an advisor to Republican presidents, lent his considerable name and reputation to help get us off to a successful start. It included a definitive statement of his position. “Conservatives have every reason to believe the death penalty system is no different from any politicized, costly, inefficient, bureaucratic, government-run operation, which we conservatives know are rife with injustice. But here the end result is the end of someone’s life. In other words, it’s a government system that kills people.”

Another conservative icon, Brent Bozell III, founder of the Media Research Center and a nationally known political commentator, has provided valuable insight and counsel to further our efforts, along with his own declarative position statement. “As a Catholic, I maintain the inherent dignity of human life from conception to natural death.  In the case of the death penalty, it is now possible for society to protect itself without putting a human to death as it would a wild animal. Since each person has a soul, and is capable of achieving salvation, life in prison ought to be the alternative to the death penalty.”

As you can see, conservative Catholics are leading the way on an issue that once divided many of us. Today, in ever increasing numbers, we are acting in concert with the precepts of the Church and in alignment with our conservative principles by working to end the death penalty in America.

As a person of deep Catholic faith and conservative political convictions, I am proud to be playing my part, and I call on all who share my values to join me. I ask the members and supporters of CatholicVote.org to come together – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Independent – to put into action our Catholic belief in the unique dignity and worth of human life by prohibiting capital punishment once and for all. We urge you to sign up at conservativesconcerned.org, “Friend” us on Facebook, “Follow” us on Twitter, “Connect” with us on LinkedIn, and get involved today.

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Mike Janocik is a Catholic republican residing in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the administrator of a medical practice, the host of The Mike Janocik Show on WLCR AM 1040 (Catholic programming), politically active in opposing abortion in his home state, and a founding member of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CCATDP, Twitter: @CCATDP, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ccatdp

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Categories:Politics Pro-Life

14 thoughts on “Catholics Calling for Repeal of the Death Penalty

  1. Elisa says:

    I agree with a fair number of points in this article, however I take issue with a point in both this article and in Evangelium Vitae that leads me to come to a different conclusion. Both say that modern society can protect itself from the unjust aggression of criminals without recourse to the death penalty, however I can think of several potential situations in which this would not be true. Take, for example, a mob or gang leader who continues to direct murders from inside the prison. Or someone who murders a prison guard or a fellow criminal. While I agree that these situations would be rare (and some of them may even be correctable through the use of isolation), there may be instances in which society could *not* protect those within it from the unjust aggression of these criminals through incarceration alone. For this reason, I don’t support a full repeal of the death penalty (I think that the government should have occasional recourse to it) but that we, as a society, should sharply limit both the reasons and occasions for using the death penalty.

    And, as others have pointed out, it is a prudential judgment regarding advocating for the abolition of the death penalty. Even then-Cardinal Ratzinger, pointed out that deviation from JPII’s stance on the death penalty was permissible.

    Additionally, a prominent Catholic Theologian/Apologist J. Budziszewski has written an equally thought out article that articulates a reasonable argument in favor of preserving the option of the death penalty (published in First Things here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/capital-punishment-the-case-for-justice-32)

  2. [...] Vote posted an article written by Mike Janocik, one of our earliest supporters, which calls on all Catholics to come [...]

  3. Why do we kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong?

    Thanks for the post, Mike!

  4. Nathan says:

    Speaking as a pro-life Catholic Republican, how on earth does CATHOLICvote accept, either by actually endorsing it or by having no position, the death penalty? As Mr. Janocik says, support for the death penalty is contrary to the faith. Makes me take less seriously when various writers are calling out others for being insufficiently Catholic–and I’ll just go ahead and preempt the “it’s not morally equivalent to…!” shpeel. I’m aware, but the point still stands.

    1. Luis says:

      The death penalty is not against Church teaching. Please read Evangelium Vitae, point 56

  5. Luis says:

    Mike,

    Although I agree with several positions in this article, I believe your center point is invalid: ” a position contrary to church teaching. That is simply not true. Blessed John Paul the Great makes it very clear in Evangelium Vitae, point 56. If you are going to argue against the death penalty, it needs to be done in the proper context of Church teaching. I do have to say, that arguing against the death penalty by calling on the overall inefficiently of the government, is a very compelling argument, and maybe completely valid. But, as a true conservative should claim, this is purely a state issue. Each state has very different penitentiary system, and some defend society to a better or worse degree. Actually, I would say, the bigger injustice here are the penitentiary systems, which have lost their penitent telos. But each of us has the right to choose which cause to join. I request you reconsider your argument on this issue, the more you adhere to the truth, the more compelling it will become.

    1. Mark Polo says:

      When Pope John Paul II said that the cases where the death penalty would be justified in a modern society are “rare”, can we really think that he was making an exception for the United States, the richest and most powerful country in the world (at least at that moment), thinking that precisely that country was incapable of protecting its citizens from dangerous criminals. I think the thought is ludicrous. While it is not Church teaching that the death penalty is always wrong, it would seem to be her teaching (confirmed in the Catechism) that it is wrong in the United States and all of the first world at the very least.

      1. Luis says:

        I agree with you Mark, and I think you are making the correct argument. But, still remember, this is a matter or prudent judgement. That is why I think it is crucial that this issue be handled at the state level. I also think that the most pressing issue is prison reform. We have a system that generates more violent criminals than it receives.

  6. SLCMLC says:

    Nice article! I do find it rather amusing that this website, which usually seems to ignore issues where Catholic and liberal values may intersect, has to issue a disclaimer before this article and say it doesn’t represent an “official position”. Shouldn’t the “official position” on the death penalty for this site basically be the very explicit “official position” of the Church when it comes to the death penalty? Why the disclaimer here?

    1. Luis says:

      Because the death penalty is not against Church teaching. Please read Evangelium Vitae, point 56

      1. SLCMLC says:

        “Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

        1. Luis says:

          So you agree with me. The death penalty is not against Church teaching. It is a matter of prudential judgement.

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