Today is Easter Sunday. The day that Jesus is said to have resurrected himself after being executed by a State that found him guilty after a trial. This could explain why the modern Catholic Church is against capital punishment. A cross is the best reminder that a Government's system of justice can go horribly wrong.
The Popes of recent years have opposed executing even hardened criminals.
So why was there no protest when George W. Bush was given an honorary degree by Notre Dame in 2001? During his six years as Governor, Bush presided over 152 executions in Texas: any of which he could have prevented by an executive order. In the case of Karla Faye Tucker, he ignored a personal appeal by the Pope himself. And yet when Obama is invited to address the graduating class and receive a degree there is a firestorm of protest.
Pope John Paul II during a visit to the US in April of 1999:
I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.
Why does Richard Allen's Op Ed Column today, on Easter Sunday, not even mention the Church's opposition to capital punishment, but only its opposition to abortion? Where was his outrage when Bush was given the same honors at his Alma Mater?
There is turmoil in South Bend, Ind. — and around the country. The Rev. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, has invited President Obama to deliver the commencement address at the university on May 17 and to receive an honorary degree.
As a result, many alumni are up in arms denouncing the decision. Priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals have criticized the university and its president. South Bend’s own bishop, John D’Arcy, has announced that he will not attend. At the same time, other members of the Notre Dame community have responded, with similar force, that Mr. Obama should be allowed to speak.
I do not recall His Excellency Bishop John D'Arcy denouncing George W. Bush with the same vehemence. Did he boycott the ceremony back in 2001 quietly, just to demonstrate that he is a man of principle?
As for Mr. Richard Allen, his hero Ronald Reagan also presided over an execution as Governor of California. On April 11 1967, Aaron Micthell was executed for murdering a policeman. Reagan as Governor could have commuted his sentence, as he did on another case in which the accused had brain damage. The only reason there were not any more executions under Gov. Reagan was the determined opposition of the California Supreme Court. Reagan led the fight to reverse, by ballot, the decision of the Court to ban the death penalty.
How can you say that you are pro-life and still support the death penalty? How can you say that it is alright to execute people convicted in a court of law while wearing a cross around your neck? Was Jesus not convicted in a Court of Law? Was he not refused a pardon by the Governor for political reasons?
Did Mr. Allen protest when Notre Dame awarded President Reagan a degree in 1981? Mr. Allen mentions Reagan's unflinching opposition to abortion as one of the reasons he deserved that degree. What of that life he allowed to be snuffed out?
In an unintentional comic interlude, Allen also mentions Reagan's other connection to Notre Dame: he played its football coach in a movie. Also many people think that Reagan was Catholic because of his Irish last name. Appearance is everything.
The Obama policy on abortion is pretty much the opposite of Ronald Reagan’s. It is precisely what the Catholic Church fights against. That is why my alma mater, while welcoming him in its midst, ought not confer an honorary degree on Mr. Obama.
The Bible does not mention abortion anywhere. It does not say anywhere that life begins at conception. It does teach that life is sacred. The entire New Testament, especially the Gospels, can be read as a screed against capital punishment as sanctioned by Roman Law. Rome had the best judicial system in its time. Christ was convicted in a court of Law, and refused a pardon by the Chief Executive Pontius Pilate. Why would someone whose behavior is more reminiscent of Pilate than Jesus deserve a degree at Notre Dame? At least Pilate was not going against the explicit appeal of religious authorities of his time: the Pope made a personal appeal to George W. Bush to stop an execution.
The point is not that Karla Faye Tucker is the moral equivalent of Jesus Christ. The point is that a principle, if it is to be respected, must be applied uniformly. The Catholic Church in its official proclamations recognizes that. They oppose both abortion and execution. (But not equally forcefully: see comment below by coffeetalk.) It is Catholics of Convenience like Mr. Allen, who use religious condemnation to suit their own political ends who forget this.
Full Disclosure: I am not Catholic, but part of my education was at a Catholic school. Not Notre Dame. My only connection to Notre Dame is that I have given a couple of technical seminars there. Totally unrelated to the topic discussed here.