The Elections and Capital Punishment
Fr. Frank Pavone
Priests for Life
A chorus of voices has rightly been raised to abandon the practice of capital
punishment, and the Priests for Life association has been among those voices.
Some people also raise this as a campaign issue.
Yet others go a step further, and say that one s support of capital
punishment somehow "cancels" one s opposition to abortion, and makes the
candidate no better than a pro-abortion candidate.
This is not at all the case.
Just ask the question, "Under what circumstances can our country make the
best progress against capital punishment?" The answer I propose is, "When
we begin moving away from abortion."
One of the reasons capital punishment is wrong is that it feeds the notion
that we solve our problems by killing people. To overcome it, we need to help
people see that killing people is not the way to solve problems. Does the
practice of killing 4000 babies a day to solve the problem of crisis pregnancies
make this task easier or harder? When people live under laws and court decisions
that legitimize death for the innocent, will it be harder or easier for them to
legitimize death for the guilty?
To ignore the impact that a continued abortion policy has on one s views
about capital punishment is to ignore the meaning of the consistent ethic of
life. The key idea of the consistent ethic is linkage. Progress in one
area of the defense of life facilitates progress in all areas, whereas setbacks
in one area create setbacks in others. Continued setbacks in restoring
protection to the unborn will make it all the more difficult to insure
protection for those on death row.
(An interesting observation in this regard is the timing of the Supreme
Court s decision to allow the death penalty to be reinstated. The year was 1976,
three years after Roe vs. Wade.)
Practically speaking, therefore, in regard to the upcoming elections, even if
candidates positions on capital punishment are equally unsatisfactory, that
does not make the candidates equally unsatisfactory. Those who will help us make
progress against abortion are, whether they know it or not, helping our fight
against capital punishment.