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.