As I said at the very beginning of my treatment of capital punishment, Pope John Paul's strong opposition to abortion comes with a price: an almost equal opposition to the death penalty. Our politically-correct Novus Ordo bishops here in the United States have picked up on that fast - on the anti-capital punishment attitude, that is. Wherever you find a diocesan Catholic "pro-Life" conference or meeting that contains literature to be given out or sold, I guarantee you it will also have something to say against the death penalty.
I live in the state of Florida, and though I don't attend the Novus Ordo mass, of course, I heard that the Florida bishops made sure that parishes throughout Florida would be provided with a video tape that should be played to the faithful on October 6th, which was Respect Life Sunday of 2002. Hey, the Florida bishops want everyone who went to a diocesan church that Sunday to be educated about the sanctity of innocent human life, right? Wrong. You see, the video tapes these cowards in bishops' vestments sent to every parish were not about abortion. They were about - against - capital punishment! What a disgrace!
But this came in handy for the Florida bishops. I mean, what a great opportunity for them to look like they're concerned about human life and promote Respect Life Sunday - by condemning the death penalty! Because, you see, being anti-capital punishment is politically correct. Being against abortion is not. It's "narrow-minded," "controversialist," "rigid," "anti-woman," and "intolerant," perhaps even "sexist" and "bigoted." Most Democrats are against capital punishment. What a wonderful opportunity at the same time for the Florida bishops to lobby - implicitly - for the Democrats! Surely, the Democrats will now look more "concerned about upholding the sanctity of human life" and the bishops, willingly or not, have now give voters more incentives to vote Democratic. You know, the General Election is only a few weeks away.
So, Respect Life Sunday has been betrayed. Instead of telling people in no uncertain terms that abortion is evil, morally wrong, and a mortal sin in all cases, the Florida bishops instead use it to condemn something that the Catholic Church has always upheld as intrinsically morally right-putting to death a criminal convicted of serious crime. The Novus Ordo bishops have betrayed the true sanctity of human life by putting the innocent unborn child on a par with a murderer or otherwise heinous criminal.
But then again….what did you expect?
As is easily apparent in Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the Newchurch has put abortion on the same level as capital punishment. That's right - innocent babies are compared to convicted killers. The practical consequence is that when you hear a representative of the Newchurch condemn abortion, you will hear in the same breath that we also ought to oppose the death penalty. Most of the time, however, we only hear a condemnation of the death penalty and nothing about abortion at all.
The Novus Ordo pastor at the parish across from where I live once said, "If we're going to be Pro-Life, we also have to be against capital punishment." Nothing could be further from the truth. The cases are essentially different as abortion deals with the unjust taking of innocent human life and capital punishment deals with the just taking of guilty human life. But the Novus Ordo establishment does not distinguish between innocent and guilty - to them, human life is human life. But that is not Catholicism; that's humanism.
The entire philosophy that ties abortion to capital punishment is rooted in an even greater perversion of truth, the so-called "Seamless Garment" movement. The term "seamless garment" was coined by the awful Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, formerly archbishop of Chicago, who met his Maker in 1996. Bernardin was a pacifist, an indifferentist, and possibly a Freemason. His doctrine of the "seamless garment" (an allusion to Christ's tunic; cf. St. John 19:23) is particularly perfidious and disgusting, because it considers all human life, whether innocent as a baby or as guilty as sin itself, to have the same value.
On one web site, I found the following explanation of the "seamless garment" heresy:
"The seamless garment ethic, also known as a "consistent ethic of life," makes the same point as this Gospel story [St. John 19:23-24]: the fabric of God's Creation is desecrated when we tear it, gamble over pieces of it, or in any sense lay claims of ownership upon any part of it. This ethic involves an opposition to abortion, sexism, warfare, the death penalty, economic deprivation, and active killing of the sick and disabled, but does not stop there. Just as much it calls us to create positive alternatives to these violent practices."
Folks, it's high time that the Catholic laity (and clergy and theologians!!!) be once again educated about the true sanctity of human life. In my first or first two installments, I made clear just what the Church's teaching is on this. Particular attention ought always to be paid to St. Thomas Aquinas, the universal Doctor of the Church.
To comment on the above quote, let me say that capital punishment (the issue under discussion, though more could be said about the other issues mentioned) does not tear or cut to pieces Christ's garment! On the contrary: by redressing the disorder introduced by the offense, the death penalty actually mends the garment back together again! The present Novus Ordo hippie society, however, wants to make good evil and evil good. They do not realize that what rents the garment asunder is the sin committed for which the death penalty is justly imposed! Folks, these heretics have the natural law backwards! They will deplore sin (or at least pretend to do so) but even more so deplore the appropriate punishment for sin! They would probably have the audacity to tell God that He cannot send anyone to hell because that wouldn't be consistent with His loving nature! Ah, I guarantee you that some, perhaps many, of those supposed "Catholic" pacifists probably deny the dogma of an eternal hell!
With their hippie gospel they have totally perverted the truth, having instead replaced it with a misguided, heretical, pacifist humanism that cares not to distinguish the saint from the sinner, justice from injustice, and right from wrong.
To illustrate precisely this, let me quote to you what I found on the "Consistent Life Ethic" web site:
Did you get that? "Respect for lifestyle diversity!" Yes, you guessed it: that's a cowardly euphemism for the homosexual agenda. In fact, the web site quoted above links the phrase "lifestyle diversity" to the "Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians" web site at www.plagal.org!
Are you feeling nauseous yet? Not only is the "Seamless Garment" movement linked to all sorts of hippie doctrines, it is also linked to the promotion, acceptance, and toleration of homosexuality, a sin which cries to Heaven for vengeance! Didn't I tell you these folks have the natural law backwards? The Lord has told us what He thinks of all this: "Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe to you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own conceits. Woe to you that are mighty to drink wine, and stout men at drunkenness. That justify the wicked for gifts, and take away the justice of the just from him" (Isaias 5:20-23).
I remember talking to a former fellow-seminarian who is still in the Novus Ordo seminary now (which I left in 1999). I told him that he should make sure that there are no homosexuals in the seminary because, among other reasons, homosexuality is a sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance. You know what answer I got? "We don't have time here to classify sins into those which cry to Heaven for vengeance and those that don't"! Well, that's too bad because God does have the time and will repay accordingly!
This is what is fed into seminarians' minds, and people's minds in general. "Want to be against abortion? Alrighty, but you better also against capital punishment and any sort of 'injustice' whatsoever." What else did the web site I quoted list were further goals of the Seamless Garment movement? "Disarmament and world peace, economic justice, fair and compassionate treatment of prisoners . . . and rights of children." What? You've got to be kidding. Can you smell the summer of '69? Why do these beatniks think the U.S.A. has had peace with Russia since 1945? Because we disarmed? On the contrary, because both countries were full of arms and each country was afraid to attack the other or instigate a war because it would result in unprecedented destruction!
In order, according to those people, to be "consistently Pro-Life," you also have to support "economic justice." Now, justice in general is a virtue, of course, and it must be promoted in all ways of life, incl. the economy. However, I have my doubts about that what these people feel is economically just is indeed just. Justice is giving the good that is due. That is not the same as giving everyone the same thing or the same amount.
And what's this about "compassionate treatment of prisoners"? Of course prisoners ought to be treated fairly (and what is fair may vary depending on the prisoner), but compassionately? That's one of those words that came in vogue with the Novus Ordo. Prison is supposed to be a time of punishment, not an alternative place of residence.
Finally, I want to briefly address the issue of "children's rights." What do these people mean? Of course every child has the right not to be abused, molested, raped, or aborted. No question about that. If that's what they mean, great. However, I have the gut feeling that they wish to go beyond this and advocate that children have the right not to be disciplined by their parents or smacked for bad behavior. Call me paranoid, but for some reason that's what I feel they are alluding to.
In the March 2002 issue of the HLI Reports, published by Human Life International, there appeared an article called "Is the Seamless Garment Pro-Life" by Dr. Charles Rice. Rice smelled the rat and quite aptly observed: "The 'seamless garment' argument has been misused to confer 'pro-life' status on politicians who support the agenda of political correctness but who fail to support-or even oppose-the protection of the lives of the unborn. A pro-abortion politician can often obtain 'pro-life' endorsement by making rhetorical or marginal gestures in a pro-life direction. In numerous cases, such politicians have gained 'pro-life' endorsement by voting for the ban on partial-birth abortion (which ban will not stop a single abortion) despite their consistent overall pro-abortion voting record"
Interestingly enough, though the term "seamless garment" has been hijacked by the liberals, it also has a proper use. It traditionally refers to the unity of the Catholic Church. And so we read in Pope Boniface VIII's bull Unam Sanctam (1302) that "the unity of the spouse, the faith, the sacraments, and the charity of the Church . . . [that] is the 'seamless tunic' of the Lord [John 19:23], which was not cut, but came forth by chance" (Denzinger #468).
On September 30, 2002, the ten bishops of Florida issued a letter entitled "Neither Retribution nor Deterrence Justify the Death Penalty," asking Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) to spare the life of convicted killer and death-row inmate Rigoberto Sanchez-Velasco (see, for this the Florida bishops have time, but not for excommunicating pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians). The average brainwashed Novus Ordo Catholic will read this tagline and agree. But with just a little bit of critical thinking, this nonsense can be exposed. First, the death penalty has never been allowed for reasons of retribution. Secondly, to suggest that deterrence does not justify the death penalty is plain nonsense, because of course it does, but even worse, the bishops' statement makes it look as though only retribution and deterrence are possible reasons for approving of capital punishment! Of course this couldn't be further from the truth.
In the letter, the bishops mention that there are "growing numbers calling for a moratorium [on the death penalty]," as though right and wrong were determined or hinted at by majority rule. The bishops then go on to state that though they have sympathy for the victims of the crimes of Sanchez-Velasco (executed on October 2, 2002), they do not believe that "his state-sanctioned killing will honor them or lessen the pain." No kidding! DUH! That's a smart comment. Has anyone ever suggested that executing an offender have this effect on the family of the victim of the offender? Has anyone ever said that this is supposed to be the purpose of capital punishment?
The bishops further state that "we must seek justice without vengeance," implying that the death penalty is, by its nature, vengeful, which is simply not true, as pointed out in my first installment on the issue. The bishops say that the quest for justice must take place "without further killing," but, again, that is not so. To say this is a tradition of men. It is humanism. God Himself, the Author of life, has decreed that a murderer shall be put to death. Thus, to say that justice must be sought "without further killing," implying that all killing is equally wrong, is a falsehood. But that's what we have nowadays. Today's perfidious bishops oppose all sort of killing, as if killing itself were intrinsically evil. And if they actually should indeed say something against abortion, it is usually because abortion involves killing, and not because it involves UNJUST killing.
As I end my treatise on the death penalty, let me offer some final observations. We always ought to keep before us the reason why capital punishment, commanded by God, is morally right. God Himself tells us: "Whosoever shall shed man's blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God" (Genesis 9:6). That's the reason: because man was made in the image of God! That's why a murderer must face an imposed death sentence.
Now, the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia quite correctly notes that the "advisabilty of exercising that power [of imposing the death sentence] is, of course, an affair to be determined upon other and various considerations" (s.v. Capital Punishment). This the Church has never denied. There may be factors in a given case that can spare a convicted killer from execution. I suppose an example of such a factor might be when the convicted killer is able to provide useful information for the catching of other criminals, such as is the case with one of the Al-Qaeda captures, who has given U.S. intelligence information about insider secrets and other planned attacks.
Let me also refer you to some further good reading on the issue of capital punishment and Catholicism. Solange Hertz's article "The Death Penalty" is absolute must-read. It is available here: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Rhodes/3543/death.htm.
Also be sure to read Fr. George Rutler's brief article defending Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's opposition to John Paul II's rejection of the death penalty. Though Fr. Rutler is Novus Ordo, he agrees that Scalia is right and the New Catechism is wrong. It's all here at http://www.ncregister.com/Register_News/031902rut.htm
On the Diocese Report, Erven Park has written how banning capital punishment cheapens life. You can read his article at http://www.diocesereport.com/myview/myview_park2_03_2001.shtml
And finally, Peter Miller gives the reasons why capital punishment is NOT a Pro-Life issue, at
That's it for my Capital Punishment analysis. Next week, I'm going to end the series on John Paul II and humanism. May God bless you.
Editor's Note: So many of the post-conciliar bishops today refer to those clinging to the true Roman Catholic traditions that were in vogue for 2000 years prior to the reforms of Vatican II as 'fossils,' 'dinosaurs,' 'old folks who will die off soon.' We beg to differ and offer as proof the youthful wisdom and enthusiasm of the younger generation in the Traditional Insights of Mario Derksen who exemplifies the thinking of many more young men and women today who realize the new thinking of the post-conciliar church does not add up to true Catholic teaching. Thus they long for those traditions so tried and true. His insight shows great promise, optimism and hope for the future of Holy Mother Church.
Note: [bold, brackets and italicized words used for emphasis]
For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2002mdi.htm