[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----VIRGINIA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Oct 20 23:18:52 CDT 2005
Catholic belief: Execution wrong -- Catholic officials say the church
opposes capital punishment
The emergence of the death penalty as a central issue in the Virginia
governor's race raises the question of how the Catholic faith of candidate
Tim Kaine might affect his performance in office.
The short answer: That's up to Kaine.
"The church teaching is very consistently supportive of all human life,
from womb to tomb," said Steve Neill, editor of the Catholic Virginian
newspaper and spokesman for the Diocese of Richmond.
But people in public office make a promise to uphold the law, and that's
what Kaine says he will do if elected governor. Though he has said he
personally opposes the death penalty, he vows in a TV ad to carry out
Virginia law, including signing death warrants.
When it comes to balancing church teachings with secular law, a Catholic
officeholder has to answer to his or her own conscience, Neill said.
He noted that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a Catholic, made a
distinction between personal beliefs and settled law during his
Roberts declined to answer senators' specific questions about his views on
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. But he said he
respected the doctrine of stare decisis , which calls for courts to abide
by laws and precedents. While precedents can be overturned, Roberts told
senators, "It is not enough that you may think the prior decision was
When Catholic public officials make decisions not in keeping with church
teachings, "It doesn't make them less loyal to their church," Neill said.
Kaine, a Democrat, has come under fire from Republican Jerry Kilgore as
untrustworthy on the death-penalty issue.
Kilgore has faulted Kaine for having done pro bono work on death-sentence
Kilgore commercials feature emotional family members of murder victims
saying they don't believe Kaine would execute their loved ones' killers.
Another Kilgore ad claimed that Kaine's views are so extreme he wouldn't
even consider Adolph Hitler as deserving execution. Kaine's people
responded by saying that bringing up Hitler's name for political gain
shows a dearth of ethics on the Kilgore side.
Catholic opposition to the death penalty has long been a part of the
catechism and was reinforced by the late Pope John Paul II.
In a 1995 encyclical, John Paul II wrote that execution should be used
only "in cases of absolute necessity" or "when it would not be possible to
otherwise defend society." The pope continued, "Today, however, as a
result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system,
such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."
In simple terms, "The church says the death penalty would not be justified
if there are nonlethal ways" of protecting society, said Executive
Director Jeff Caruso of the Virginia Catholic Conference, the public
policy representative of Virginia's bishops.
Those bishops, Arlington's Paul S. Loverde and Richmond's Francis X.
DiLorenzo, have argued that Virginia's sentence of life without parole
should be used instead of the death penalty.
This summer, they jointly sent a letter asking Gov. Mark Warner to commute
the death sentence of Robin Lovitt, convicted of the 1998 scissors killing
of an Arlington pool hall manager. Lovitt's execution has been set for
In the Lovitt case, physical evidence was destroyed before all appeals
were exhausted, eliminating the opportunity for retesting to prevent
But the bishops argued that the death penalty would be unnecessary "even
if we could be absolutely certain of Mr. Lovitt's guilt" because they said
Lovitt's execution is not necessary to protect society.
(source: The Free Lance Star)
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