Conservatives in Congress applauded as Pope Francis spoke to them about “our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Such terminology is often code for the strong anti-abortion stance held by most conservatives in Congress as well as by the Catholic Church.
Where the pope took this line of reasoning, however, seems to have surprised congressional conservatives.
“This conviction has led me,” the pope continued, “ ... to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.”
Citing the sacredness of all human life, the pope called for rehabilitation rather than execution of convicted criminals.
It is no small matter that the pope brought up this topic in his speech to the United States Congress.
According to data collected by Amnesty International, the U.S. ranks fifth in the world in the number of executions carried out between 2007 and 2012, following China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Globally, there is a trend toward abolishing the death penalty, either by law, in practice or both. Though 41 countries carried out executions in 1995, by 2012, that number was down to 20.
European countries oppose the use of the death penalty so strongly they have refused to sell anaesthetic drugs used in lethal injections to U.S. corrections departments, effectively preventing executions in several U.S. states, according to the Guardian.
But it says something terrible about our nation when the only thing that can make us stop killing is a lack of substances to kill with.
While touring the U.S., Pope Francis called for Georgia and Oklahoma to spare the lives of Kelly Gissendaner and Richard Glossip, respectively.
Georgia executed Gissendaner early the morning of Sept. 30. On the same day, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a 37-day stay of execution for Glossip.
Why is it that even the pope’s calls for the abolition of the death penalty fall on the deaf ears of death penalty supporters, many of whom consider themselves pro-life?
Do we really love killing so much that we ignore not only moral and ethical arguments against it, but also the overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is often carried out against innocent people?
Since 1973, 151 death row inmates in the U.S. have been released due to evidence they were wrongfully convicted.
How many more have been killed for crimes they did not commit?
You don’t need to be Catholic to find wisdom and reason in Pope Francis’ views on the death penalty.
In his speech to Congress, Pope Francis urged, “If we want life, let us give life.”
Meting out death — domestically, through the use of the death penalty and internationally, through never-ending wars and drone strikes — will never lead us to a culture that truly values human life.
That can only be achieved through giving up our addiction to killing.
Abolishing the death penalty nationwide would be a great place to start.
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