Sunday, October 25, 2009

Politicizing the Prayer of the Faithful.


I've seen commentary on this subject elsewhere: using the prayer of the faithful to make political statements or promote an agenda - either personal, as in the case when individuals in the congregation are invited to call out their particular intentions to be prayed for; or communally, when the intentions are composed by the liturgist or a pastoral associate for the local assembly.  The latest Kennedy funeral is a good example of what I am talking about, when family members ascended the pulpit to promote a political agenda.

Last evening at Mass one of the intentions inserted into the prayer of the faithful had a particular political ring to it.  The intention was for the United States to abolish the death penalty.  I know we pray for an end to abortion and to overturn the laws permitting it, and therefore it is convenient to equate the death penalty on the same terms.  
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I get the irony of pro-life Catholics in support of the death penalty, while their pro-abortion (choice) counterparts are against capital punishment.  I wouldn't be surprised if many Catholic sisters who happen to be pro-choice are militantly opposed to the death penalty as well.  Nevertheless, the Church is clear in Her teaching on abortion and euthanasia, yet it seems to me there is some ambiguity as regards capital punishment.  
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As for inserting prayers concerning the death penalty, I can accept praying for an end to the need for it, or praying for an end to egregious capital crimes that many believe may warrant it, even praying for a better solution to capital punishment.  Nevertheless not everyone agrees that the death penalty should be absolutely abolished.  Although the Church believes the need for it be rare and practically non-existent, Catholic teaching does not forbid it.  Whereas Catholic moral teaching, indeed, natural law, forbids the killing of unborn infants and infanticide, it allows for limited use of the death penalty in extreme cases, just as it allows for just wars.
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At least that is my understanding of the matter.


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Church Teaching:  
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2266 The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.[67]
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2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
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"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
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"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.' [68] - CCC 
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"This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God's plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offence."(46) Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.(47)
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It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
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In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: 'If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.'" - Evangelium Vitae

6 comments:

  1. According to CNN, states can no longer afford the death penalty, it's just too expensive.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/10/20/death.penalty/index.html

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  2. Seriously, you're not one of these Catholics who actually follows and tries to be faithful to what's in the Catechism are you? How can you be so backward? (heh heh)

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  3. My concern with the death penalty is that sometimes they kill the wrong guy. However, I do believe that in certain, extreme cases it might be warranted. But they better be darned sure they have the right guy!

    And no way can you put capital punishment in the same category as abortion - the killing of a completely INNOCENT person.

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  4. I wrote about the death penalty and the prolife incongruity a long time ago.

    Here's what gets me: that crazy nun in Chicago. I understand that many dissident Catholics are outspoken about issues they believe in. But to ASSIST IN FACILITATING ABORTIONS is simply inexcusable. Why is she still operating as a nun in communion with the local bishop? Or is the group of nuns that she is a part of been axed?

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  5. Patrick Kennedy is in kaka with his bishop. See here:
    http://michaelgabrielraphael.blogspot.com/2009/10/my-new-favorite-bishop.html

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  6. Enjoyed your taking exception to this being in the prayer. This recent turn in Church thinking on the death penalty means that we are all for tradition when we need tradition and we throw it out the window when we or a Pope want to.
    No Catholic seems to care about Romans 13:3-4 in which "sword" is a synecdoche for all punishment up to including the death penalty which first was given to the Gentiles not Jews only in Genesis 9:5-6. John Paul repeatedly quoted the latter in Evangelium Vitae and each time, he cut out the death penalty part of it knowing few Catholics would look up the passage. In 1952 Pius XII affirmed the death penalty and he had a safer modern penology than we do now because now we have gang members serving life sentences and ordering hundreds of street hits from prison over a ten year period in California according to a Times article. So even by the catechism's standard, life sentences are not protecting society. Mexico has not had a death penalty for ages....and it shows. In fact, go to wiki on country murder rates and you'll see Catholic countries as 50% of the top 12 murder rate countries which means the Papacy should wait til they clean up their own countries with their theories before contradicting the understanding of the Church from Augustine til Pius XII on what Romans 13:3-4 meant.

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