Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Death Penalty Dilemmas. (News)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Death Penalty Dilemmas. (News)

Article excerpt

At a recent major conference on religion and the death penalty, a considerable amount of grumbling could be heard from audience members who had expected a more representative and contentious debate between religious proponents of the abolition and retention of capital punishment. Weighted heavily toward the retentionist position, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's January conference did, however, provide an intriguing window on the struggles of conservative Catholic public officials with their church's anti-death-penalty teachings (for transcripts see pewforum.org).

Speaking at the University of Chicago conference, both United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating took issue with the Catholic Church's current official teaching on the death penalty. In recent documents the church has said that because other means of protecting society are now available, there is practically no longer any justification for the use of capital punishment.

Although his state last year surpassed even Texas to lead the nation in the number of executions, Keating argued that, considering the far greater number of homicides, executions in the United States are already "rare if not nonexistent," as the pope has urged. As a Catholic governor in an overwhelmingly non-Catholic state, Keating said "it's no fun" to frequently find himself in public battles with Oklahoma's Catholic bishops over the death penalty. …

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