Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam and the death penalty

Today's newspapers report on the yesterday's execution of Saddam Hussein, but earlier this week, Catholic News Service reported that Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper that he expressed hope that the deposed dictator would not be executed. "There is no doubt" that Saddam was a ruthless dictator responsible for hundreds of deaths, said Cardinal Martino. "But one does not compensate for one crime with another crime." Religion News Service reported the comments as reaffirming the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to capital punishment.

Meanwhile, in another story, Catholic News Service reports that in America, support for the death penalty wanes as life without parole gains public favor.
As 2006 came to an end, capital punishment was making headlines for what it is not doing: overall declining use, waning support and recent challenges at the state levels about how it is conducted.

Shifting public support for capital punishment is a "ray of good news" for Frank McNeirney, co-founder of Catholics Against Capital Punishment, who said he hopes the trend continues.

Death penalty statistics in a year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington offered reasons for optimism among opponents of capital punishment. For starters, the group noted the results of a newly released Gallup Poll showing that more Americans support alternative sentences of life without parole over the death penalty as punishment for murder.

The center also reported that U.S. death sentences are the lowest they have been in 30 years; executions have sharply declined and the number of people on death row has decreased. During 2006, 53 people were executed, down from 60 in 2005 and 98 in 1999, the report said.

McNeirney, who founded Catholics Against Capital Punishment with his wife, Ellen, 14 years ago in their Maryland home, said the change in attitude against the death penalty has been developing over recent years as more people, and jury members in particular, have become aware of the availability of life without parole sentences. Only Alaska and New Mexico currently do not have life without parole sentences, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

You can read more here.