A top Vatican official condemned the death sentence against Saddam Hussein in a newspaper interview published Thursday, acknowledging the crimes of the ousted Iraqi leader but reiterating that capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict's top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations, said that Saddam's execution would punish "a crime with another crime" and expressed hope that the sentence would not be carried out. In the interview with Rome daily La Repubblica, Martino reiterated the Vatican's staunch opposition to the death penalty, saying that life must be safeguarded from its beginning to its ``natural" end. "The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the State," he said.
My my my. The Vatican has a "staunch opposition" to the death penalty, does it? Violates the "teachings" of the Catholic Church? Really?
Uh…not so much. The teachings of the Catholic Church are, in fact, publically available to anyone who cares to instruct themselves in such matters. In the case of the death penalty, the church does not now, nor has it ever, opposed capital punishment, per se – viz:
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
So, while it would be fair to say that the Catholic Church is not a big supporter of the death penalty, it does not hold that capital punishment and the Christian faith are mutually exclusive, nor does it teach that the death penalty in and of itself violates the teachings of the Church.
Sigh. Maybe the red hat’s too tight or something, but wouldn’t be nice if the man responsible for propagation of the Church’s teachings on justice issues had actually, you know, read the Church’s teachings on justice issues?
UPDATE: The wicked witch is dead.