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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pro-Life but-- nothing

Scott Peterson received the death penalty.

And here in my state, convicted murderer Michael Ross is set to die by lethal injection this January 26.

Once upon a time, I would have been among those glad to hear these decisions.

No longer, though. Even though my Catholic faith allows for capital punishment "only if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor" (think Hannibal Lecter, to use a fictional character example), my faith also teaches that capital punishment "definitively takes away from him the possibility of redeeming himself."

For that reason, I don't support the death penalty anymore. Not after knowing that even Dr. Bernard Nathanson could change his mind. Not after knowing the story of Maria Goretti and her killer.

I think I understand how Laci's parents feel. I understand how the families of Ross's victims feel. One victim's relative was quoted in the local paper saying, "What do you do with trash? You bury it."

I would feel as they do, were it my daughter and grandson.

When I was young, two of my teenage cousins were driving when they were hit head-on by a drunk/stoned driver who crossed the white line into my cousins' lane. One cousin was killed instantly, the other was in a deep coma for weeks. My mom went to the hospital to visit him. It so happened that the kid who caused the accident was also recovering from his injuries in that same hospital, and my mother happened to walk by his room by chance.

She confided in me years later, long after my other cousin also had died from his injuries, that she, a devout Roman Catholic, a cradle Catholic who said Rosaries weekly, wanted to go into that boy's room and quietly pull whatever plugs may have been helping him to heal, or helping him to stay alive.

I understand.

That act would not have been the same as capital punishment. I know. But the desire for revenge and/or for justice is the same.

Yes, what Scott Peterson and Michael Ross did is and will always be hideous. Yes, I am glad that Peterson's son Connor was considered a human being whose life had worth. Yes, they acted like "monsters." In Peterson's case at least, he seems without remorse. Psychopathic perhaps. They do not deserve compassion.

But I am not the only one who can grant undeserved compassion. I'm not the one to remove the dignity of human life, even from those who blacken that dignity by their heinous actions and thoughts.

I'm against the death penalty, knowing what I know now. I could never be for taking a human life again, having done it already.

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