I wonder sometimes if some folks at the Vatican realize that Church teaching does not completely forbid the death penalty. I wonder because of the reaction from Cardinal Renato Martino to Saddam Hussein’s sentence of death.
Martino is the head of the Council for Justice and Peace. He accused the Iraqi court of demanding “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and simply seeking revenge.
Cardinal Martino said that it is unfortunate that Saddam Hussein was tried in Iraq, rather than before the International Criminal Court. In that legal forum, he observed, “he would not have been condemned to the death sentence,” since the international tribunal does not allow capital punishment. Iraq, the cardinal continued, is “one of those countries that have not yet made the civilized choice to abolish the death penalty.”
Civilized? Here are some “civilized” numbers. At least 290,000 Iraqis disappeared during Saddam’s regime and probably interred in the thousands of mass graves all over the country. A million people died in the Iran-Iraq war that Saddam started. At least 182,000 Kurds died in the Anfal campaign when Saddam used WMD—chemical weapons—on them. His regime ran rape rooms and put people in giant schredders. Another million people died of disease and malnutrition under the UN sanctions while he diverted the money meant for food and medicine to building palaces for himself. These are monstrous crimes, literally crimes against humanity.
The Catechism on the death penalty applies here