Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels has compounded Cardinal Martino’s dumb statement about Saddam. The liberal prelate advocates giving Saddam a symbolic death sentence and not executing him. Here is another cardinal of the Church distorting the Church’s teaching on the death penalty.
Cardinal Godfried Danneels said no one had the right, even when it came to Saddam, “to effectively rob him of his life.”
Really? Then is the Catechism wrong?
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.
I’m not going to make a judgment at this time one way or the other whether Saddam’s execution would be the only way of effectively defending lives, but a clear case can be made for it. You certainly can’t rule it out as Cardinal Danneels seems to do.
A “symbolic” death penalty is worse than no death penalty. It says to the victims and families of victims of Saddam that justice for his crimes can be satisfied by half-measures; that some bizarre bait-and-switch is sufficient punishment.
“On the other hand, you have to show to the world opinion that these things (Saddam’s actions) are absolutely not acceptable,” he said. “I see no other way than to symbolically pronounce the death penalty ... because for the public opinion and for the world, he would then be stricken from the book of the living,” Danneels said, adding that the sentence should be turned into life imprisonment.
I can think of another way to show that Saddam’s crimes (not just actions) are not acceptable: the death penalty as provided by Catholic moral teaching.