New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a pro-choice Democrat who recently ended the death penalty in his state with help from his local Archbishop Michael Sheehan met with Pope Benedict today as I reported yesterday. Rocco has the report:
Richardson, a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, led a state delegation to Rome for the evening lighting ceremony, which was sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic group whose activities include a world-wide campaign against capital punishment.
Earlier in the day, Richardson attended Benedict's weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square, where he was seated in the front row of spectators, along with Sheehan.
Following the audience, Sheehan introduced the governor to the pope, saying "Holy Father, this is our governor and he just repealed the death penalty," to which the pope "nodded very happily in agreement," the archbishop later told reporters.
Perhaps the folks at Notre Dame can take a lesson from Archbishop Sheehan who is one of the finest men I've ever had the pleasure to meet with and know. We need to work with people, to influence them charitably. Maybe even to wear them down a bit. Governor Richardson said this was a tough decision for him to make but still, he was able to do this with the Archbishop working with him to save the lives of prisoners who have the right to live and to inform the state that they don't have the right to play God.
What if we all looked for openings of influence like this? Would our elected officials give us more of a benefit of the doubt when we bring them an issue that we disagree on? Would they listen to us more because they've had a good experience of working alongside us despite our disagreements at times?
If the folks at Notre Dame were smart they'd ask President Obama to outlaw the death penalty and to work with them on it to bring that to fruition. That's something that has a better chance of happening and maybe if it does move us a stride forward we can then work together on seeing where we can go further in uniting on the abortion question.
But my sense is that those in the Cardinal Newman Society will point out that Capital Punishment isn't as bad as abortion and will say that it's not an objective evil and the church even allows it in certain situations. Ingrained in their own limited Republican agenda, they fail to see that in a country such as ours there is no compelling reason for us to execute anyone. We have the means to protect society from those who do evil and instead many state governments opt for a cheaper solution and resort to vengeance. Let me be clear, I don't favor abortion and think we should do all we can to end abortion in this country (and in the world for that matter), but we also need to do this strategically in order to succeed. And right now, yelling nasty words at politicians doesn't seem like a good strategy to me.
I'm just sayin'.
A final point: if anyone should see the madness in capital punishment it's Christians. After all, that's how Jesus died.