Capital Punishment

The article “Catholics and Capital Punishment” (September/October 2010) caught my eye immediately. Having a long career in law enforcement, I have been criticized (and worse) for my stance that each life is of worth. I am firmly against the death penalty. Thus I was very disappointed at the end of the article. I believe that it was not definitive enough and waffled in telling us what the Church teaches. I expected a more clear telling of it. 

Carla Noziglia, Aiken, S.C. 

Carl Olson replies: I appreciate your conviction regarding the death penalty. But if I had stated or argued in my article that the Church is completely opposed to the death penalty in every situation, I would not have been accurately conveying what the Church, in fact, teaches about capital punishment. My conclusion was not definitive for a simple reason: The Church’s stance regarding the death penalty is not definitive. Or, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoted in my conclusion): “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” (No. 2267). Thus if someone insists that the Church always opposes the death penalty, they would be badly representing what the Church actually teaches; on the other hand, Catholics are free to oppose the death penalty in all situations. In a real sense, this is similar to the Church’s teaching about war — namely, that a country has a right (even a responsibility), under proper circumstances, to engage in warfare. These positions, as I noted, are very different from the Church’s teaching about issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexual acts and so forth, which are always, in every situation, objectively evil. 

Cardinals Over 80 

I read one of your articles that said that cardinals retire at 80 (“Princes of the Church,” November/December 2010), but I noticed that several of the cardinals that Pope Benedict XVI just announced are over 80. Is the Pope changing the retirement rule? 

Evelyn C. Lewinter, Sparta, N.J. 

The editor replies: No, it is customary for the pope to name at each consistory several cardinals who are over the age of 80 in recognition of their long and distinguished service to the Church. They are not eligible to vote in any future conclave as they are over the age limit established by Pope Paul VI. The requirement that cardinals are ineligible to vote in a conclave after reaching the age of 80 was imposed by Pope Paul in the 1970 apostolic letter, Ingravescentem Aetatem. Cardinals over 80 still retain membership in the College with relevant rights and privileges. 

Why Did God Select the Jews? 

I find your response apt and sufficient as usual (“Jews and Salvation History?” TCA Faith, May/June 2010), but if I may, I would like to add my own thoughts which I have always had. Quite simply, the Jews were the only people that worshiped the One and True God. Who else, within good reason, was He to go to! Certainly not the Egyptians and their worship of cats — or any other cult that did not acknowledge Him. Don’t you think? 

Ramona Stevens, Arlington, Texas