Guest columnist Maggie Brady is a reader and writer currently residing in Bay Village. She considers herself to be a traditional conservative politically. Pope Francis, as is his wont, recently made another big splash in the news. Headlines are shouting that the head of the 1 billion-member Catholic Church has changed its teaching on the death penalty. Reactions have been typical. That…
Guest columnist Maggie Brady is a reader and writer currently residing in Bay Village. She considers herself to be a traditional conservative politically.
Pope Francis, as is his wont, recently made another big splash in the news. Headlines are shouting that the head of the 1 billion-member Catholic Church has changed its teaching on the death penalty.
Reactions have been typical. That unpleasant crunching noise is the sound of teeth grinding from conservatives annoyed by the pope’s stance that criminals and unborn children are equal in human dignity. The odd flashes of light are just the sun shining off the gimlet eyes of progressives, who are thinking, today, the death penalty; tomorrow, abortion and women priests!
All this is taking place against a background of social change on the issue. Polls show that public support for capital punishment is at its lowest point in decades. Fewer states are carrying out executions, and those that do are struggling to secure the necessary drugs. This includes the state of Ohio.
Keeping theology out of it, it’s helpful to avoid knee-jerk partisan reactions and consider how this issue cuts across ideological boundaries.
Fondness for (or at least tolerance of) capital punishment is a position usually associated with conservatives. Yet, the entire concept of the state executing a human being flies in the face of conservative principles. With good reason, we express doubt that the government can get it right with health care, road construction or, let’s face it, dog catching.
But this skepticism turns to touching naivete when it comes to that same government ending the lives of our fellow citizens. In some political minds, public workers divide their work days evenly between leeching blood from taxpayer arteries and trying — and failing — to tie their shoes. Yet this same bureaucracy should be in charge of the machinery of life and death?
Supporters of capital punishment often argue that it has important social benefits, such as discouraging violent crime. Even if true, traditional conservative thought scoffs at social engineering and resists policies that benefit the community at the expense of the individual.
A favorite quote of conservative politicians, usually misattributed to Thomas Jefferson, is “a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.”
To this traditional conservative, a government big enough to take the most important thing a human has — his life — needs to get smaller and less powerful, fast.
Don’t look for Pope Francis to join the Chamber of Commerce or subscribe to National Review any time soon. But on capital punishment, he’s landing on ground conservatives can appreciate.
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