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The Deacon's Bench

I’m grateful to see that Danielle Bean is paying attention — and the rest of us should, too.

Teresa Lewis is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday night — and would become the first woman to be executed in the United States in five years.

As news reports note:

Teresa Lewis.jpgTeresa Lewis, a 41-year-old grandmother… pleaded guilty to her part in the 2002 slayings of her husband and son-in-law in their rural home near Danville, about 145 miles from Richmond, Virginia. Two male co-conspirators — the triggermen — were given life in prison without parole.

“I’m a little nervous this morning. I’m also scared. But I am peaceful because I’ve got Jesus with me,” Lewis told CNN in an exclusive interview by phone Friday, just hours before Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell made his decision. “But I’m good.”

McDonnell refused to issue a stay for Lewis, who is the first woman scheduled to be executed in Virginia in nearly a century.

“Having carefully reviewed the petition for clemency, the judicial opinions in this case, and other relevant materials, I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was imposed by the Circuit Court and affirmed by all reviewing courts,” the governor wrote. “Accordingly, I decline to intervene and have notified the appropriate counsel and family of my decision.”

Lewis and her lawyers had formally asked the governor to spare her life, arguing she has an IQ that is borderline mentally retarded and that she was manipulated to commit the crimes by a dominant male co-defendant. She had pleaded guilty to her participation in the murders, but now regrets her actions.

“I just want the governor to know that I am so sorry, deeply from my heart,” she told CNN. “And if I could take it back, I would, in a minute… I just wish I could take it back. And I’m sorry for all the people that I’ve hurt in the process.”

So, just to be clear: a woman who is “borderline mentally retarded” will be put to death for helping to plan a killing. The triggermen, who carried it out, have been given life without parole.

Danielle Bean, smartly, thumbs through the catechism, which notes:

2267 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.

If, however, nonlethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.

And there you have it. (For those interested, you can read more about Lewis’s life and circumstances at this website that was set up to support her.)

Does any clear-thinking Catholic believe that this planned execution is an “absolute necessity”? Is ending this woman’s life — her broken, imperfect, misguided muddle of life, but still a life — the only way to defend others against “the unjust aggressor”?

We can only pray about this, and pray that those who still have the power to decide this woman’s fate will search their hearts — and choose life.

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