The Deacon's Bench

That is one message that is often lost during Respect Life month, and the USCCB is bringing it to the forefront as October comes to an end:

As the 2010 edition of Respect Life Month drew to a close, the issue of capital punishment was once again in the world spotlight as the Vatican called on Iraq not to execute former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

It might not be easy to advocate for the life of a convicted murderer or for someone like Aziz, sentenced to death by hanging for persecuting Shiite Muslims, but it is important to the pro-life cause, said Deirdre A. McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications in the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

“It demeans our culture to use violence to answer violence, and it can only further undermine respect for innocent life,” McQuade told Catholic News Service Oct. 27. “If the state can protect us without committing additional violence, that is the way we are called to go.”

Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., made that point in one of the articles for this year’s Respect Life program, linking the death penalty issue to the Catholic belief in divine mercy.

“God did not abolish justice. Rather, he intended by the offering of his Son to purge human justice of any sense of wrath or revenge,” he wrote. “As we seek a reason to put aside the practice of the death penalty, perhaps the best motive is our desire to imitate God in his mercy toward those for whom Jesus died.”

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