I have a great deal of respect for the Catholic church and for the ethical thinking it produces, but these statements from the Vatican on the occasion of the execution of Saddam Hussein are difficult to agree with:
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican spokesman on Saturday denounced Saddam Hussein's execution as "tragic" and expressed worry it might fuel revenge and new violence. The execution is "tragic and reason for sadness," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said, speaking in French on Vatican Radio's French-language news program.
Why is it tragic that the world is rid of a mass murderer? Why should we be sad that a man who gassed and murdered thousands of children is gone? We should take no delight in seeing a man die but neither should we be sad that he will no longer be around to terrorize innocent people. Rev. Lombardi should reserve his sympathy for the victims of terror and oppression rather than the perpetrators.
In separate comments to the station's English program, Lombardi said that capital punishment cannot be justified "even when the person put to death is one guilty of grave crimes," and he reiterated the Catholic Church's overall opposition to the death penalty.
Why, exactly, can capital punishment not be justified? Surely God commands it in the Old Testament and nothing in the New Testament rescinds the command. It may be that as Christians we should reserve execution for the most heinous criminals, but it's hard to imagine a criminal more heinous than Saddam Hussein.
In an interview published in an Italian daily earlier in the week, the Vatican's top prelate for justice issues, Cardinal Renato Martino, said executing Saddam would mean punishing "a crime with another crime."
This is as much sophistry as it is inanity. Cardinal Martino essentially places the execution of a mass murderer after a trial by a legitimate court in the same moral category as the horrific murders of hundreds of thousands of people. If taking Saddam's life is a criminal act, one wonders, why would it not also be criminal to take his freedom? Or his property?
What makes an act criminal is that it violates both the state's legal code and the natural law. Executing Saddam does neither of these.RLC