Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam is dead.

I suppose everyone has heard the news that Saddam Hussein did the air dance last night. (It was even proclaimed in the City of Orgrimmar in World of Warcraft, according to a commentator on another blog.) There has been a great deal of discussion on this in St. Blog's. Amy Welborn of Open Book refers us to this well thought out analysis of two view points pro and con on this issue. A Vatican spokesman even referred to the execution as a 'tragic event'. I agree, it is a tragic event. But, not for the same reason as the spokesman.

It is tragic that a human being could commit acts so evil that the proper response is to take his life. He terrorized his own people for over 30 years with murder and torture. He started two wars of aggression. He funded and supported terrorist organizations. (And he gave that ass Ramsey Clark a bully pulpit as his defense attorney.) The only way one could say that his death sentence is unjust is to say that all death sentences are unjust.

This is precisely what some within the Church are saying, even the Pope himself. But is this the teaching of the Church? No, the Church has always taught that the state has the right to execute criminals in accord with just laws. In the latest edition of the Catechism, John Paul II tried to limit this to only those cases where it was absolutely necessary to protect society. (On this basis alone, one can make a good case that Saddam was a threat as long as he was living.) However, there are good arguments that this is not infallible or even authoritative teaching. Even if it is, the prudential decision that in modern society with our great prisons, the death penalty is not necessary is shaky to say the least. The imprisoned are still dangerous to other prisoners and the guards and there is always the possibility of escape. But, I think we need to remember that punishment is, well, punishment. Its primary purpose is retributive justice not rehabilitation. Punishment restores the order of nature and some crimes are so heinous that death is the proper response.

I admit I am not disinterested in this subject. When I was younger, the son of a friend of my mother's was the victim of a serial killer. This boy that I remember as a nice, friendly little kind was kidnapped and tortured to death. He was one of five victims. His killer merited his punishment.

Not very forgiving are you Father? I have prayed and will pray for this man and Saddam. (Though Saddam's last words don't give me much hope for his repentance.) I hope and pray that they asked for and received God's mercy. But this does not mean that traditional justice ought not to have been done.
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