Tag Archives: Evangelium Vitae

Balancing justice and mercy

BISHOP JAMES WALL: The three most recent popes have condemned the death penalty . . .

Bishop James Wall

Bishop James Wall

by Bishop James Wall

Pope St. John Paul II gave the Church a great gift on April 30, 2000, when he made the Sunday after Easter the Feast of Divine Mercy.

In his 1980 encyclical Dives in Misericordia, he wrote, “Mercy differs from justice, but is not in opposition to it … Love, by its very nature, excludes hatred and ill-will” (#III, 4).

The struggle to harmonize justice and mercy is central to understanding the use of the death penalty, recently rekindled by Pope Francis. In his March 20, 2015, letter to the president of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, he affirmed what his predecessors have taught.

Confusion enters in when the different principles are seen as irrelevant to each other, rather than what they really are — small pieces of a larger whole. We must hold fast to justice, but never twist justice into an excuse to cling to anger and hatred.

John Paul taught in Evangelium Vitae: “The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message” (#1). Central to our Lord’s proclamation is the truth, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). The dignity of the human person is neither earned nor awarded, but was given as a gift from God when he created us in his own image and likeness.

Because it’s given by God, no human being — not even by their sinfulness — can destroy human dignity and the accompanying right to being acknowledged and treated as human persons. This is why John Paul, when preaching on the sanctity of life in St. Louis in 1999, took the opportunity to address the use of the death penalty: “The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” This teaching was confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006: “Every human life … deserves and demands always to be defended and promoted.”

The death penalty is, in principle, legitimate. However, a legitimate principle and its legitimate application are two distinct things. This is what Evangelium Vitae teaches us: The purpose of punishment is to redress a disorder, to defend public order, and hopefully to heal the criminal (#56). It is not permission for hatred. The Gospel teaches that we are called to love our enemies, not simply those who used to be our enemies. Thus, we read that the death penalty is a last resort “when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent” (Evangelium Vitae, #56).

Not only is the necessity, practically speaking, non-existent, but Pope Francis reminds us in his March 20 letter that with the death penalty comes the end of the chance to reform. “With the application of capital punishment, the person sentenced is denied the possibility to make amends or to repent of the harm done; the possibility of confession, with which man expresses his inner conversion; and of [the possibility] of contrition , the means of repentance and atonement, in order to reach the encounter with the merciful and healing love of God.” We need to love all of our brothers and sisters, and love them not simply for a brief moment of time, but aid them to eternal life.

This is why John Paul urged the complete cessation of the death penalty and lauded those working for the end of capital punishment. Pope Benedict taught the same, just as Francis continues to do.

In the Diocese of Gallup, Sr. Elizabeth Racko, DC, leads the ministry to those who are incarcerated. Her ministry is to prisoners in Arizona and New Mexico. In 2009, New Mexico abolished the use of the death penalty, while Arizona still has the use of it. “I am not only against the death penalty for the sake of the life of the inmate, but also for the sake of the moral life of our society in the United States,” she said.

When we consider the validity of the use of the death penalty, we must always call to mind those who have been affected by the crimes committed: the victims, their families and the perpetrators. As a people of faith, from a distinctively Catholic perspective, we must first turn to the Merciful Father, imploring him to shower us with his mercy. We pray for a transformation of our culture from one of death to one that seeks to promote the gifts and values of the Gospel of Life — the culture that our Lord came to offer to all people.

BISHOP JAMES WALL leads the Diocese of Gallup, N.M. He is the former chaplain of Legatus’ Phoenix Chapter.

The mission of man, the genius of woman

DORINDA C. BORDLEE writes that the ‘genius of women’ requires men . . .

Dorinda C. Bordlee

Dorinda C. Bordlee

What do women want? Any man trying to bring joy to the woman he loves knows full well that this question poses a deep mystery.

Men may never suspect that their special mission or “genius” holds a key to the answer.   Having come of age during the remarkable pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, my professional endeavors to defend women and unborn children from the violent exploitation of abortion were informed and enriched by the Pope’s insightful apostolic letters and his big vision for women expressed in Evangelium Vitae: “In transforming the culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on women to promote a ‘new feminism’” (#99).

So after being invited to a woman’s symposium addressing Pope Francis’ recent call for an even deeper theology of woman, I did something that a modern woman might consider counter-cultural:  I asked my law partner — a man — for his thoughts on the subject.

While his response later proved to be consistent with the themes of the symposium scholars, I must admit that it wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. Out of the mouth of Nikolas T. Nikas came the answer that a deeper theology of woman is incomplete without men understanding and being affirmed in their own authentic identity and mission as men — so that complementarity can be realized to the benefit of women, men, children and families.

His argument went along these lines: “The Church needs to develop and challenge men with a big vision of the ‘theology of man.’ Otherwise the ‘feminine genius’ might simply dissolve into a Catholic version of radical feminism — a false philosophy of woman against the world.”

This assessment brought home the reality that I and many of my Catholic sisters might not have paid much attention to John Paul’s call for a focus on the male-female relationship of “communion” and the “unity of the two.” I had to ask myself if I was sometimes thinking or acting like a radical feminist who happened to wear a crucifix.

And then came the abstracts setting forth the thoughts of brilliant scholars whose symposium papers are now in a book entitled Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity and the Church (Our Sunday Visitor). The book’s essays include titles such as “The Genius of Man” by Deborah Savage, PhD, and “The Dignity and Vocation of Men: Why Masculinity and Fatherhood Matter to Women,” by Theresa Farnan, PhD.

Emboldened by my sisters’ affirmation of my law partner’s assessment about the need for a focus on men, I prepared a presentation delivered at a conference in Nashville, and later as a keynote address for the Diocese of Phoenix. Entitled “The Genius of Women and the Making of Men,” my presentation set forth my admittedly basic understanding of some of the characteristics of the “masculine genius.”

Looking to St. Joseph as a model of the masculine genius, I observed that men needed to be affirmed in a threefold vocation to be (1) protectors, (2) providers, and (3) prayerful leaders in service of their families, the Church, and their professions. But men have long ago been pushed away and told to mind their own business thanks to the rise of radical feminism and the legalization of abortion, which ironically facilitates the sexual exploitation of women.

I concluded with the basic acknowledgment that for women to fully attain human flourishing, we need to open our hearts and invite men to be men, and to allow men to be men.

Recognizing that my assessment as a policy lawyer was superficial at best, I suggested that perhaps this issue could be taken up in other symposia across the country and perhaps in pastoral letters from bishops. That last part was something that I had not expected to say, but the presence of Bishop Thomas Olmsted at the Phoenix event prompted the comment that ultimately resulted in the bishop holding a “mini-synod” on masculine identity and mission. Nik and I were honored to present along with experts who have thought deeply about this question in the fields of theology, philosophy, psychology, and masculine formation.

With Bishop Olmsted’s permission, I encourage everyone to be on the lookout for his upcoming pastoral letter, designed to teach and to inspire concrete initiatives. It’s time for us all to remember, as John Paul reminded us, that the Lord “assigns as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman; and simultaneously … assigns to every woman the dignity of every man.”

DORINDA C. BORDLEE is an attorney and co-founder of Bioethics Defense Fund, a pubic interest legal and educational organization whose mission is to put law in the service of life.

America’s unholy export

Despite its rich Christian history, America is the world leader in exporting death . . .

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer

The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. We lead the world in military and political strength, our economy is the largest in history and American cultural influence is everywhere.

God has richly blessed our nation with much to offer the rest of the world. Yet, America is also the progenitor and leading exporter of the culture of death. This can and must be changed. Perhaps Legatus members are just the ones to do something about it.

The export of the culture of death happens primarily through population control, a practice as old as Pharaoh in the book of Exodus who saw the proliferation of the Jews in his land as a threat. That’s usually what happens when prosperous nations grow old for lack of child bearing and try to protect their “good life” by suppressing the peoples who have filled the vacuum left by a decreasing native population.

In Egypt, this took the form of a systematic repression of the Jews through forced labor and the unjust slaughter of their male babies. This was repeated by King Herod in the New Testament when he sent his henchmen into the hill country of Judea to wipe out all the male boys under age two in Bethlehem and its environs. Herod’s own population control program operated according to the same principles of murder and mayhem against the innocent.

Modern programs are not much different, although they tend to be more subtle. American population control efforts began in the 1960s with the Rockefellers who set up the Population Council to monitor world population and make policy recommendations to the U.S. government about controlling the growth rates of the world’s poorer countries. Henry Kissinger authored the infamous National Security Study Memorandum 200 (the Kissinger Report for short) of the Nixon Administration just one year after Roe v. Wade. The population control dynamics were the same as in biblical times: When America decided to curtail population growth through abortion, pro-lifers feared that others would follow. Like it or not, the Kissinger Report became the template of population-control logic for all succeeding American administrations. No President has succeeded in fully stopping America’s unholy intrusion into the populations of other countries.

This fact becomes relevant to some modern-day policies and practices of our government. For one, the Mexico City Policy, which prohibited U.S. taxpayer dollars from going to international groups that promote abortion, was wiped out by President Obama’s executive order on his third day in office. It unleashed a torrent of U.S. funding for the export of abortion. A congressional omnibus funding bill last December authorized nearly $700 million taxpayer dollars for the most pernicious abortion-promoting groups in the world. These organizations are organizing the forces of death around the world to push abortion, contraception, pornographic sex education and sexual immorality in schools.

Pope John Paul II called packages of evil like this the “culture of death” and claimed that a “conspiracy against life” (Evangelium Vitae, #17) was being perpetrated on our world through powerful organizations with vested interests and lots of money.

Since the release of the U.S. funding for more population control, we have seen an emboldening of anti-life efforts at the United Nations and around the world. The exportation of the culture of death is alive and well:

• In March, the U.N. hosted 6,000 radical feminists for their first conference on women in a decade; all such efforts were stalled during President Bush’s tenure;
• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently demanded that Brazil legalize abortion;
• The Spanish government voted to expand abortion, and the King of Spain signed the law in March;
• A U.N. committee ordered Ukraine to push more sex education in their schools; and
• The European Court of Human Rights demanded that Poland recognize homosexual “rights” contrary to their laws and values.

Sadly, Planned Parenthood is providing “reproductive health kits” for poor Haitians in their time of desperate need. The missionaries of death have millions of dollars at their disposal and always capitalize on humanitarian crises to promote their evil agenda.

Legates can be missionaries of life in these tough times. Businessmen can capitalize on the present economic crisis to deliver a sober message to our political leaders about the hard “bottom line” of wasted dollars on futile population control programs that produce nothing and inspire no true economic growth.

People who own stock in companies that support immoral practices can bring corporate resolutions to their stockholders to stop funding the culture of death. We can boycott companies that do business with Planned Parenthood and make it clear that we will not fund or support anything that harms our society and ultimately our souls.

America is still the greatest nation on earth. It’s great because we are free to fight the culture of death and promote the culture of life. As conscientious Catholics, let us embrace that freedom and honor God for blessing our country so abundantly.

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer is president of Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life organization with affiliates in 75 countries. Legatus presented him with the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award in 2005.