Thursday, October 23, 2008

On the Radio

During this period of home hospice care, I keep the radio on the Catholic station for the lady's comfort. For myself, hearing the Mass or the Rosary is calming. There's one Irish priest who says the Rosary in what sounds very much like a trance of devotion, and it's surprising to hear it again and again. Some of the Masses presented on Catholic Radio -- from various locations like Alabama, Rome, and Spain -- can be quite moving.

It may help to be of lapsed Catholic persuasion. But I wonder what non-believers who have never been associated with the Church think when -- or if -- they hear the programming on Catholic Radio. Do they think of Satan? Hmmm.

Since it is an election season, the obsession with abortion, homosexuality, and "culture" some of the priests and laity on the station have is striking. Over and over, listeners are implored to vote for candidates -- and only for candidates -- who will bring an end to the crimes and sins aforementioned. When laymen address the topic with Church apologists and point out that many candidates who are opposed to abortion are all in favor of war, the death penalty and so forth, the priests and whatnot go into real contortions to justify voting solely on the matter of ending abortion -- as opposed to other "life" issues -- claiming that the Church and the Holy Father specifically condemn abortion (and euthanasia) whereas war and the death penalty are, well, sometimes condemned. Not always.

They also claim that while they don't and can't endorse any candidate (McCain), that McCain's views are closer to those of the Church and the Holy Father and that should be the primary consideration of Catholic voters.


Earlier today a priest was trying to explain "democracy" vis a vis the Church, claiming in fact that the Church -- while hierarchical -- was clearly "democratic" as well, in that the Pope is elected and for many centuries elections have been held at various levels and on various matters having to do with Church personnel and operations, so it is "democratic."


This seemed to be way of justifying Catholic participation in elections at all.

And always there are the callers who have to be cautioned against too much judgementalism toward their neighbors and relations -- who of course have fallen into sin and will burn eternally in hell for it.

It's... fascinating.


  1. In Catholic teaching, abortion and the death penalty are very different moral issues
    From Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below.

    Catholics in good standing can support the death penalty and even an increase in executions, if their own prudential judgement calls for it.
    What Ardent Practicing Catholics Do (1)
    By Fr. John De Celles, 9/1/2008
    "Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is … a grave and clear obligation to oppose them … [I]t is therefore never licit to … "take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it."
    In other words: it is always a grave or mortal sin for a politician to support abortion.

    Now, some will want to say that these bishops-and I- are crossing the line from Religion into to politics. But it was the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) who started this. The bishops, and I, are not crossing into politics; she, and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians, regularly cross over into teaching theology and doctrine, And it's our job to try clean up their mess.

    But there's something more than that here. On Sunday, before the whole nation, she claimed to be an "ardent, practicing Catholic." Imagine if someone came in here and said "I'm a mafia hit man and I'm proud of it." Or "I deal drugs to little children." Or "I think black people are animals and it's okay to make them slaves, or at least keep them out of my children's school."
    Are these "ardent practicing Catholics"?  No, they are not."

    And neither is a person who ardently supports and votes to fund killing 1 to 1.5 million unborn babies every single year. Especially if that person is in a position of great power trying to get others to follow her. Someone, for example, like a Catholic Speaker of the House, or a Catholic candidate for Vice President of the United States, or a Catholic senior Senator who is stands as the leading icon his political party. Like the proud and unrepentant murderer or drug dealer, they are not ardent Catholics. They are, in very plain terms, very bad Catholics."

    But the reason I say all this is not because I want to embarrass them or even correct them — they’re not even here. It’s because of you. Because back in the 1850’s when Catholic bishops, priests, and politicians were either silent or on the wrong side of the slavery debate, they risked not only their souls, but the souls of every other Catholic they influenced. I cannot do that, and I won’t do that.

    Some would say, well Father, what about those people who support the war in Iraq, or the death penalty, or oppose undocumented aliens? Aren’t those just as important, and aren’t Catholic politicians who support those “bad Catholics” too?

    Simple answer: no. Not one of those issues, or any other similar issues, except for the attack on traditional marriage is a matter of absolute intrinsic evil in itself. Not all wars are unjust — and good Catholics can disagree on facts and judgments. Same thing with the other issues: facts are debatable, as are solutions to problems."
     Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) "stated succinctly, emphatically and unambiguously as follows":

    "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia." (2)
    (1) "What Ardent Practicing Catholics Do: Correcting Pelosi", National Review Online, 9/1/2008 6:00AM

    (2) "More Concerned with 'Comfort' than Christ?", Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick: Catholic Online, 7/11/2004 NOTE: Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and delivered this with  guidance to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


    Cardinals, Bishops and Congressmen Slam Pelosi on Abortion

    New York Cardinal - Pelosi Not Worthy of "Providing Leadership in a Civilized Democracy"

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail,  713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas
    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

  2. Mr Sharp --

    Thanks for your extended commentary regarding the Church's positions vis a vis the distinction between killing those who are innocent in the eyes of the Church (blastocysts, for example) and those who may or may not be innocent (like enemies of the state or convicts.)

    The Church has long gone through pretzel like contortions (as is demonstrated in your excerpts from Fr John and the Holy Father) to justify its moral teachings regarding abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty and war.

    If we're discussing a moral issue, all the approbrium cast at Catholics like Mrs. Pelosi or John Kerry or whomever is a distraction and utterly beside the point. Their crimes and sins are not the issue.

    The Church does not want to address, and so never does address, the real issue:

    Abortion and euthanasia (at least as they are understood at law and in general currency) are matters for the individual involved to decide (whether to carry a baby to term; whether to die with dignity at a time and place of the individual's choosing), decisions which the Church wishes and demands the state prohibit.

    The real issue is that the Church insists that the individual has no right or privilege over his/her own body and what happens to it.

    The law says otherwise.

    The Church demands that the law be altered and says that Catholic politicians who do not vote for laws that follow Church teaching on these issues are "very bad Catholics," and some priests and bishops insist they shouldn't receive Holy Communion and so forth. Some of them like to make a spectacle of themselves in this regard. But the bottom line is that the Church teaches the individual has no rights or privileges over his/her own body. The individual must yield to the Church's authority over his or her body.

    On the other hand, when it comes to other people's bodies, the Church likes to equivocate. When it comes to chosing someone else's fate, the Church believes it's appropriate -- under some circumstances -- to advocate killing, even wanton killing, even if the innocent are sacrificed. As long as the decision is about someone else, there is little or no moral qualm.

    "Enemy" blastocysts are not protected. All of them may perish, innocent as they are, in war, whether or not the Church "approves" of that war (which the Church did not do with regard to the Iraq War), because there can be dispute over the "facts," and therefore, the war may be "just". Even if it doesn't appear to be and the Church has declared it not to be.

    So, to sum up: The Church makes a huge moral issue over preventing individuals from terminating pregnancies and preventing suffering individuals from ending their own lives so long as and only if those blastocysts are not being carried by "enemies" (innocent as they are), and so long as those who are suffering and wish to end their lives are not also "enemies" of the state or convicts (even if they, too, are innocent.)


  3. I don't think anyone argues against the fact that all of these decisons are individual.

    All the Catholic Church does is present guidlines for their flock. Some are more ironclad than others, just as in secular rules.

    Regarding the conflicts between Father John and the Pope, Pope John Paul II's writings on the death penalty are so contrary to biblical, theological and traditonal teachings of the Church, on the death penalty, I was amazed that the Catechism was amended to include his prudential judgement.

    Regarding Innocents and the death penalty:

    The Death Penalty Provides More Protection for Innocents
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
    Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
    To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
    Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
    No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.
    Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
    That is. logically, conclusive.
    16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.
    A surprise? No.
    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
    Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.
    What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
    However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.
    Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
    Reality paints a very different picture.
    What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
    What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
    What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
    This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
    Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.
    In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
    Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.
    The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times,  has recognized that deception.
    To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.
    There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
    If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can, reasonably, conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.
    Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
    Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.
    Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
    (1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
    New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
    national legal correspondent for The NY Times

    copyright 2007-2008, Dudley Sharp
    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas
    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

  4. Mr Sharp --

    All the Catholic Church does is present guidlines for their flock.

    Would that it were so. Unlike some who have turned away from the Church, I have no problem with the Church setting guidelines for the flock. Personal beliefs about those guidelines -- ie: conscience of the individual -- will color whether they are followed or not. And as we know, many Catholics don't follow some of those guidelines. Reproductive matters among them.

    If it were entirely an issue within the Church, then few people would have any quarrel. The problem comes, as I'm sure you know, when the Church seeks to impose its will on the State, as of course it has sought to do throughout its history.

    People rebel. Must be their sinful nature.

    But the Church's chaotic moral viewpoint is part of the problem as well.

    The Church's focus on controlling the bodies of women (forced pregnancy) and the suffering (forced continuation of suffering), while equivocating over the innocent who are swept up in the fury of war ("just" or unjust) or law run amok, are not just a matter of "guidelines." The Church also demands the State follow the Church's teachings on these and other matters, not as guidance but as law.

    The Church is not arguing "You shouldn't have an abortion," the Church is arguing "You must not have an abortion, and the State must prohibit abortions and must punish those who have them and those who perform them."

    The State says "No." And many Catholic politicians agree that the State has no business imposing the Church's doctrine as a matter of law.

    The Church's gets into a moral quandry in part because its political focus is so narrowly defined: to impose anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia law on the State. Unfortunately, too many of the politicians who agree with the Church on abortion and euthanasia also insist on war (just or unjust) and the death penalty (with or without protections for the innocent). Not surprisingly, the Church -- or at least a very important part of its hierarchy -- accommodates. And all the efforts to argue away the transparency of this accommodation are seen for what they are: moral chaos.

    The Church can do better than this. It has done better than this in the past, and quite likely it will do better than this in the future. But for the time being, the Church is locked in a futile temporal struggle.

  5. To some degree, I agree with you.

    The Church is saying that there some moral (read theological) absolutes. In that sense,it is most certainly not political and SHOULD not be viewed as temporal and most certainly not political.

    Those with political concerns will most definitely interpret many of the Church's statements as political, although Church sources will say, not, it is your soul we are concerned with.

    read this book review and then the book. You will find a kindred spirit on your opinions, I believe.

    Thank you for your thoughful replies.

    Books: 'Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church', by Romano Amerio, Fr Peter Joseph (reviewer)
    IOTA UNUM: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century
    by Romano Amerio (English translation by Fr John Parsons)
    (Sarto House, USA, 786 pp)
    Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 9 No 8 (September 1996), p. 14

  6. Mr. Sharp extraordinarily claims that "[t]here is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900." I'll leave aside the question of definition for a moment, although not because I think it's irrelevant (it raises all sorts of interesting implications), and assume that he means executions performed within the strictures of law.

    How can there not have been innocents executed? As humans, we are fallible; Catholic dogma tells us that we are innately sinful. To suggest that, over the course of over a century (particularly one which has seen such tremendous advances in the sciences, law, and race relations), we have not put innocent people to death is hubris.

    The question, however, is not whether innocent people per se have been executed. The question is whether people who were not adequately proven guilty (or whether we can adequately prove such guilt to permit execution) have been executed. There are many persons to whom the accepted norms of fairness and justice have been denied and who have been sent to Death Row on the basis of something other than sound evidence and testimony, or judgment thereof on the part of the jury (or both). You have admitted this yourself.

    The statistics you give are pure pettifoggery. The problem is not the standards of evidence per se; the problem is whether those standards are available to all at need. They are not, and are systematically denied certain kinds of people. When you abolish this injustice, your moralizing over abortion will be better received.

  7. IngSoc:

    I do mean "executions performed within the strictures of law."

    Actually, not hubris. We have no proof of an innocent executed, which is true. Probability says it has likely occurred.

    Far from pettifoggery (what a great word), the material I provided is quite solid and true.

    Instead of just making baseless claims, why don't you make a real point and try to back it up.

    I don't moralize over abortion, ever.

  8. I didn't contest the point about having proof of an innocent executed because I didn't feel like looking it up at first. Having done so, I find at least two examples, viz. However, leaving this aside, it's a mathematical impossibility that at least one innocent person could have not been executed, given the number of executions that have been carried out over the past 100+ years. The very fallibility of humanity is the strongest argument, IMO, against capital punishment. Probability dictates that it must have occurred.

    I did not claim that your statistics were invalid; rather, I argued that they were incomplete. They ignore the fact that large categories of persons are routinely denied full access (or any access) to the means of disproving the state's assertions of their guilt. Many have been condemned to death on the basis of fabricated or incomplete evidence because their innocence would be politically inconvenient for various parties who have staked their reputations and careers on the guilt or innocence of various parties to a given crime or have a vested interest in not seeing the actual guilty party convicted.

    Further, the definitional question was something of a "gotcha." Who decides what constitutes the strictures of law? I'm not aware of anyone being tried for homicide because they lynched someone. Repressive violence, including outright murder, was considered legally sanctioned against the African-American population of the United States for much of the 20th Century.

    Finally, you were engaging in moralizing. I'm not prepared to accept that you were coming here just to play devil's advocate. You quoted Catholic authorities to justify your position that abortion is morally wrong, but that capital punishment is not. When the Catholic Church starts publicly campaigning to abolish capital punishment, its position on abortion will be far less suspect. In the meantime, it's yet one more example of the hypocrisy of the Church.

  9. IngSoc:

    As you know, wikipedia is hardly reliable. The" innocents" executed examples are very poor, indeed. Rebuttal upon request.

    Probability, guarantees that innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

    I never asserted my essay was fully complete.

    Lynchings were not legal executions. I am dealing with legal executions within the US.

    You wrote: "Repressive violence, including outright murder, was considered legally sanctioned against the African-American population of the United States for much of the 20th Century."

    If you are asserting legal sanction, as in protected by law, I am unaware of such statutes. Do you have examples?

    If you are expressing the fact that some in law enforcement was complicit in murders and other crimes against African Americans and others within the US in the 20th century, I know of no one who challenges that. Then and earlier have numerous horrible examples.

    Regarding abortion, many Catholics wrongly try to equate the sanctity of life issues, by attempting to equate abortion and the death penalty. They are quite simply wrong. That is why I listed that material.

    I do not need any religious sanction for my death penalty position. Nor do I use it for me. I use it to show that those who say there is no Christian support for the death penalty are quite simply dead wrong, as most of the anti death penalty arguments are.

    My common disclaimer is this:

    Religious positions in favor of capital punishment are neither necessary not needed to justify that sanction. However, the biblical and theological record is very supportive of the death penalty.

    Many of the current religious campaigns against the death penalty reflect a fairly standard anti death penalty message, routed in secular arguments. When they do address religious issues, they often neglect solid theological foundations, choosing, instead, select biblical sound bites which do not impact the solid basis of death penalty support.

  10. IngSoc:

    There are some very solid reasons why actual innocents are so well protected within the US death penalty system.

    Death Penalty: Incredible due process protections for the defendant
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info, below
    A death sentence requires that the prosecution must prevail in 60 out of 60 issues, or 100%.
    To avoid death, the defendant/defense counsel must prevail in only 1 out of 60 issues, or 1.67%.
    Huge advantage for the defendant/defense and an incredible mountain to climb for the prosecution.

    If convicted and sentenced to death, the inmate may then begin an appeals process that could extend through 23 years, 60+ appeals and 200+ individual judicial and executive reviews of the inmate's claims, which can number in the dozens or hundreds -
    The inmate needs to prevail on only one issue to overturn the death sentence or verdict.
    The state needs to prevail on all issues to enforce the death sentence.
    Huge advantage for the inmate and an incredible burden on the state.
    The average time on death row for those executed is about 10 years.
    To punish with death, each one of the 12 jurors must agree with the prosecution in each of five specific areas ( 12, 14, (a)14, (b)15, (c)16, and (d)17 (with 18 & 19),  as below.

    There are at least 28 procedures necessary in reaching a death sentence.  They are:  (1) The crime must be one listed as a capital crime in the penal code; (2) a suspect must be identified and arrested; (3) Beginning with the Bill of Rights, the Miranda warnings and the exclusionary rules, U.S. criminal defendants and those convicted have, by far, the most extensive protections ever devised and implemented; (4) in Harris County (Houston), Texas a panel of district attorneys determines if the case merits the death penalty as prescribed by the Penal Code (See 12-19); (5) a grand jury must indict the suspect for capital murder; (6) the suspect is presumed innocent; (7) the prosecution must prove to the judge that the evidence, upon which the prosecution will rely, is admissible; (8) the defendant is assigned two attorneys. County funds are provided to defense counsel for investigation and trial; (9) it takes 3-12 weeks to select a jury; (10) trial is conducted; (11) the burden of proof is on the state;  (12) all 12 jury members must find for guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt.  In most cases, the jury knows nothing of the defendant's previous criminal acts, at this stage. If found guilty, then, the punishment phase of the trial begins; (13) the prosecution presents additional damning evidence against the murderer, i.e., other crimes, victims, victims’ or survivors’ testimony, police reports, etc; (14) In order to find for death, the issues to be resolved by the jury are {a}(14) did the defendant not only act willfully in causing the death, but act deliberately, as well, {b}(15) does the evidence show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is a likelihood that the defendant will be dangerous in the future, {c}(16) if there was provocation on the part of the victim, were the defendant's actions unreasonable in response to the provocations and {d}(17) is there something about the defendant that diminishes moral responsibility or in some way mitigates against the imposition of death for the defendant in this case, whereby, (18) the defense presents all mitigating circumstance, which may lesson the probability of the jury imposing death , i.e., family problems, substance abuse, age, no prior criminal record, mental disability, parental abuse, poverty, etc. Witnesses, such as family, friends, co-workers, etc.,  are presented to speak and offer the positive qualities of the defendant; (19) the jury must take into consideration those mitigating circumstances (Penry decision) and, if only 1 juror believes that the perpetrator deserves leniency because of any mitigating circumstances, then the jury cannot impose the death penalty; and (20) when the death sentence is imposed, the perpetrator receives an automatic appeal. (21& 22) the death row inmate is provided an attorney, or attorneys, to handle the direct appeal, at county expense, through both the state and federal courts; (23 & 24) the state pays attorneys for the inmate's habeas corpus appeals, at both the state and federal level; (25 & 26) death row inmates may be granted a hearing, in both state and federal court, to present post conviction claims of innocence.  The burden of proof for these claims of innocence mirrors that used by the Federal courts; and (27 & 28) Convictions and sentences are subject to pardon or sentence reduction through the executive branch of government, at both the state level (Governor) and federal level (President).
    These 28 procedures represent the broad categories of defendant and inmate protections. Within these 28 procedures, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of additional procedures and protections.
    In some jurisdictions, the defense must prove mitigating circumstances by a preponderance of the evidence and the prosecution must prove aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a huge advantage for the defendant and a major disadvantage for the prosecution.


    copyright 2000-2008 Dudley Sharp,
    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail,  713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas
    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
    Pro death penalty sites (Sweden)

  11. Oh dear.

    The retreat into Legalism. Bound to happen. The more finely a question is shaved, the likelier it is for the desired results to be found. Been that way forever.

    We understand, don't we, that all the witches and heretics put to death in the Bad Old Days were guilty, too. Most of them confessed after all. Well, those confessions may have been extracted under torture, but so what? The Law in many instances said a confession wasn't valid unless it was extracted under torture. So. Obviously, all those hundreds of thousands consigned to the garrotes and the pyres were guilty, guilty, guilty.

    They were. It's been proved.

    The problem with the death penalty in the United States in modern times is that we simply can't know with certainty that all those who have been consigned to be put to death are actually guilty of the crimes for which they have been convicted. But even in cases where certainty is almost absolute (which does not, by the way, include cases of coerced confession, cases which have been rather common) the application of the death penalty in this country is and has been for generations grossly biased toward the execution of black men. Nearly every aspect of American criminal law is biased against black men. By itself, that should be enough to at least cause a moratorium against executions in this country until some sort of "equal justice under the law" can be found. But every time we advance that far, backsliding sets in and our Death Machine is put back in operation again.

    For the Church to accommodate this state of affairs -- which, unfortunately, it has done from time to time, while officially being "opposed" to the death penalty -- is nothing less than moral equivocation.

    The State must protect the blastocyst at all costs, must prevent women from deciding what grows in their own bodies, must prevent and punish medical assistance for abortion and even contraception, at all costs, there is no issue more important, none!, Catholic radio is running ads to that effect right now, but States sending an unknown number of innocents to their deaths by execution is OK; favored nations exterminating all enemy blatocysts is OK (as long as it is not openly their intention).

    This is moral chaos.

    But I have to say the Church has been through this moral mystery throughout its entire history. After all, the Church's primary purpose is to survive, and if that means moral equivocation or moral chaos, so be it. The Church has survived and in many places it has prospered, no matter what else is going on around it. And if its survival requires accomodating temporal power, then that's what happens. If furthering its political interests requires accommodating other morally questionable issues, then that's what happens.

    Control of the individual's decision-making is a fundamental power issue for the Church. Forcing a woman to carry a child against her will -- which is what legal adoption of the Church's position on abortion would do -- is the equivalent of holding ultimate power over her. The life of the fetus is in this instance of far more worth (at least to the Church) than that of the woman/vessel who carries it, and the matter of protection of "life" only involves the fetus; the woman's "life" is worth preserving only so that she may serve as the vessel for carrying the fetus to term. Surprisingly enough, the vessel rebels. And the law, at least for now, supports the rebel woman against the Church.

    Of course the law can be changed to accommodate the Church, and, as has been the case in the past, the law can (and no doubt will) be ignored. Now that's "choice."

    It is transparent to me and to many others that the Church choses to accommodate death penalty and war proponents in this country at this time because they are the ones who are most reliably opposed to abortion. And as priests and bishops are constantly reminding their parishoners, nothing trumps the issue of abortion. Nothing.

  12. My claim is, simply, and consistently, that we have no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900.

    Cue Pasa write: "the application of the death penalty in this country is and has been for generations grossly biased toward the execution of black men."

    Please, read this, thoroughly.

    RACE: No Bias in Death Penalty Sentencing
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, 2/08
    contact info below

    7 studies are reviewed, herein

    For emphasis, population count is totally irrelevant, regarding any consideration of class or race/ethnicity bias in the application of the death penalty. The only relevant factors in such a review are class, race/ethnic distribution of murderers and their victims in capital murders, as well as criminal history, the specific circumstances of the crime(s) and a review of individual prosecutorial jurisdictions.

    Study 1: Drs. Stephen Klein and John Rolph

    "After accounting for some of the many factors that may influence penalty decisions, neither race of the defendant nor race of the victim appreciably improved prediction of who was sentenced to death . . . ".

    "Relationship of Offender and Victim Race to Death Penalty Sentences in California"(Jurimetrics Journal, 32, Fall 1991, aka The Rand Corporation Study)

    Study 2: Smith College Professors Stanley Rothman and Stephen Powers found that legal variables, such as prior criminal history and the aggravated nature of the murder, are the proven basis for imposition of the death penalty. The black/white variation in sentencing has generally been reduced to zero when such legal variables are introduced as controls.

    "Execution by Quota?", The Public Interest, Summer 1994

    Study 3: NO BIAS IN DEATH SENTENCING: U of Maryland's Death Penalty Study (1)

    The following are direct quotes from the Executive Summary of the U of Maryland study.

    Race of the victim

    "The race of the victim effect does not hold up, however, at the decision of the state's attorney to advance a case to penalty trial and at the decision of the judge or jury to impose a death sentence given that a penalty trial has occurred." p 27

    In other words, the victim's race has no impact on seeking or
    giving death sentences.

    "The race of the victim does not appear to matter when the decision is to advance a case to the penalty phase or to sentence a defendant to death after a penalty phase
    hearing." page 29

    In other words, the victim's race has no impact on seeking or
    giving death sentences

    "Among the subset of cases where the case actually does reach a penalty trial, the victim's race does not have a significant impact on the imposition of a death sentence." page 35

    In fact, the study fails to demonstrate that there is any race of the victim effect in death sentencing in Maryland.

    "When the prosecuting jurisdiction is added to the model the effect for the victims race diminishes substantially, and is no longer statistically significant." page 32

    In other words, when you look at the capital murder cases, from each, separate jurisdiction, individually, any alleged race of the victim effect cannot be found.

    " . . . any attempt to deal with any racial disparity in the imposition of the death penalty in Maryland cannot ignore the substantial variability that exists in different state's attorney's offices in the processing of death cases." p 34

    In other words, it is important to look at how each jurisdiction handles their capital cases, because each jurisdiction is different. And when that is done, no bias in death sentencing is found.

    Race of victim and defendant

    "There is no race of the offender / victim effect at either the decision to advance a case to penalty hearing or the decision to sentence a defendant to death
    given a penalty hearing." page 30

    In other words, neither the race of the defendant nor the race of the victim have an impact on seeking or giving death sentences.

    Race of the defendant

    " . . . there is no evidence that the race of the defendant matters at any stage once case characteristics are controlled for." page 26

    " . . . we found no evidence that the race of the defendant matters in processing of capital cases in the state." p 26

    In other words, Maryland is not looking at race, but is concentrating on the nature of the murders.

    (1) Executive Summary:
    An Empirical Analysis of Maryland's Death Sentencing System with Respect to the Influence of Race and Legal Jurisdiction, www(DOT)

    Study 4: No Racial Bias in the New Jersey Death Penalty System

    New Jersey
    For release: February 11, 2003
    For further information contact
    Winnie Comfort, AOC
    (609) 292-9580
    Report on Proportionality Released

    Trenton, N.J.

    The 2002 report essentially mirrors the findings contained in the 2001 report, and may be summarized as follows:

    --There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that the race of the defendant affects which cases advance to penalty trial. Although bivariate analysis reveals that a greater proportion of death-eligible white defendants than African-American defendants advance to the penalty phase, that finding is not supported by regression studies and application of case-sorting techniques. There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that the race of the defendant affects which cases result in imposition of the death penalty. Again, although bivariate analysis reveals that a greater proportion of death-eligible white defendants are sentenced to death than African-American defendants, that finding is not supported by regression studies and application of case-sorting techniques.
    --There is statistically significant evidence that white victim cases are more likely than African-American victim cases to advance to penalty trial, but that finding is eradicated when county variability is taken into account. A disproportionate number of minority victim cases are tried in counties with the lowest overall rates of progression to penalty trial, while less urban counties with a high concentration of white victim cases have higher rates of capital prosecutions. Although Judge Baime notes that county variability may itself be a problem, he offers no opinion on the subject because that issue is well beyond the contours of his report.
    --There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that white victim cases are more likely than minority victim cases to result in imposition of the death penalty

    The New Jersey Supreme Court has accepted the 2002 annual report prepared by Judge David S. Baime, a retired Appellate Division judge, on the monitoring of proportionality review in capital punishment cases in New Jersey. The Supreme Court adopted a monitoring system in 2000 to determine whether racial discrimination played a role in the administration of New Jersey's capital cases.

    In his capacity as a "special master," a role that requires extrajudicial expertise and work with court-appointed experts, Judge Baime prepared the "Report to the New Jersey Supreme Court: Systemic Proportionality Review Project 2001-2002 Term." .

    Judge Baime was assisted by statistical analysts David Weisburd, a professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The University of Maryland, College Park, and Joseph Naus, a professor at Rutgers University. In an effort to provide the most accurate analysis possible, the monitoring system approved by the Court consists of three different statistical strategies: bivariate analyses, regression studies and case-sorting techniques. In order to establish systemic disproportionality, a defendant must relentlessly document the risk of racial disparity. This requires that the outcomes produced by the three modes of analysis substantially converge, or lead to the conclusion that racial discrimination plays a part in capital sentencing.

    The three modes of analysis were applied to three separate decision points: death outcomes at penalty trials, death outcomes among all death-eligible cases, as determined by Judge Baime and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and advancement of death-eligible cases to penalty trials. Three identifiable groups--African-Americans, whites and Hispanics--were examined, and possible disparities in terms of the race or ethnicity of the defendant and the race or ethnicity of the victim were considered.

    Study 5: Pro & Con: The Death Penalty in Black and White
    by Dudley Sharp
    Thursday, June 24, 1999, 6/24/99.
    stored at

    I don't know about you, but when I get into a discussion about the death penalty, my first thoughts go to the victim and to the brutality of the murder. That is the foundation of the just nature of the death penalty.

    Too often these days, however the death penalty is discussed in different terms. Inevitably, with the racial history of this country, the effect of race in the application of the death penalty has become a central part of the death-penalty discourse. This is particularly true as some politicians are making the case for a death-penalty moratorium, in part to consider whether the death penalty is inherently racist.

    All too often, however, those arguments are spurious. In the death penalty debate, it should be the facts, and not the hype, that are in be black and white.

    A closer look at the statistics

    Often such discussion begins with the obvious: the race of the defendant. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reports that black murderers represent 35% of those executed, white murderers 56%. As the argument goes, this must be evidence of systemic racism, as blacks represent 12% of the population, whites 74%.

    Fortunately, the United States does not execute people based on their population counts but on the murders they commit. As blacks represent 47% of murderers and whites 37%, we see that whites are twice as likely to be executed for committing murder as are their black counterparts.

    Furthermore, the Bureau of Justice Statistics says that whites sentenced to death are executed 17 months more quickly than blacks. With 98% of all head prosecutors in the United States being white, according to DPIC, how is such a result possible? Maybe prosecutors, judges and juries are focusing on the crimes and not the race of the defendant.

    That is not the case, say anti-death penalty groups, such as Amnesty International, and now the United Nations. If you adjust for the specific aggravating factors present within capital crimes, you find clear evidence of racism.

    Death-penalty opponents note, for example, that the Supreme Court, in the famous race-based challenge to the death penalty (McCleskey v. Kemp), found in 1987 that those who murderer whites were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murder blacks, under similar circumstances.

    David Baldus, who did the statistical study on McCleskey's behalf, also completed a recent study in Philadelphia where it is was reported to show that black murderers were four times more likely to receive a death sentence than white murderers. With such results, how can anyone dispute the racist application of the death penalty?

    Quite easily.

    The Supreme Court, as well as many others, confused odds with multiples. The data reflect odds of 4-to-1, not four times more likely.

    What difference does it make?

    In Baldus' Philadelphia study, we find that if only 2% more white murderers had been sentenced to death and only 2.5% fewer black murderers had been sentenced to death, then each group would have been sentenced to death by juries at the same rate -- a far cry from the 400% differential stated within the incorrect interpretation of "four times"!

    A punishment that fits the crimes

    The next issue raised is the victim's race. While blacks and whites comprise about an equal number of murder victims, the ratio of white-to-black victims in death-penalty cases is about 7-to-1. This has given rise to the allegation that the "system" only cares about white murder victims. A horrible accusation, if true.

    However, the ratio of white-to-black victims in the aggravated circumstances necessary for a capital murder conviction (rape, robbery, car-jacking, burglary, police murders, serial/multiple murders, etc.) is from 4-to-1 to 8-to-1 -- numbers consistent with the victim ratios on death row.

    The final resting place for the racism charge lies within those cases where blacks have been executed for murdering whites and whites have been executed for murdering blacks. There have been 144 blacks and 10 whites executed under such circumstances, or a ratio of 14-to-1. As blacks are about 2.5 times more likely to murder whites than the other way around, there appears to be a huge disparity in such executions. Is racism the reason?

    If we look at robbery, the aggravated crime found most often in capital cases, we find that when there is a robbery with injury, the ratio of black robber/white victims versus white robbers/black victims is 21-to-1.

    Again, when looking at the circumstances consistent with capital crimes, we find no evidence of racial bias.

    The determining factor for sentencing in death-penalty cases is what it should be -- the aggravating nature of the crimes. Both the Rand Corp. study of 1991 and the research presented by Smith College professors Stanley Rothman and Stephen Powers in 1994 confirm that finding. In other words, it appears that any racial variations present within the data are reflective of the crimes themselves and not racial bias within the system. A review of those studies, as well as of criminal-justice statistics, within the context of the aggravating circumstances present within capital murders and the related statutes, produces the same conclusion.

    Don't assume the worst motives

    There will always be some variables of race, ethnicity and class within any study of criminal-justice practices, and based on historic, as well as current prejudices, we can never lower our guard. Because all studies are subject to poor protocols, bias and misinterpretation, we must make reasoned judgments based on as many respected considerations as we may have at our disposal.

    And even if criminal-justice statistics did not show the obvious correlation between crimes and the application of the death penalty, we should note what the Supreme Court stated in McCleskey: "Where the discretion that is fundamental to our criminal justice process is involved, we decline to assume that what is unexplained [by measured factors] is invidious." Sound ideas should not be eliminated based on misguided statistics.

    In the case of the death penalty, the facts lead to only one conclusion. No moratorium is necessary.

    Study 6: Death Penalty Opponents Distortions are the Real Story

    "To properly protect the people in Baltimore City and other jurisdictions like it, we must restore public confidence in and support of capital punishment, so that prosecutors can seek it in appropriate cases, and jurors will impose it. The first step toward that end is to debunk the myth that capital punishment is imposed discriminatorily. The numbers are there, in the opponents's own studies, once we cut through the spin and look at the facts."

    Smoke and Mirrors on Race and the Death Penalty, Kent Scheidegger, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, Engage Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 2, 10/2003 www(DOT)

    Study 7: Full Review Finds no Bias

    "From 1976-1995, 5 white murderers have been put to death for the murder of black persons and 101 black murderers have been put to death for the murder of white persons (NAACP LDF, 1996). Opponents falsely contend that this is evidence of racism in the "system". That 101:5 ratio, or 20:1, is consistent with statistics that show aggravated crimes (those crimes committed with the murder which may make a crime eligible for the death penalty) are committed by blacks against whites in far greater numbers than by whites against blacks. For all violent crimes, there are ten times as many black offenders (2,016,939) involved in white victim violent crimes as there are white offenders (210,869) involved in black victim violent crimes, or a 10:1 ratio. (The State of Violent Crime in America, pg. 12,1/96, data derived from Criminal Victimization in the U.S., 1993, BJS forthcoming, tables 42 and 48. Multiple offenders were assumed to be two offenders for calculation purposes.) In addition, blacks are nearly three times as likely to murder whites (849), as whites are to murder blacks (304), or 3:1 (Sourcebook 1994, BJS 1995, table 3.123). IF murder rates are statistically consistent within the violent crime category, as McCleskey et al indicate, then blacks are, statistically, by a 30:1 (10:1 X 3:1) ratio, more likely to murder whites, than whites are to murder blacks, in those circumstances where an additional aggravating factor is present (see C2). These are those crimes most eligible for the death penalty. That statistically projected ratio of 30:1 is hardly inconsistent with the 20:1 ratio for black offender(s)/white victim vs white offender(s)/black victim executions. The most relevant aggravated crime is robbery with injury, wherein blacks are 21 times more likely to be involved in such crimes as are whites. This 21:1 ratio represents 1.4 million black offender(s)/white victim vs. 68,000 white offender(s)/black victim for robbery with injury crimes (JFA, using BJS, 1977-84 data). IF overall murder statistics are consistent, within this crime category, as McCleskey et al suggests, then there is a 30-60:1 ratio of black on white vs white on black murders within this robbery/murder category. (From 1977-1984)."

    Excerpt from "C. RACE, SENTENCING AND THE DEATH PENALTY", paragraph No. 5., DEATH PENALTY AND SENTENCING INFORMATION In the United States, 10/1/97, by Dudley Sharp,

    copyright 1998-2008 Dudley Sharp. Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or part, is approved with proper attribution.

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    email, phone 713-622-5491
    Houston, Texas