Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Catholic Bishops: So Wrong on Death Penalty

Catholic Bishops: So Wrong on Death Penalty


sent 9/3/2016

To:  Most Rev. George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha
Most Rev. James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln
Most Rev. Joseph G. Hanefeldt, Bishop Grand Island

cc:  Governor Pete Ricketts, his cabinet & staff  
Nebraska Legislators & staff 
Nebraska Supreme Court 
Nebraska County Sheriffs
The Police Officers' Association of Nebraska
Attorney General Doug Peterson & staff
Nebraska County Attorneys Association
Nebraska Crime Commission
U of Nebraska Law School

and Tom Venzor, of The Nebraska Catholic Conference, which represents the mutual public policy interests of the three Catholic Bishops of Nebraska.

Media throughout Nebraska

RE: Complete Rebuttal: "Local View: The real cost of the death penalty". Tom Venzor, Journal Star, 8/24/2016

From: Dudley Sharp

Since the 1997 death penalty amendment to the Catechism, the Church has presented error after error, over and over, again (1), on the subject of the death penalty.

Added - Bishops, worldwide, repeat these falsehoods. At some point and after 20 years, one must wonder if they know, exactly, what they are doing.

Nebraska's Catholic Bishops have chosen willful ignorance, again.

All the Bishops have done is parrot the, easily, rebutted anti death penalty falsehoods. It is long past due for Catholic leadership to be more responsible.

"Bishops" is the quote by the Bishops.  "Sharp" is my reply

1) Bishops: "(The death penalty) costs us our human dignity. Execution costs us the opportunity to achieve justice without taking life, to overcome our penchant for vengeance, to build a culture that values all human life, and establish a civilization of mercy. The death penalty coarsens our sense of life’s value and dignity."

Sharp:  Not only is this not true, it cannot be true.

For more than 2000 years, there has been Catholic New Testament support for the death penalty, from Popes, Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church, church leadership, biblical scholars and theologians (2) that, in breadth and depth, overwhelms any teachings to the contrary, particularly those wrongly dependent upon secular concerns such as defense of society and the poor standards of criminal justice systems in protecting the innocent (1, 5).

What the Bishops are saying, now, as many others in Church leadership, today, is that for 2000 years the Church has supported a sanction which opposes justice, supports vengeance, takes away human dignity and life's value.

All responsible Catholics know that to be false.

The Church's teachings on the sanction, for over 2000 years, are the exact opposite of what the Bishops are, now,  saying, which anyone familiar with Church teachings would know (2).

2) Bishops: "The cost of the death penalty can be measured by the lives of those unjustly put to death for crimes they didn't commit."

Sharp reply:  The Bishops are oblivious to reality.

There are no proven actual innocents executed in the US, at least since the 1930s (3).

Since 1973, some 16,000 innocents have been murdered in the US by known murderers that we have allowed to murder, again - recidivist murderers (4).

Since 1973, some 400,000 innocents have been murdered by those known criminals that we have released from prison or chosen not to incarcerate (4).

Virtually, none in the leadership of the Church has voiced any acknowledgement for those innocents murdered or the reality of the huge errors in criminal justice systems that allow such massive harm to innocents (5).

In fact, the Church, incomprehensibly, parrots, over and over, again, this huge error within CCC 2267:

"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

The reality of the "means at the State's disposal" are the countless cases of additional harm to innocents, detailed above, as the product of the State's criminal justice systems, extremely well known (4,5) by anyone who cares to be concerned, but never by Church leadership.

The Church's willful ignorance is astounding, even more so as it occurs within the huge shadow of the priest sex scandal, whereby the "means" of the Church did nothing, for decades, to stop harm to innocents.

The Church is making the same error, again.

Will the Church and the Bishops ever even show that they care? How many more years will it take?

3) Bishops: "Since DNA testing has made new methods of investigation possible, hundreds of people across the country have been exonerated of criminal convictions. Nebraska’s own “Beatrice Six” were exonerated by DNA in 2008. The death penalty costs the lives of innocent people."

Sharp reply:  As detailed, above, and not rebutted, innocents are much more at risk when we allow murderers to live. This is not in dispute.

Because of DNA, the death penalty and all other sanctions are more likely to confirm the actually guilty and to free or never prosecute the actually innocent, as with the Beatrice Six.

4) Bishops: "The cost of the death penalty can be measured in the inequality of sentencing.  The race and social status of criminals has frequently shown to be a factor in sentencing. So has the location of the crime, and the social status of the victim. Justice is supposed to be blind."

Sharp reply:   Justice:

Overwhelmingly, the factor in sentencing the murderer to death is the commission of a capital crime.

The Bishops, completely, left that consideration out, a sad commentary on how the Bishops have avoided the moral wrong of capital murder and the plight of the innocent murder victims, as the Bishops, instead, forget those and just parrot the standard anti death penalty playbook.


On to the additional errors by the Bishops:


White murderers are twice as likely to be executed as are black murderers. 56% of those executed are white, 35% black (6).

For the White–Black comparisons, the Black level is 12.7 times greater than the White level for homicide, 15.6 times greater for robbery, 6.7 times greater for rape, and 4.5 times greater for aggravated assault (6).

For the Hispanic- White comparison, the Hispanic level is 4.0 times greater than the White level for homicide, 3.8 times greater for robbery, 2.8 times greater for rape, and 2.3 times greater for aggravated assault (6).

For the Hispanic–Black comparison, the Black level is 3.1 times greater than the Hispanic level for homicide, 4.1 times greater for robbery, 2.4 times greater for rape, and 1.9 times greater for aggravated assault (6).

As robbery/murder is, by far, the most common death penalty eligible murder, the multiples will be even greater.

From 1977-2012, white death row murderers have been executed at a rate 41% higher than are black death row murderers, 19.3% vs 13.7%, respectively. ( Table 12, Executions and other dispositions of inmates sentenced to death, by race and Hispanic origin, 1977–2012, Capital Punishment 2012, Bureau of Justice Statistics, last edited 11/3/14)

"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." (6)


"99.8% of poor murderers have avoided execution."

"It is, solely, dependent upon the definitions of "wealthy" and "poor", as to whether wealthy murderers are any more or less likely to be executed, based upon the very small number and percentage of capital murders that are committed by the wealthy, as compared to the poor. (7)"


The majority of murders, robberies and rapes occur in about 2% of US counties, exactly reflecting why death penalty cases come out of a tiny minority of locations, as one would suspect, facts, apparently, completely unknown to the Bishops.

When will Church leadership learn to fact check anti death penalty claims and to once, again, care about the truth?

It's long overdue.

5) Bishops: "The death penalty is needed when execution is the only way to keep a community safe from a persistent threat." " . . the death penalty is a panacea: it provides the illusion of security and deterrence . . .".

Sharp reply: As detailed, the Bishops' anti death penalty position puts more innocents at risk. Why the Bishops choose that known, unmerciful position, particularly,  in the huge shadow of the priest sex scandal, is a very sad mystery.

As detailed in the most recent CCC, justice must be primary, safety secondary. The Church cannot replace an eternal teaching with a secular one (1,2).

The death penalty protects more innocents, in three ways, than do lesser sanctions (5).

The Bishops anti death penalty position harms more innocents.

6) Bishops: "Economist Dr. Ernie Goss reported this month that the death penalty costs Nebraska $14.6 million annually."

Sharp reply: As the Bishops well know, Goss has declared his own study unreliable, just as basic fact checking does. It's much worse than unreliable (8). Just more anti death penalty nonsense parroted by the Bishops.

When will the Bishops become more responsible?
1) Catechism Death Penalty Problems: Section 2267

2) New Testament Death Penalty Support Overwhelming

Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment, Profs. Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette, The Catholic World Report, July 17, 2016, http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/4928/why_the_church_cannot_reverse_past_teaching_on_capital_punishment.aspx

3) The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy


8) Ernie Goss' Nebraska Death Penalty Cost Study: How Bad Is It