Cardinal asks clemency for Saddam Hussein

Cardinal asks clemency for Saddam Hussein

What is it with Euro-Vatican cardinals shilling for brutal dictators? Okay, I see the point. It is the job of our bishops to speak out on important principles, especially in cases where no one else has the courage or political will to do so. It is important that someone speak up and make sure that all Christian moral principles are advocated even in the trial of an evil dictator for crimes against humanity.

Yet, Cardinal Paul Poupard’s statement was a little over the top, and imprudent, I think. For one thing, he says:

Human life is always inviolable,” the French prelate said. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the cardinal—who is president of the Pontifical Council for Culture—said that “no one can claim any right over the life and death of another.”

The right to life is “a universal principle, and there is no exception,” Cardinal Poupard said. “God is master of life and death.”

Without having the complete context of his remarks, I have to make a some assumptions, but if the cardinal is saying that the death penalty is never allowable within the realm of Christian moral principles, he’s wrong.

In the Catechism, #2266, it says that “Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.” In 2267, it adds, “The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” Of course, this doesn’t exclude clemency, when appropriate. The Iraqi court in which Saddam is being tried must weigh whether allowing Saddam to live in a prison is “sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons.”

But this isn’t what Cardinal Poupard said. In fact, according to the quote, he said that “there is no exception” and that Saddam must be allowed to live.

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  • Stupid. 

    Saddam needs to be given the chance to repent, convert and thereby be forgiven, of course.

    But there is still the matter of temporal punishment.

    A cardinal should know this basic element of Christian theology.

  • The institutions of Iraq are primitive and fragile and there is good reason to fear that Saddam would not serve out a life sentence and that if released he would become the focal point of insurrectionary activity. He may never again rule Iraq but he would surely be willing and able to kill again if somehow he got loose.

    His execution is certainly justified and the Iraqi state is obliged to weigh appeals for clemency against the peace and security of their nation.

    Cardinal Poupard should have couched any appeals for Saddam’s life in terms of mercy. The Church does not reject capital punishment on the grounds that it is unjust.