The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has shrugged off a recent blog post that sought to pit Pope Francis against Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on the death penalty. “Some blogs are like videogames; they invent their own reality,” Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told CNA Oct. 28. “Archbishop Chaput has been vocal and vigorous in opposing the death penalty for more than 40 years. That’s a matter of public record.” Gavin’s comments came in response to an Oct. 24 blog post on Religion News Service by writer Mark Silk. The blog post, entitled, “Pope Francis clarifies Archbishop Chaput’s confusion,” focused on Pope Francis’ recent call for the abolition of the death penalty. Silk claimed that “What His Holiness has done is definitively reject the assertion of former Denver and current Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput,” alluding to an alleged conversation between the archbishop and Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. According to Silk, the archbishop reportedly advised Beauprez to pray about the matter in forming his views on it, telling him that Church doctrine is not anti-death penalty. Gavin dismissed the Silk post as “ridiculous.” Candidate Bob Beauprez is locked in a tight race with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Ironically, Gavin said, Hickenlooper is already on record thanking the archbishop for his past counsel against the death penalty. In his blog post, Silk omitted comments that Gavin gave to members of the press who had inquired about the archbishop’s stance: “Scripture and long Church teaching uphold the basic legitimacy of the death penalty. But the Church also teaches that in the developed world, the circumstances requiring the death penalty for the purposes of justice and public safety rarely exist. Therefore the death penalty should not be used.” As a result of this omission, Gavin said, the blog post misrepresented Archbishop Chaput by making it appear that he disagrees with the Pope on the death penalty, and portraying the Pope’s comments as if they were directed at Archbishop Chaput as a response. In reality, Gavin stated, the archbishop has been forceful for years in explaining Church teaching on the death penalty. In the blogosphere, said Gavin, “inconvenient facts don’t seem to matter.” Catholic teaching on the death penalty is laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which explains, “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.” However, it adds, if “bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.” Archbishop Chaput, Gavin said, has written dozens of articles and spoken frequently against the death penalty for decades. In 1997, in a column entitled “The True Road to Justice,” the archbishop argued strongly against the death sentence for Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. In 2002, he released a statement saying that in developed countries such as the U.S., the death penalty “should have no place in our public life.” He also wrote on the death penalty in columns written in 2004 and 2005 for the Denver Catholic Register. In 2012, Archbishop Chaput again raised the subject of capital punishment. In his Sept. 10 weekly column for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he stressed that the death penalty does not effectively “deter crime, nor does it bring about true justice or closure for victims’ families. “When we take a murderer's life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process,” he said.
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