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February 14, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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February 14, 1998

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FEDrrO ........ ] ........... Ls the death penalty wrong for only certain kinds of eople or it is just plain rOng? Should women, ristians or whites be treated any differendy when it COmes to the death penalty? These questions had a national forum last week when Karla Faye Tucker was executed in Texas. Her death was plastered on the front pages of the Washington Post, New Yorh Times and USA Today. Pope John Paul II made a plea to Gov. Bush to halt the execution. For some, eyes were raised and pleas were made because Tucker was a woman. The fact that she was white and pretty were noted. And she "found reli- gion" in prison. She even married a prison chaplain. But what was most curious about the debate was that ministers who are usually for the death penalty Were coming out against the execution of Tucker because she was a Christian and repented for her sins. , Watching her national television appearances on Larry King Live and "700 Club," one could see she h as at peace and was putting her death in God's ands. Her last statements spoke to her prayers for er families and the families of the victims. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now," she said. Tucker should be supported for her conversion .and it made a good story, but her faith -- whether it Is Christianity, Judaism or Atheism -- should not SWay peoples' opinions about the death penalty. Also, how the death penalty is applied is at the center of legal debates. Because a disproportionate number of executions are black men, it is felt the death penalty should be abolished. It is rare to see women on death row and even rarer to see one executed. Tucker is the first woman in the United States to be executed since 1984. But the real debate should not be whether she was religious and repentant or whether the death penalty is applied fairly. The discourse in this country should be on whether it is just for the state to kill someone. The Texas Catholic Bishops, who live in the lead- ing state for executions (145 since 1976), repeated in October what the pope has said about capital punish- ment: It is not a proper means of punishment. "Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibility which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm -- with definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself -- the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent," the bishops wrote. For those who opposed Tucker's death based onher sex or religious beliefs, our prayer should be that they ponder the morality of death penalty and that gover- nors like Governors Bush and Huckabee see the finality of their decisions. 9 Much talk around the water cooler at work, the lunch table at schools and the fireplace at home centers on various questions about the movie, such as: Was the love story true? UI Did the woman die? Q Why weren't there more lifeboats, etc.? If we focused so much time, energy Both are love stories: However, the romance of Leonardo DiCaprio's and Kate Winslet's characters are ficdon, while God's love -- first, in creating us and then, in sending his son to die to save us --- is facL Q Both are great mysteries: However, the Titanic's mysterious fate and the terlife is conjecture at best -- albeit an inviting one to our minds --- while God's resurrection for us remains clouded in mystery. Q Both involve a precious jewel: How- ever, the one in the film not only is fiction but also is only of this world, while the jewel Jesus offers us is life Our evangelization task would be easy and discussion on faith in Jesus Christ, awesomeness of our salvation both everlasting. we would be able to embrace, celebrate show the power of God, despite hu-By my count, despite the parallels th if we could tap the excitement that and carry forward into the next millen- marts' egoistic belief that they can and the awesomeness of both mo- ravie "Titanic" is generating and re- nium with ease -- no matter what itcreate something unsinkable, ments of history, our salvation .ariel it toward our faith, would bring, and fully expecting it to Both involve death and burial: How- through Jesus Christ wins, hands down ate M 'ons of people are going to the- bring Jesus. ever, the Titanic s, at the bottom of (or all hands on deck, whichever you al,--' early and often to get dckets to the Actually, it should not be that hard the sea (sorry to tip off the ending for prefer). e that is titanic in story line, cus- because the hottest movie ticket ever sold anyone visiting from another planet), The only two unsinkable things here . el" line and clock time. pales in comparison to the greatest story quite likely is permanent, while Jesus' are Molly Brown and our faith --- and exMaay are returning several times to ever told -- despite some parallels: was only three days and ours --- like even Molly eventually met her maker the ..perience the heart-wrenchinit film Q Tips of icebergs are involved in both: the human victims on the Titanic --- same way we will. Wb e hauntin r musical score causes However, while the tip of an iceberg also will be temporary. So why do we seem to marvel so much listen-' to sob as they recall scenes while brought down the Ti,t ic, the tip of Q Both involve resurrection: However, more at a boat that sank than at the One lag to a CD or tape. the iceberg that is God s love lifts us up. the film s moving rendition of an af- who calmed the sea? L EITERs TO THE EorrOR Ptlb'cihr nn Tllz',lt,'Jar'R reason Karla Faye received so much me- are numerous rites and subrites in the ]~a* 1~#'J. IL .&. tl=Ai*~,..L~.~h.,.JL. I,.,I * * . " "] dia attenuon Is that she was female, white Cathohc Church, and every Cathohc execution beneficial and "telegenic." And that's fine with me. should be aware of these rites and subrites. If it takes a female, white, telegenic poster In the Western Church: not as troubled by the death of girl to call our attention to the absurdity 1. Roman Rite (Indudesvernacular liturgies) Tucker as I thought I would at capital punishment, so be it. Maybe 2. Priesdy Society of St. Peter (Tridentine I think I know the reason, that young woman's death will help us Rite) that I am breathing a sigh of rethink executing those who are minori- 3. Mozarabic Rite (Toledo, Spain) '%Yell, there is one miser- ties, those who are male, and those to 4. Ambrosian Rite (Milan, Italy) that won't hurt anybody whom the camera is less friendly. 5. Dominican Order Rite really don't think she was a threat Although her death did not serve any6. Carmelite Order Rite of us any longer. I do believe in of the purposes for which I think the 7. Carthusian Order Rite penalty was established, her death, in fact, In the Eastern Church: I don't think her death will deter may not have been purposeless. 1. Byzantine Rite (Used by 14 major groups) murders. I can't quite imagine that Charlotte Miller 2. Chaldean Rite )us rage some about-to- Little Rock 3. Alexandrian Rite lay down her pickax 4. Antiochene Rite they executed Karla Faye. Many rites, subrites 5 Armenian Rite better rethink this." Members of all these rites are truly not that the families of her victims but one Church Catholic, and are m union the rtow "get on with their lives," as they Vatican. All Catholics may fulfill worship I saw the husband of one of her vic- Whenever I am involved in a discussion obligation in any rite or subrite with no oft "IV, and even with Karla's death, on the numerous rites and subrites in the restrictions h~ worship. still a very angry man. Catholic Church, I experience raised eye- Charles Sippel some la~Tcr ,~n TV say that the brows mad quizzical looks. In reality there Horseshoe Bend of Letters and columns can be mailed to Arhansas C, atho// P.O. Box 7417, Little Rock, AR 72 .17 or faxed to (501) 664-9075.