WASHINGTON (October 22, 2004) –- Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick has urged House and Senate conferees working on legislation concerning intelligence reform and 9/11 recommendations to report out a final bill without the expansion of the death penalty for terrorists.
Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, is Chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The Cardinal's letter to conferees concerned the National Intelligence Reform Act (S. 2845) and the House-passed version of S. 2845, the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act. The Senate version of the bill does not contain any death penalty provisions.
"The cowardly acts of September 11 and their tragic human costs still haunt our nation," Cardinal McCarrick said. "There can be no diminishing the horror of terrorism or the responsibility of those who employ wanton violence on the innocent."
"Based on our Catholic teaching, however, we oppose expanding the death penalty even for terrorists," the Cardinal continued. "As you know, the bishops of the United States oppose the use of the death penalty in any instance. Catholic teaching on capital punishment is clear: If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and 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 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)."
Besides Catholic teaching on the death penalty, Cardinal McCarrick cited other considerations. He noted that expansion of the death penalty was not included in the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. "Congress need not go any further," he said.
"Secondly, we feel strongly that suicidal terrorists are not going to be deterred by the death penalty. "In fact, many terrorists believe that if they die committing an act of terrorism they will become martyrs. At the very least, it would seem that executing terrorists could make them heroes in the minds of other like-minded advocates of terror."
"As pastors, we believe that the use of the death penalty under any circumstances diminishes us as human beings," Cardinal McCarrick stated. "As we said in Confronting a Culture of Violence: 'We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing.'"
Earlier, the USCCB wrote to conferees on issues impacting immigration within the House-passed version of the Senate bill.