THE DRUMBEAT
E-Mail   by STEVE KING AINSWORTH  Bio/Address
Death row
San Quentin 1999

"EL PAPA" swung through the Americas beating the abolitionist drum. The sound reverberated in St. Louis with Pope John Paul II's words:

". . . human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil."

The Prince of the Apostles seems to be dragging both the conservative/traditional wing and the liberal wing of the Catholic church kicking and screaming to the common ground of compassion with his message denouncing the use of capital punishment.

Why or how can any Catholic resist? Is not life sacred? Is it not sacred from conception to natural death? Who is man to intervene in a God-given cycle of life?

Since writing a query to the London-based Catholic newspaper, "The Tablet" in 1994, in which I critiqued the then Catechism=s words (A . . . not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty") , I have watched, hoping that the Church would realize that its own hypocrisy in the matter of life was wrong. Slowly my hope has been rewarded. In 1995, Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae - The Gospel of Life,@ which urges that non-lethal methods of punishment be imposed in lieu of the death penalty: "that it be applied in a very limited way or even abolished completely . . .@ The Catechism was changed to reflect this new view, and the Church seemed to be shedding its tradition of the "auto-de-fe@ and moving towards the realization that to be pro-life in the battle against abortion, it must be pro-life at the other end of the spectrum of man-caused death: capital punishment. It is as if, after two millennia, the Church has come to realize what "thou shalt not kill" means. The innocent and guilty life are one and the same, and both must be protected from the dark side of mankind.

This new view forged by the Vicar of Jesus Christ must he preached from the pulpit to the masses. It is not enough for the Catechism to coach its reservations against capital punishment in parsing language. It now must be changed to absolute condemnation of those states and individuals who practice capital punishment.

The bishops must come forward and step beyond their pastoral letters to the forefront of the march towards the abolition of capital punishment. The drumbeat of the Pope is the heartbeat of man; the bishops must encourage their parish priests to preach the Gospel of Life, and bring their flocks into the fold of abolitionism.

No crimes should go unpunished, and our modern society has the means to protect itself without taking human life. Life in prison without parole is a much harsher punishment than death. We have the prison cells to house a million prisoners, some now being wasted on non-violent offenders. There is no need to kill in the guise of justice.

The urgent and adequate measures to end the death penalty must begin now. The killing states of the United States are on a record pace for executions in 1999. It makes little difference if we fry criminals in an electric chair, choke them to death with gas, blast their hearts out with bullets, put them down like a dog with a lethal injection, or give them a long drop on a short rope C it is all violent behavior against another human being, and every citizen will enter the new millennium with the blood of these executed men and women on his or her hands.

AHuman life must never be taken away.@ The end of violence will only come when the people find the compassionate common ground and when the State stops its violence acts directed at those under its power.

Steven King Ainsworth
P. 0. Box C-13201, 4-E-81-L
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974

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