Our Investment in All Lives
My ninety-mile round-trip commute to work each day enables me to listen to podcasts, those audio narratives that offer a variety of content. I dabble in everything from true crime to humor, welcoming the chance to mull over what’s said, delve deep into my heart and mind, and respond.
While podcasts can be a form of escapism similar to TV’s sitcoms or reality shows, I find the listening experience deeper and more stimulating. I become emotionally invested in them. I’ve learned a lot about myself by taking the time to evaluate the details of others’ real-life experiences and opinions.
One question from podcasts I’ve ruminated over is the difference between incarceration and rehabilitation. Does an offender’s mental health play a role in his sentencing and potential for offending again? Should it? This serious issue can, of course, be a matter of life and death for those convicted of capital crimes. And while I don’t come up with definitive answers to every question, real progress is gained by posing questions with the intent of propelling the conversation forward and being open to understanding various viewpoints across a spectrum of situations. If we don’t raise questions and talk about issues, our beliefs can stagnate.
But while some answers are fuzzy, the Church is clear on the death penalty. In its Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops states “a Catholic approach begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victim and offender….We are convinced our tradition and our faith offer better alternatives that can hold offenders accountable and challenge them to change their lives; reach out to victims and reject vengeance; restore a sense of community and resist the violence that has engulfed so much of our culture.”
This year, Pope Francis built on those beliefs and St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, revising our book of beliefs—the Catechism—to state “the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”
Francis shows that the Church constantly evaluates how to apply faith to life. As we celebrate the start of Jesus’ life on earth, we should welcome tough questions on all lives and increase our emotional investment.