Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Catholic opinion on the death penalty tells you about the encyclical's future effect

It tells you first that Catholics are about 10% less supportive of the death penalty than the general population. One would have to adjust for other factors to prove that's driven by being Catholic as opposed to something else, but it seems in large part to be real. (See also this article showing on issues where the Church is conservative, regular churchgoers are more likely to take the same position.)

Contrary to a poorly-reasoned article in Grist, religion can have an effect on politics, and looking at where Catholics stand now doesn't tell you where they will be if action on climate gets enmeshed in Catholic teaching. The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops calls the encyclical their "marching orders on advocacy."

Death penalty advocacy is a different apple, though. It's something the Church has been beating on for decades, so it could be a while for the encyclical to have a similar effect, assuming the Church even maintains the interest that Francis has directed. OTOH, I think normal folks are more likely to have their own intuition on the death penalty than they are to have one on climate change, so the Church's effect on death penalty opinion has had to push against a stronger current.

I'll gladly take a 10% shift in Catholic opinion, which doesn't even account for an increase in priority that supportive Catholics will place on the issue. It also might help fracture the tribal identity that drives Catholic conservatives to denialism. I think at least of equal importance will be its effect on pushing other religions to also up their game on the issue.

It's a marathon.


Kyle Splawn said...

Although Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism, has not always toed the Church's line when it comes to policy he has said much about how his faith drives his policy decisions:

Many of his priorities during his two terms as governor of Florida aligned with those of the Catholic Church — including his extraordinary, and unsuccessful, effort to force a hospital to keep Terri Schiavo on life support, as well as less well-known, and also unsuccessful, efforts to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a developmentally disabled rape victim and to prevent a 13-year-old girl from having an abortion. He even, during his first year in office in 1999, signed a law creating a “Choose Life” license plate. ...
“As a public leader, one’s faith should guide you,” Mr. Bush said in Italy in 2009, explaining his attitude about the relationship between religion and politics at a conference associated with Communion and Liberation, a conservative Catholic lay movement.
“In the United States, many people think you need to keep your faith, put it in a security box, if you’re an elected official — put it in a safety deposit box until you finish your service as a public servant and then you can go get it back,” he added. “I never felt that was appropriate.”
“You hear people say, ‘I don’t want to impose my faith,’ ” Mr. Bush told the newspaper The Florida Catholic days after leaving office in 2007. “Well, it’s not an imposition of faith. It’s who you are.”

It's worth pointing out that one area where he diverged sharply from the Catholic stance is ... the death penalty.

Fernando Leanme said...

If anybody doubts religion can have a profound impact on politics look at the fall of Constantinople, countless Chrsitian catholic on Christian Protestant civil wars, the Shiite versus Sunni conflict, and of course the massacre at Montsegur.

Unknown said...

It's a Long War, a Battle of Attrition, and 10% of Catholic opinion is fine by me. Maybe it will be a Tipping Point, but maybe not.

Gingerbaker said...

And not to worry about his opposition to birth control, the Pope assures us the problem is rich people over-consuming, not overpopulation.

Mitch said...

Gingerbaker seems to be taken the standard tack, which is focus on something where no personal change is required. True that numbers of people are important, but consuming is a major multiplier. Otherwise, how could the US consume 25% of the oil with less than 5% of the population?

Jeffrey Davis said...

The major point of Francis's papacy is that poverty is the core of Christianity. So far, he's emphasized helping the poor. But if he gets around to it, I'm sure that he'll point out that personal poverty -- give what you have to the poor and come follow me -- and the death of Self are what makes that possible. In the gospel, the young man went away sad because he had many possessions.

Is Jeb Bush sad because he has many possessions?

Jeffrey Davis said...

"It's a Long War, a Battle of Attrition ..."

Well, that's the problem, ain't it? The war's getting shorter all the time.

dudleysharp said...

Catholicism & The Death Penalty: Let's Be Clear
Dudley sharp

There has been Catholic death penalty support for over 2000 years, extending until today.

The Catholic Catechism was amended in 1997, applying a limitation on the death penalty, which any good Catholic may reject and, instead, may support more executions.

Full review:

Death Penalty & Catechism Problems: Section 2267

Rebuttal: Catholics Call For End to Capital Punishment

New Testament Death Penalty Support Overwhelming