I don't know if it will get covered in the media today, but the Florida bishops celebrated Respect Life Sunday with a mandatory video against capital punishment. I saw it last night at the tiny Catholic church in Starke (home of Florida State Prison)...... It was biased, emotionally manipulative, and clearly aimed at pleasing the liberals. It also struck me as very politically connected (Of course, the bishops would never urge the faithful to do anything politically oriented about abortion. They're scared to death of NARAL.) The video was also unannounced - and this is an issue with me. Florida is full of people whose lives have been affected by violent cimes,including homicide. The bishops' little video could be like a pop-up reminder for parents, children, spouses, and friends of victims. The
video also went on at length about how Christians absolutely must forgive murderers. If you don't, you're not following Christ's example.That's a nice load of additional guilt to struggle with, isn't it?
Well. The first thing I'd add to these comments is that it's not NARAL the bishops are afraid of - it's the IRS.
Secondly, the first thing that popped into my head when I read this was "What cowards."
Sure, it seems, at first glance, that making the stance against capital punishment the focus of Respect Life Sunday is a brave move, especially in a state like Florida. But it's not.
The reason is that although as citizens, taxpayers and (tragically) victims, we do all, indeed, have a stake in the issue of capital punishment, it's not exactly an issue that hits most of us where we live. It's not a pressing personal issue or a temptation on the individual or family level. For most people in most parishes, taking a stand against capital punishment costs little if anything. Taking a stand against abortion costs - a lot.
So, bishops who want to sound like prophets can make parishes show videos againt capital punishment. In doing so they risk making some people angry. But they don't, for the most part, risk something more important - challenging people to change their lives, repent of past sin and stand compassionate and courageous in the face of future decisions that are going to impact them personally.
When I lived in Florida, incidentally, I spoke in churches on Respect Life Sunday as well as the Roe anniversary several times. This - the calling of laity in to speak on life issues - might initially strike one as a magnanimous act, an embrace of the gifts of the laity. My husband used to say it was just cowardly - too many priests don't want to talk about it themselves, so they bring in an outsider to do the dirty work.