Saddam Hussein was executed on December 29th, 2006. This is not news to anyone. There have been a rash of articles on this site examining this action, the media reaction, and general questions left behind in the wake of his death (articles by Dmitri Marine, Warner Todd Huston, Ed Kent, whymrhymer, prying1, yossarin, zzsimonb, Robert VerBruggen, and Subversive).
But there has been one piece of Saddam death news which has been largely swept under the rug in all our glorying over seeing yet another imaginary milestone in Iraq which will end the violence and allow Western democracy to rule freely.
The day after Saddam was killed, a high-ranking Vatican official condemned the murder. The broadcast from the Vatican Radio can be heard here as Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino denounces the act and says that punishing “a crime with another crime” is not the correct way to ensure justice.
Cardinal Martino is the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations. He has previously made stands against the death penalty and war, but those were all during the papal reign of Pope John Paul II. Martino spoke out publicly against the Iraq War shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein, saying that it did nothing to legitimize a war which should have never been begun in the first place.
But then Cardinal Ratzingner, surprising all who predicted outcomes for the new pope, was chosen as the new pontifex maximus. Progressive and Third-World Catholics were disappointed and it was theorized that perhaps some of the more social stands of the Vatican would diminish in their frequency of being vocalized, particularly the views of Cardinal Martino on the death penalty and the Iraq War. However, the famed Catholic consistency shows through once more in that Pope Benedict did not attempt to stifle or downplay Martino’s announcement.
However, some Catholics, mainly those of a more conservative alignment, are very upset with the issuance of Martino’s thoughts on this issue. One blogger even went so far as to say that the Cardinal is actually “supporting Saddam” by calling his killing unjustified. This blogger says that the Cardinal is flatly wrong, that the death penalty is not against the teachings of the Church and that the Vatican does not have a staunch stance against the death penalty.
But a look at the Church shows that although the death penalty is not uniformly forbidden, the circumstances of Saddam’s murder do not fall into a category which would allow the execution to take place.
So, once again, the Catholic Church takes it’s place on the global stage, standing firmly on the rules it has held as holy, although not always followed itself. Congratulations to the Pope and thank God for Catholic consistency.