Saturday, February 2, 2019

Will American Catholics be disqualified from death penalty juries because of Pope Francis' declaration that the death penalty is immoral?

Will Pope Francis' declaration in August, 2018 that the death penalty is morally unacceptable in all circumstances disqualify American Catholics from serving on death penaly cases? And if these American Catholics are disqualified from serving on death penaly cases does that make it more likely that the death penalty will be used in the United States?

From the Washington Post on 01/18/19

"In August, Pope Francis declared the death penalty morally unacceptable in all circumstances and committed the church to its global abolition. This pronouncement broke from previous Catholic teaching, which permitted the death penalty in “very rare” cases of “absolute necessity.”

Death penalty abolitionists hold out hope that the pope’s new call to action may eventually sway the American public: Catholic voters and politicians might become more inclined to repeal the death penalty, Catholic prosecutors might increasingly exercise their discretion not to pursue capital punishment, and Catholic judges (including the five Catholic justices on the Supreme Court) might grow more receptive to legal arguments that limit the practice. A change in public opinion could also influence the Supreme Court, which considers society’s “evolving standards of decency” in evaluating whether a punishment is “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment.
But because of the anomalous way we select juries in capital cases, greater opposition to the death penalty among Catholics could, counterintuitively, increase the number of death sentences imposed in this country. Such opposition could even solidify judicial support for capital punishment. This paradox is possible because of a process called “death qualification,” in which a judge can disqualify certain prospective jurors who are opposed to executions. The pope’s sharpening of the Catholic position on the death penalty helps reveal the problems with this system."
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