Friday, October 22, 2004
HERNANDEZ-GOMEZ: Ambassador Keyes, you're a Roman Catholic who often touts your pro-life position as an opponent of abortion. You've also said there are certain circumstances in which the death penalty is essential. But the Pope has said, "The dignity of human life must never be taken." The Pope also says that the death penalty is both cruel and unnecessary.
Doesn't that mean you're not completely pro-life? How does your support of capital punishment, and opposition to abortion, conflict with your Roman Catholic faith?
KEYES: It doesn't conflict at all. As a matter of fact, everything that has come from the Pope and the Holy See has made it clear that abortion and capital punishment are at different levels of moral concern.
Abortion is intrinsically, objectively, wrong and sinful, whereas capital punishment is a matter of prudential judgment which is not, in and of itself, a violation of moral right. And that has been made clear in every pronouncement, including Cardinal Ratzinger's latest communication, including the interpretation of American bishops and cardinals. That distinction is fundamental. And it's one that folks in the media, and others, seem not to understand.
There are certain issues that objectively violate the most fundamental canons of moral decency, and abortion, for instance, is one of them--the taking of innocent life.
The question of whether or not you should apply capital punishment, in an instance where someone has been found to be guilty, is something that depends on circumstances, that depends on judgments about efficacy and balancing the results against what is, in fact, to be effected in capital punishment. And that is an area where Catholics, as others, have the right to debate, to disagree, and to exercise their judgment and common sense, which of course is what I do.
But if you take a position that effaces the distinction between innocent life and guilty life, then you not only violate a moral canon--you destroy the fundamental basis of the law, and that is the ultimate disrespect for human life.
MAGERS: Mr. Obama. A minute and a half.
OBAMA: Well, I believe that the death penalty is appropriate in certain circumstances. There are extraordinarily heinous crimes--terrorism, the harm of children--in which it may be appropriate. Obviously, we've had some problems in this state in the application of the death penalty, and that's why a moratorium was put in place, and that's why I was so proud to be one of the leaders in making sure that we overhauled a death penalty system that was broken. For example, passing the first in the nation, videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases.
We have to have this ultimate sanction for certain circumstances in which the entire community says, "This is beyond the pale." And I think it's important that we preserve that. But I also think that it's gotta be fair and uniformly applied, and that's something that has not always happened in this state, and I'm glad that we've made some improvements on this score.
Now, I agree with, actually, Mr. Keyes that the issue of abortion and the death penalty are separate questions. It's unfortunate that, I think, whereas, with respect to the death penalty, Mr. Keyes respects the possibility that other people may have a differing point of view, that in this area, he has labeled them everything from "terrorists," to people promoting a "slaveholder position," to suggesting that they are consistent with Nazism.
I think that kind of rhetoric, obviously, is not particularly helpful in us resolving what are very difficult and emotional subjects.
MAGERS: Mr. Keyes, thirty seconds.
KEYES: Well, it's obvious that Senator Obama has read the newspapers too much.
In point of fact, I don't call people names. I make arguments.
And in point of fact, it is the slaveholders' position. The slaveholders took the view that black people were not developed enough to be treated as human beings, and therefore, could be bought and sold like animals.
People looking at the babe in the womb take the view that that child is not developed enough to be treated as a human being, and therefore can be killed at will.
I think that's the same position, in principle, and it violates the fundamental principle of our way of life--that we are not developed nor born, but created equal, and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.
I supported Alan Keyes for President last time around and sent him a bit of money. He has a haunting ability to cut through to the bottom line when he speaks. He paints, at times, with too large a brush, but I nonetheless admire the artwork.