Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

July 03, 2004

A `good society' must take life to protect itself

In his column "A good society's answers to death penalty's backers" (June 27), Dan Rodricks presents what he says are the most frequent pro-death-penalty arguments he's heard and proceeds to knock each down. This is easily accomplished because of his definition of what makes a good society. He says a good society "would view human life as inviolate to the extent that the state may not kill in cold blood."

But what is the difference between the state killing in cold blood and sending its troops to war? Both are calculated acts that will lead to the death of another.

Sure, the war risks the state's operatives being killed and an execution does not.

But the decision to send troops to a war zone and the decision to execute a prisoner are calculated to have the same result -- death.

If the good society will not accept ordering a death, then the good society will itself die. For unless the good society is willing to fight for itself and its interests, more Machiavellian societies will overrun it.

A representative government such as ours draws its authority from the votes of its people. If the people in a given jurisdiction do not want executions, they will tell their representatives as much. If they do want executions, as we Maryland voters do, there's no reason in law or morality to say that we should not conduct them.

By all means, protect the process to ensure that people being executed have committed the crimes for which they are being executed. But never let it be said that a state does not or should not have the right or ability to execute those rightly convicted.

Thomas A. Remaley

Reisterstown

Bishops must uphold sanctity of sacrament

Since the U.S. bishops' task force left it to individual bishops to decide about withholding Holy Communion from dissident Catholic politicians, we have seen many bishops making their decisions public concerning their opposition to the disciplinary denial of Communion in favor of simply teaching and forming beliefs according to Catholic doctrine ("Cardinal calls denying Communion a last resort," June 24).

Have these bishops forgotten that discipline has an essential teaching function?

When church leaders take a strong stand -- with the threat of disciplinary action toward dissidents -- on a particular issue (i.e. the moral gravity of abortion), they send a clear message to the faithful that certain moral matters are nonnegotiable and certain actions will involve consequences.

In civil society, the laws and the penalties attached to them teach citizens what is expected of them and what sort of behavior will not be tolerated. Similarly, the decriminalization of certain activities sends an implied message that such behavior isn't all that bad.

People can't help interpreting tolerance of a given behavior as a judgment of the relative significance or insignificance attached to it.

In my opinion, the bishops' rejection of a blanket disciplinary approach will cause an escalation of public disregard for essential Catholic teachings as well as a diminished reverence for the Holy Eucharist.

Terry Maxwell

Towson

Clinton's mendacity merited his removal

In the editorial "The Clinton ex-presidency" (June 22), The Sun takes the view that President Bill Clinton's impeachment and trial were a "dangerous farce." But after disparaging Mr. Clinton's claim to a badge of honor for having survived it all, The Sun opined that his survival is "a tribute to the senators who refused to let a president be tossed out of office for trying to hide sexual misconduct." That sentiment is dangerous.

Our courts are the centerpiece of the institutions that stand between us and anarchy. And nothing can render the courts impotent faster than compromising the necessity for truthfulness under oath. This is why society may reward perjury with incarceration.

For all of Mr. Clinton's complaints about harassment by prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr and the so-called right-wing conspirators, he swore to deceitful testimony and was not prosecuted for perjury. This even though he, as our chief law enforcement official, had a plain duty to avoid an unprincipled example and its pernicious effect on the courts.

The editorial endorses an idea tantamount to heresy: that conduct constituting perjury is acceptable in the case of someone in high office who is just seeking to hide sexual misconduct.

Mr. Clinton was impeached because the Constitution bars a president from high crimes and misdemeanors: Maybe his damage to our courts did not rise to the level of a felony, but it was the very definition of high misdemeanor.

Dennis G. Saunders

Columbia

Other presidents did much more harm

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