Cahiers Péguy


Can Catholics Be a Presence in Society?

Can Catholics be an effective voice in the public square? The answer from Italy, today, is a resounding yes. According to this blog post at America Magazine, a Catholic lay movement has “pulled the plug on US executions.”

A key drug used in lethal injections for executing US capital criminals will disappear from the market, because the Italian Parliament has insisted that it not be used for executions, thereby “potentially throwing the death penalty system in the US into disarray.” The drug’s manufacturer is US-based Hospira, Inc., which had decided for reasons unexplained by the article to move production to Italy. But, reports Austen Ivereigh at America:

. . . what's missing from today's reports is that behind the Italian Parliament's insistence is a lay Catholic movement dedicated—among many other things—to the eradication of the death penalty around the world. The Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio had been engaged in discussions with [the manufacturer] which led to meetings with the Foreign Affairs minister, Franco Frattini, and the Ministry of Health. The result of those meetings was an agreement that the production of the drug in Italy would have to be for strictly therapeutic purposes. The company has long deplored its use in executions, and said it regretted the need to cease production.

Hospira's choice to end production because it couldn't give that guarantee was described as "highly responsible" by Sant'Egidio's spokesman, Mario Marazziti, who said: “It highlights the point that therapeutic drugs and doctors should never be used to bring about death.”

I am struck by the specificity of this intervention by a Catholic group. It reminds me of the intervention by a Quebec-based group of Communion and Liberation members against that province’s policies on euthanasia, as reported in a recent issue of Traces and by Montrealer John Zucchi in New York last weekend.

As voices in the public square, it seems to me that many Catholics can spend far too much time trading ideological barbs with perceived antagonists and too little time in concrete acts of engagement. A personal example comes to mind: Each of our Schools of Community in CL is called on by the charism to engage in “charitable gestures.” How many of us do so?

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About Webster Bull

Webster Bull is a writer and publisher living in Beverly, Massachusetts, north of Boston. His latest book is "Something in the Ether: A Bicentennial History of Massachusetts General Hospital, 1811-2011," to be published in April 2011. You can follow Webster on Facebook.
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