Should Saddam Hang?

With Saddam due to die at any moment, there's a fair amount of crowing and hand-wringing going on in the blogosphere. What should Catholics think (besides praying for his repentance)? The best discussion of the Church's position on the death penalty is here at Against the Grain. He begins with a summary of arguments and makes the basic point, from Card. Ratzinger's famous letter to Card. McCarrick:
While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
And carries it even further:
if the present Pope of the Catholic Church has affirmed the possibility of disagreement among Catholics over the application of the death penalty, we should take this as an invitation to examine this issue further.
This is one of those issues, like the application of Just War, where I always have the sinking feeling the columnists have no idea what they are talking about --they don't even see what's at stake. In this matter, I happen to share John Paul the Great's skepticism of capital punishment, but I hate hate hate the way most people write about it.
For example, on whose authority is a determination made whether the death penalty's called for? As in the case of Just War, it's not ultimately the Church's call. As one theologian put it:
In matters governing social stability and public safety, prudential judgement is inevitable. Moreover, the authority for judgement in this sphere is not given to the Church. It is the province of the secular arm -- the legitimately constituted civil authority -- to decide what is and is not sufficient to protect public safety.
Examining the claims of one person critical of Saddam's execution, Against the Grain notes a tendency I also find troubling --the desire to excommunicate interlocutors who don't share one's prudential judgments.
In a recent post, Michael takes a jab at "those who purport to understand issues of justice and peace better than the Cardinal" and "desk chair bloggers will likewise claim an expertise in the areas of Catholic social doctrine and global socio-poltical conditions from the limits of their laptops." While I agree with Evangelical Catholicism that any Catholic expressing their disagreement with Martino should do so with the respect that should be accorded to a Cardinal of the Church, I am concerned about the assumption that if a member of the Vatican curia pronounces this practical application of the death penalty to be "a crime," his doing so effectively rules out any disputation to the contrary.

The post then launches into a concise and interesting discussion of why Catholic teaching on the death penalty is a bit muddled right now. Or I should say in what way it is muddled. I believe the "why" is that John Paul II threw an insight of his at us precisely for the faithful & theologians to chew on and develop --but that can't exactly happen as long as everyone who raises a question gets shot down as a heretic, can it?
There are other questions to be covered, and I appreciated Against the Grain's modesty in demurring from what he knows he doesn't know:
I do not feel particularly qualified to discuss the legitimacy of the execution based on deterrence -- to do so would require specific knowledge of the Baathist resistance in Iraq, the threat posed by those who would hope to restore Saddam to power, and other societal factors which are beyond my competence. (I don't think Martino is especially privy to this kind of information either, hence I question his judgment).
Right --and I'm willing to bet no one else writing on the topic is fit to make such a judgment either, but it won't stop the columns and letters to the editor from once again denouncing "vengeance," as if anyone were defending it. Against the Grain leans in one direction:
I have to wonder if the case of Saddam Hussein isn't just one of those situations, where the gravity and extent of his crimes constitute one of those horrific situations where the death penalty is deserved for the preservation of the moral order?
But concludes:
The Catholic Church's position on the death penalty is fairly complex, and requires careful study and reflection -- much confusion abounds as to its present position. It is not as permissive as some conservatives hope it would be. But, as Cardinal Dulles demonstrates, neither can it be construed as abolitionist.
If this topic obsesses you as it does me, click the link --he's rounded up everyone's opinion, links to reports of all Saddam's crimes, lengthy explanations from Cardinal Martino, Cardinal Dulles & everyone else of their positions.