Sen. Santorum's revised thinking about the death penalty mirrors my own. Some might look cynically at such changes of mind, but I think intellectual conversions are natural to anyone who takes seriously what the church teaches. If we are to always "err on the side of life," then I think the revised section on the death penalty makes perfect sense.
It is a mistake, as you know, to construe that penalty as an outright abolition of the death penalty in all states and in all circumstances, since it is prudentially related to the ability of the court and penal systems to protect citizens.
Your comment on the president's usage of "culture of life" in relation to the "war on terror" is interesting. Certainly you would agree that the first duty of a chief-of-state is to protect the lives of the nation's citizens. Terrorist acts are a demonstrated threat to life. I don't see the problem of using this theme in relation to the protection of human life against terrorism, any more than I would take issue with someone who objects to the Iraq War on similar grounds. I think the principle applies to both cases, although we could disagree prudentially on its application to a specific situation.
I think a mistake is being made by various TV commentators in saying that the Holy Father "condemned" the war in Iraq. I am not aware of any comment by him that condemned the war. JPI, his official emissary, and Joachin Navarro-Valls raised questions about the timing of the invasion, the plan for creating a stable government, and the timetable for withdrawal. Some freelancers like Cardinal Martino, who is a friend of mine, may have used the language of condemnation but I do not recall it.
The Vatican always uses the language of diplomacy in such matters, and media commentators should not misrepresent their statements or try to express the mind of the pope when he has not expressed it himself.
Deal W. Hudson