Ilya Repin's 1889 painting of St. Nicholas stopping an execution.
Ilya Repin's 1889 painting of St. Nicholas stopping an execution.
Gov. John Kitzhaber has done the right thing in following his conscience. Haunted by acquiescence in two executions during the 1990s, the governor would not sign off on another and has called instead for a moratorium on the death penalty and statewide discussion on the practice.

That means convicted murder Gary Haugen will not receive a lethal injection as planned on Dec. 6. Haugen wants to die and he bears great guilt as opposed to the thousands of innocent unborn babies killed each year in our state; we want no part of either kind of death.

The Catholic Church taught that capital punishment was allowable as a last resort to protect society. But in Evangelium Vitae in 1995, Pope John Paul wrote that modern methods of incarceration have made the death penalty unnecessary in almost all cases.
Had we killed Haugen, we would have borne guilt of our own.

The United States, in allowing executions, is in dubious company. No other developed nation allows capital punishment, but those that do include Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

Haugen was slated to die on Dec. 6, the feast of St. Nicholas. That would have been a poignant date, since it was St. Nicholas who in the 4th century saved three prisoners who were about to be beheaded by the ruler of Myra in Asia Minor. Nicholas, bishop of the region, waded through a crowd of watchers, seized the executioner's sword and threw it to the ground.  

We are glad to be part of a church still keeping an eye out for justice and we thank Gov. Kitzhaber for his action. We can only hope that he will remember this experience of exercising conscience when time comes for him to consider conscience rights for health workers who choose not to be associated with abortion and contraception.