Early on the morning of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent’s season of penitence, Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois went through some final, solitary rumination. For much of his political career, he had supported capital punishment, albeit with reservations, even debating it at the dinner table with his mother. Now a legislative bill abolishing it was waiting for his signature, or his veto.Read the rest here.
In the preceding weeks, he had heard arguments on the subject from prosecutors who spoke of the death penalty’s deterrent effect and from the grieving relatives of murder victims who saw in it fierce justice. He had reacquainted himself with about 20 capital cases overturned by DNA evidence or tainted by judicial error.
But on that decisive morning of March 9, he laid aside the secular factors and opened his Bible to a passage in II Corinthians about human imperfection. He prayed. And when he signed the bill striking down the death penalty, he cited one influence by name: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago.
The cardinal has been dead for nearly 15 years. To the last days of his life, he advocated what he termed a “seamless garment” or “consistent ethic of life,” which charged Roman Catholics with the task of ending abortion, poverty, nuclear war, euthanasia and capital punishment. For of all his eloquence, however, he had never built the constituency to transform theological precepts into public policy.
With the stroke of the governor’s pen, the cardinal has been posthumously vindicated on at least one piece of that seamless garment. In doing so, Mr. Quinn also ratified the cardinal’s belief that religious thought has a place in the formulation of law, a premise the governor’s fellow liberals generally disdain.