Vatican Official Rebukes Ohio Prosecutor For Defying Church’s Death Penalty Stance

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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A Vatican official rebuked an Ohio prosecutor for pursuing the death penalty for a serial killer and demanded that the prosecutor go to confession.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, a practicing Catholic, continued to pursue the death penalty in the resentencing of convicted serial killer Anthony Kirkland despite news that Pope Francis declared that capital punishment was not justifiable under any circumstance. Vatican Observatory vice director Paul Mueller, scandalized by Deters’ refusal to conform to the Catholic Church’s new stance on the death penalty, sent a letter to the prosecutor, saying that he was embarrassed by his fellow Catholic’s behavior and urging him to go to confession. (RELATED: Pennsylvania Prosecutes First Priest In Wake Of Sex Abuse Report)

“I am disappointed, embarrassed, and scandalized that you, not only a Catholic but also a fellow alumnus of St. Xavier High School, have used the platform of your public office to oppose and confuse the moral teaching of the Church in so open a fashion,” Mueller wrote.

Deters, upon hearing the news that Francis had changed the church’s stance on the death penalty, said the decision would not dissuade him from doing what he believes is necessary to deal with certain kinds of evil.

“My dear friends who are priests don’t understand what we’re dealing with. There is evil in this world and there comes a point where society needs to defend itself,” Deters told The Cincinnati Enquirer.

He repeated that notion after reading Mueller’s letter.

“They don’t understand the type of person we’re dealing with. If Hitler were alive or Osama bin Laden and they were planning to kill more people, the answer wouldn’t be to allow them to keep killing,” Deters said.

Kirkland first killed in 1989 when, at 18 years old, he murdered a 28-year-old woman. He was arrested and imprisoned until his release in 2003. Kirkland began killing again three years later and would go on to murder four more people — two women and two teenage girls — before he was arrested again in 2009. He strangled and stabbed his victims. He also told police that he burned their bodies because “fire purifies.”

“You[r] comments imply that your personal conscience and experience have given you moral insight superior to that of your church,” Mueller wrote. “May I suggest that this is indicative of a kind of spiritual pride or rigidity on your part. An antidote would be for you to chat with a good confessor.”

Deters remained undeterred.

“I know that I am protecting citizens,” he told the Enquirer.

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