"I wonder if Frank Keating has any comment?"
That was my first thought last week when Pope Francis decreed — as The Associated Press reported — "that the death penalty is 'inadmissible' under all circumstances and the Catholic Church should campaign to abolish it."
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Keating — a lifelong Catholic — served as Oklahoma's governor, I covered the state prison system and later religion for The Oklahoman. On both those beats, the conservative Republican's support for capital punishment came into play.
I always enjoyed interviewing Keating because he wasn't shy about sharing his opinions — even if that meant calling then-Pope John Paul II mistaken in his opposition to the death penalty. In February 1999, Keating famously skipped Mass one Sunday because he said he couldn't sit silently while then-Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius Beltran read a letter criticizing the governor's death-penalty stance.
After the news involving Francis last week, GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly offered astute, must-read commentary ("Death penalty doctrine: Francis builds on insights of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI?"), followed by a helpful podcast.
Beyond the important questions tmatt raised, I was curious — perhaps because of my past experience with Keating — to see coverage of Catholic governors in states with active death chambers.
For example, Texas executes more inmates than any other state, and yes, it has a Catholic governor.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, is a staunch death penalty supporter and longtime friend of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson, who prayed at his inauguration. However, Abbott has clashed with his friend and the state's other bishops on issues such as immigration. "We agree to disagree," Olson told me on the immigration issue last year.
I was pleased to see an AP story delving into the quandary that Francis' decree could pose for U.S. politicians.