Pope Francis tells Christians they must fight death penalty

Asks Catholic leaders not to hold executions during the Year of Mercy
Pope Francis blesses the faitfhul on April 15, 2014 during his weekly general audience at the Vatican. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis during his weekly general audience at the Vatican. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)

The following comes from a February 21 Catholic News Agency article:

Christians must work to abolish the death penalty and improve prison conditions, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

After praying the Angelus on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called on all Christians and people of good will to work “not only for the abolition of the death penalty” but also to improve the conditions in prison. These efforts would respect the human dignity of prisoners, he said.

He appealed to the consciences of government leaders to join “the international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty.” He asked Catholic leaders not to hold executions during the Year of Mercy. This would be as a “courageous and exemplary act,” he said February 21.

Rome will host an international convention for those working to abolish the death penalty on February 22. The event is being promoted by the Sant’Egidio Community.


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  1. Elizabeth M. says:

    But what happened to ~ I am the Pope of all and cannot get involved in local issues ~ like speaking out against same sex marriage in Italy?

  2. Clinton R. says:

    First of all, there are hardly any Christian leaders of nations. Second, how often is one on death row put to death? Meanwhile thousands of children daily are murdered in the womb. There is no mandatory appeal, no stay of execution for the unborn.

  3. Elizabeth, the Pope is the Bishop of Rome, so it is local issue for him. The death penalty is a world wide issue. It is hard, but not impossible I guess, to be Pro-Life and in favor of indiscriminate use of the death penalty.

    • Bob One, the Pope should speak from the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition” instead of his own personal opinions.
      The CCC is accurate, and clear, and the same for all Countries.
      See – – – CCC # 2267.

  4. Oh, how I long for the days of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

    • Keep longing: they said the very same things about capital punishment, FYI!!!

    • Xavier, don’t bother: you would have disagreed with THEM just as vehemently, because they ALSO called for the death penalty to be abolished.
      It’s barbaric.
      As one person put it: “How can we teach people it’s wrong to kill people by killing people?”

  5. (National Catholic Register, 2011) – Pope Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction at his Nov. 30 general audience.
    Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the controversial topic, Pope Benedict XVI said he hopes that their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”

  6. The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. . . . I renew the appeal I made . . . for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.
    —Pope John Paul II Papal Mass, St. Louis, Missouri, January 27, 1999

    • ” Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion – General Principles ” – Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict). 2004.
      ” 3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.
      While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may ……

  7. How about preaching from the pulpit teachings that save the soul and not just the body.

    • How about you understand deeply what the Church teaches instead of back-seat-preaching?

      • Ann Malley says:

        ….you should repeat this mantra in the mirror daily throughout Lent, Anonymous. Then perhaps you may actually understand Catholic teaching and be able to recognize your own back-seat preaching.

  8. There is absolutely nothing immoral about the death penalty. St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the wisest persons ever to have lived says that those guilty of a heinous crime have themselves to blame, and not the state for being sentenced to death. Yes, it is more merciful to let the criminal have life in prison, but until recently, the Church never concerned Herself with this. It seems the Pope is making a mountain out of a mole hill on some matters, but he is silent on more important moral issues. How tragic !

  9. DOCTRINE of the Faith – “Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition”
    (aka CCC)
    CCC: ” 2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty,
    if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, ……….. “

  10. Continued
    CCC: 2267 “………… as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

  11. “Worthiness – continued
    ” ……… still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor
    or to have recourse to capital punishment.
    There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”


  12. Steve Phoenix says:

    This papacy continually sallies forth into utter nonsense and an almost psychotic view of reality. Putting aside for the moment the fact that death penalty is a punishment that justly fits some crimes (what we used to believe up until the last 20 or so years in the CC), here are some stunning facts that P Francis dances away from… as usual:

    According to Amnesty International, in 2014, the USA executed 35 persons—as we all know, after an exhaustive and elaborate judicial process.

    Iran? Oh, they admit to executing 289—just in 2014, mind you, and just by public execution. China? We only have an estimate from AI, because China conceals its likely much greater execution totals: 607, minimum estimate in 2014 alone. China was recently…

    • Steve Phoenix says:

      . China was recently praised by P. Francis, by the way.

      • Steve Phoenix says:

        Oh, what about the “Hermit Kingdom”, N. Korea? At least 1400 “known executed” since 2000 (The Guardian, Apr. 2015 article). But the Hermit Kingdom doesn’t count those who die of ‘natural causes’ in their vast prison camps. Freekorea.us reports at least 120,000 at any one time are in those camps, and thousands die yearly of “natural causes”. They are executed (to clarify for those who are terminally “useful idiots”,Lenin’s phrase).

        Not long ago, P Francis glowingly met with Papa Fidel—he, the greatest living murderer, having ordered at least 4000 political prisoners alone executed during his reign—the real number according to Cuban refugee sites is in the tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands, since 1959. His prison system is…

        • Steve Phoenix says:

          . His (Castro’s) prison system is just as atrocious as N Korea’s, and although they have a “moratorium” since about 2000 on executions, he just allows enemies of the state to “die of natural causes” in his atrocious prison system.

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            Finally we come to yet another vicious dictator, who earlier this month, P Francis clasped to his breast and mugged and hugged: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani is the principal funder of ISIS.

            The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to a Sept 2015 report, states according to their verified inside sources, that over 10,000 have been executed by ISIS alone, just since their formation in June 2014.

            Of course, President Obama right now is “containing” ISIS, so nothing to worry about: and we can be sure that P Francis issued a strong denunciation of ISIS in the presence of chief-thug Rouhani this month, as well. What, didn’t you hear about it? Neither did I.

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            In a phrase:

            In circuitu impii ambulant, cum se extollunt viilissimi hominum.

            “The wicked are all around, while the vilest among men exalt themselves.” (Ps. 11:8 Vulgate version)

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            Here is a nice picture of Rouhani and P Francis smilingly yukking it up at there (actually in January 2016) meeting;




            I should clarify: it was a warm, very warm, smiling greeting of Rouhani, and P. Francis squeezed his hand: not a literal hug, before the quibblers and gnat-strainers strike.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      I’m not sure what the moral argument is in saying that the US isn’t as bad as the worst regimes in the world. Just because we don’t execute as many people as China isn’t exactly a high moral bar.

      • Steve Phoenix says:

        Right, good thinking. You got the point exactly.

        The US, which goes through an exhaustive and pain-staking process to determine guilt and innocence, before the possible imposition of the death-penalty, is just as wicked and depraved as Iran, China, N Korea, Cuba, ISIS, and of course, is morally equivalent to these police-states. The vast numbers executed by these other police-states, done without any due process, is irrelevant: it is the US which is just about “as bad as the worst regimes in the world.”

        You got it exactly.

        • Steve, our “exhaustive” and “pain-staking” process to determine guilt or innocence still allowed over 1/3 of death row prisoners in Illinois to be proven not guilty due to DNA evidence. At least in one state, the criminal justice system was inherently defective at a systemic level.

          Thus, while I am not opposed to the death penalty in principle, I can’t support its continued use as it is currently applied in the US justice system.

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            That statement—that “1/3rd of death penalty cases” in Illinois were exonerated—is directly contradicted by innocence project.org. So, someone’s facts are wrong.

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            The Illinois situation where individuals were exculpated were not all exonerated due to DNA evidence: Gov. George Ryan’s 2003 address on death-row clemency clearly states that:


            Innocenceproject.org’s own data also contradicts the claim that “1/3rd of Illinois death-row inmates were cleared” (paraphrase) by DNA: innocenceproject.org, which is anti-death penalty, states only 20 individuals have been cleared by DNA evidence since 1989 became juridically admissible to exculpate an individual. Someone’s facts are wrong.

  13. Ann Malley says:

    ….how about sticking to working to abolish the death penalty imposed on innocents in the womb. THAT is what Catholics should be focused on opposing.

    • Why, Ann Malley? Because you want to ignore Catholic moral doctrines that you don’t like, just like you want to ignore Catholic theological doctrines you don’t like? #cafeteriaschismaticcatholic

      • Ann Malley says:

        ….to which Catholic “moral” doctrines are you referring? And thank you, but I have no desire to visit your personal hashtag website.

      • No, because abortionist and mothers and fathers should stop exicuting babies during the Year of Mercy. Did the Pope call for this?

  14. Someone has already cited the Catechism’s statement about the death penalty, but I would underscore one clause: “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” We know from facts that the death penalty does not effectively deter people from committing murder. Add to that the increasingly large number of people unjustly sentenced to death who are innocent, proven by DNA, and you have a system of justice that is flawed to say the least. Perhaps we could learn from the civilized nations of the world.

  15. Phoenix, I admit this is a bit like the “pot calling the kettle black” , but we generally all try to keep our remarks short. Churchill once said, and I paraphrase, that he was ready to give an hour long speech at any time, but if you wanted him to keep his remarks to ten minutes he would need a day or two to prepare. This site is turning into the Phoenix and Michael show. Perhaps to curb folks like me as well, the controllers should limit us to fifty words per comment, and only one comment on each article?

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      i’m never quite sure why that expression that you quoted is ever seen as anything except racist. I realize a lot of people don’t think about it – and I’m not saying you used it in a racist way, but think about it: It’s kind of like the slur “cotton-pickin”, used by people who want to limit their curse words, i this case “God damned”, but the reality is that cotton pickers were slaves. What’s wrong with a black kettle? Nothing, unless you have something against black. Let’s work together to find a better way to express ourselves…

      • Phoenix, when I grew up the pots and pans got very black from the flames of the wood stove, and we had to use a lot of elbow grease to get that black stuff off the bottoms. Also, almost all the pots and pans were made out of cast iron which were black. Those that weren’t were still black from the wood stove. It’s an old saying and not racist in any way.

        • Steve Phoenix says:

          Bob One, I think you owe YFC an apology for confusing him with me. I am sure he is greatly insulted.

          As for me, I am not offended, as I doubt you really carefully read or think about any posts other than your own: the fact you confused YFC’s comment on “black pots and kettles” with one of mine—well, that about seals it.

      • Ann Malley says:

        …..thanks for clarifying, YFC. You have a funny filter.

      • ” Let’s work together to find a better way to express ourselves…” more group think from the thought and word police….

        • Ann Malley says:

          ….that’s code word for not expressing anything, especially what is obvious. Too divisive ;^)

          Thank you for your service, Canisius.

    • Steve Phoenix says:

      Bob One, like a good progressive, you want to muzzle facts, and especially show you prefer to try to silence those whose facts offend you:

      Such as, even the innocenceproject.org itself states, of those on Death Row, to date, only 20 people have ever been exculpated by DNA evidence, this since 1989. Bob One instead prefers to state, ” the increasingly large number of people unjustly sentenced to death who are innocent, proven by DNA.” Rubbish.

      As for the above citation of facts, this is data gathered worldwide from Amnesty International, hardly a right-wing org., showing the Pope’s and all Catholicism’s greatest efforts should be concentrated where hundreds, nay thousands, tens of thousands, of murders, not executions,…

  16. Death Penalty Forever……

    • Death Penalty Forever … But Canisius, you have always claimed to be a traditional Catholic. Why the sudden change?

      • Things are changing Bob One, we have a near heretic Pope on the throne of Peter, who cant stop talking about the poor, but not a word on abortion with any kind of zeal, he is liberal Jesuit who has elevated horrible men to the episcopacy (Cuspich of Chicago) … The Church does allow for the Death Penalty Bob One, the failed Vatican 2 council did not erase that fact…

    • So much for the Year of Mercy

  17. The New Evangelization is a dog and pony show. Instead of building up the Catholic faith, and reinforcing traditional morality, the Church is attempting to legitimize abortion, birth control, divorce, and sodomy, while stating that illegal aliens and the death penalty are more serious issues. Everyday Catholics are becoming dumber and less informed about their faith, and at the same time, they are fed garbage. This is diabolical disorientation.

  18. “The death penalty fulfills a preventive function, but it is also very clearly a form of revenge. It is an especially severe form of punishment because it is so final. The human life is ended and the executed person is deprived of the opportunity to change, to restore the harm done or compensate for it.” The Dalai Lama

  19. For those who care to listen to the wisdom of our Catholic SAINTS, here’s what one Saint said about capital punishment:
    “May the death penalty, an unworthy punishment still used in some countries, be abolished throughout the world.” (Prayer at the Papal Mass at Regina Coeli Prison in Rome, July 9, 2000). SAINT JOHN PAUL II

    • Steve Phoenix says:

      The position of saints on doctrine may be persuasive but is hardly necessarily infallible: just for one example, St. Thomas Aquinas did not believe in the Immaculate Conception. Blessed Duns Scotus, “the Dunce”, mockingly so-named, developed the doctrine for our current defined dogma (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854)..

    Early Christians for the most part found violence of any kind, and especially the taking of human life, incompatible with the Gospel. Clement of Rome and Justin Martyr gave witness to this attitude when they taught: “To witness a man’s execution, regardless of the justice of his prosecution, is forbidden by the moral law of Christ, for to assist at the killing of a man is almost the same as killing him.” (Clement of Rome)
    And, “…to watch a man being killed is practically equivalent to taking life.” (Justin Martyr)
    The state was not denied the right to inflict capital punishment, but Christians were not to be a part of this punishment.

    • Clement of Rome and Justin Martyr, as the quotes themselves explain, were referring to “witnessing” a man’s execution as a spectacle, even as a spectator sport, and are not an absolute prohibition of the death penalty. Catholic teaching from Augustine, Aquinas, through Cardinal Newman, right up through Pius XII, wrote of the just imposition of the death penalty where appropriately warranted.

    • SorryNotSorry says:

      I’m sorry you missed the moral theology lecture in which we are urged to value a 2 hour old embryo over a 20 year old individual, and we are urged to work full out against abortion but claim that the death penalty isn’t a topic worthy of papal opinion.


    • Yeah Really Anon….Really

    • I have seen more men kill and be killed then you ever could Anon.. your words mean nothing to me… zero….This Pope lost me when he got the thank you note from Planned Parenthood, but who am I to judge….

      • Cansisus: “This Pope lost me when he got the thank you note from Planned Parenthood”. Wow you are afraid of a thank you note? Not one sent, but one received? OOOOO that must be one scary thank you note.

        • No it just proved that Francis is appeasing the enemies of Christ…

        • Steve Phoenix says:

          Canisius, we appreciate your service to this country.

          Of course, you cant reason with some, especially those who have never served, as you know, what this has cost you.

          “Carry on, soldier.”

  21. Michael McDermott says:

    2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient…
    Senator Leno to Police Officers “Privacy? You Don’t Need No Stinking Privacy!”

    Imagine the ACLU suing to receive the private information of police officers. Then imagine a criminal group like the MS-13, the Mexican Mafia, maybe a racist group that believes only…

  22. Michael McDermott says:

    I still ask the same question as before about the California Execution of notorious ‘Crips’ Gang Leader stanley williams – after he was offered clemency if he cooperated with authorities trying to stop the murder and mayhem his gang was still conducting at His Orders – From Prison, via the grapevine…

    The issue of Prisoner Rights (Food, Medical,Solitary Confinement, Visitation…) Can Conflict with Gang Leaders (Like El Chapo) Communicating with the outside, and exercising the power of murder from behind bars.

    What is the answer when this situation arises??

  23. Mercy is for those who have contrition, and who try to amend their lives. Instead of preaching against capitalism, the Pope should not be embracing communist/socialist ideas. Yes, greed is sinful, but so is atheism, abortion, contraception, and sodomy. It seems the Pope is enamored with Cuba, China and other Marxist countries, but is scornful towards Catholic European ones. He praises Martin Luther, but is hateful towards traditionalists. This is scandalous.

    • How so is he hateful towards traditionalists? He specifically reached out in his Year of Mercy proclamation to traditionalists. Have traditionalists moved equally or any at all towards him or the Church?

      • Well destroying the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate order kind of proved this,, Anon….undo Vatican 2

        • The Pope disciplined the Friars because they were arguing amongst themselves and living in unity and charity, not because some of them are traditionalists.

          • Ann Malley says:

            ….and the evil warty witch really loved the princess. The prince, too! That’s why she poisoned them. So they could be beautiful and young throughout eternity – or at least until after the funeral. The end.

            Tell us another night night story, Daddy Mous ;^)

      • Steve Phoenix says:

        Let’s see: Pope Francis, category: “Charity toward traditionalists”.

        Consider P Francis’ particularly unkind and uncharitable rhetoric, perhaps just some of the many nasty names he has flung at traditional Catholics (“those attached to laws” he says): “self-absorbed Promethean Pelagians” (Ev. Gaudium, n. 94), “Pharisees”, “Hypocrites”, “Close-minded men” (Commonweal interview 11/4/14),”Gnostics” (address Nov, 2015) and of course, his richest attacks are on “fundamentalist” Catholics, “those”, he says, “who believe they have the absolute truth” (interview, 11/30/15, with Philippine de St Pierre of French new org KTO.

        I only have 750 characters, and Bob One is offended if we post too many incontrovertible facts: too…

        • Steve Phoenix says:

          …too many facts (“Ow! Ow! Ow!”, too much truth.

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            And the worst thing this “Santo Papa” has called trad-Catholics is “Pharisees”: since Progressives are very good at “code-language”, that means “Christ-Killers”. Happy Lent to trad Catholics therefore.

  24. Pope Francis’ reasoning is greatly flawed. The sensation he caused when declaring Trump a non-Christian was terrible, and illogical. Walls were built from Roman times up until after the Middle Ages to keep the barbarians out. Go to Europe and see the walls that surround almost every major town. Even Vatican City has a wall. Pope Benedict spoke against the death penalty, but he did it with style and grace, and he was never boorish. Ave Maria Purrissima !

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      There is NO wall separating the vatican from the surrounding city of Rome. There is a PART of a wall, that is true. And the Pope didn’t say we should NEVER build walls, he only said that if you are all about building walls, and never about building bridges, that is where you get into trouble. Do you actually LISTEN to the pontiff? or do you just pontificate on your own?

  25. I do not pontificate on my own. Most of Vatican City is walled in. I lived in Rome, so I write with experience and knowledge. My mind, reasoning and judgement are not clouded in mortal sin, especially the grave sin of sodomy. The Pope intimated that walls should not be built. I have heard his speech, as well as the words of several pundits. I stand firm in my statements which you cannot refute. Ave Maria Purrissima !

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Stand firm, o Roman citizen! Except that there is no wall separating the most important part of Vatican City – St Peter’s – from the rest of Rome. So stand firm all you want, pontificate all you want from the seven hills, but the title of the Pope is Supreme Pontiff – Bridge Builder. Not wall builder. And there is no wall separating St. Peter’s square from Rome. None. Ave Maria Purrissima!!!

      • Ann Malley says:

        ….and the wall proposed for our southern border would have a big, beautiful door in it. Stand firm, O US Citizen! And yes, the Pope is the Bridge Builder, but the bridge is supposed to span from us to the Truth, not from us to Francis’s talking points. He who builds on sand is in for trouble, YFC, hence the Vatican walk-back.

  26. In answer to John Wilderding: The Pope has continually condemed child abuse and violence in the family. This has been one of his biggest themes. We need to pick up on teaching parenting. I Ephisians is clear on how parents our to treat their children. Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
    What is love, but gentle, kind, and understanding, I believe that is what the bringing your child up in the Lord means.

  27. If a society is permissive of abortion, to be consistently pro-death, it has to abolish the death penalty. After all, the death penalty is exclusively reserved for murderers of innocents. Just like abortionists are murderers of innocents. Murderers have to be allowed to walk in a pro-death society, and they must be allowed to continue to kill. No matter what, a pro-death society cannot execute its death agents. Saying that a consistent pro-life ethic requires abolishing the death penalty is a diabolic inversion.

  28. While there is no wall separating St. Peter’s Basilica from Rome, it is quite difficult to exit the basilica and directly enter Vatican City. There are Swiss Guards at the main entrances to Vatican City (including the Porto Santa Anna), and except for the Piazza San Pietro, there is a wall around the rest of Vatican City.

  29. To quote another Catholic website (Rorate Caeli), ‘thank you, Holy Father, for your silence, as the Italian senate ok’s sodomite unions.’ The Pope seems to have his own agenda, and it is not one that builds up the Mystical Body of Christ.

  30. Father Karl says:

    Having studied in Rome, being ordained a priest in Rome, and having lived in Rome, I can tell you that there is a wall, shaped like a horse shoe, surrounding Vatican City. In the open part of the horse shoe stands St. Peter’s. One cannot easily exit the basilica in order to enter into Vatican City as there are locked and guarded doors. So basically Vatican City is a walled in nation.

  31. Pilate said to Him “Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered “You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above.” Jn 19:10-11.

  32. Yes, the death penalty might not be the nicest punishment, but it is just if a jury finds the charged person guilty of a very serious crime. But, there are more important things to worry about. The new evangelization is NOT working; daily people are leaving the Catholic Church in droves; Catholics know NOTHING about their faith or morality. In order words, the Church is disappearing, while Pope Francis is concerned with promoting liberation theology.

  33. Anonymous says:

    You pro-death, pro-death-penalty guys would have LOVED being part of the Salem witch trials when (as now) innocent people often got executed. I remember from high school…”Sarah Goold’s execution occurred on Tuesday July 19, 1692. According to local tradition, when Good stood at the gallows prepared to die she was asked once more by Rev. Nicholas Noyes, assistant minister in the Salem church, to confess and thus save her immortal soul. Far from confessing, Good is said to have screamed, ‘You’re a liar! I’m no more a witch than you are a wizard! If you take my life away, God will give you blood to drink!’ It was this constant refusal to confess that Bernard Rosenthal believes led Good to the Gallows, even more so than all of the…

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COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.