The UN General Assembly voted yesterday for a moratorium on the death penalty, advocated by almost all European and Western nations, but voted against by the world's greatest violators of human rights: China, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia.
The only major western nation to be included in this roll of dishonor was (you guessed it) the United States of America.
The nonbinding resolution calling for the moratorium received 107 votes in favor, 38 against and 36 abstentions.
But what's interesting is the trend. The number of 'yes' votes was slightly higher than in December 2007 when a similar resolution received 104 votes in favor; but votes against have dropped sharply: 54 in 2007, 38 now.
According to Mario Marazziti of the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio -- the Catholic organization that works tirelessly towards abolition together with the European Union, Amnesty International and civil-society organisations -- the votes indicate "an irreversible trend to ending the death penalty in the world".
It is due to Sant'Egidio that two UN members, the Maldives and Mongolia, have moved into the abolitionist camp.
The US stands out as the only major western nation standing against an incoming tide of moral awareness, a great awakening, that in recent years has seen many African and Asian countries moving over into the abolitionist camp.
Yet American conservatives -- including, shockingly, many Catholics, in spite of clear magisterial teaching -- continue to try to justify it with quotes from the Bible, just like the slaveholders of old.
Over here in Europe, we remain deeply shocked and scandalized by the death penalty in the US. Talking to its American advocates is very similar to talking to a certain kind of feminist convinced of a woman's "right to choose" abortion.
Often, of course, those advocates of the death penalty describe themselves as "pro-life", and lecture other Catholics about their lack of orthodoxy. I've noticed that "pro-life, pro-death" Catholics are usually very angry. It doesn't take a psychologist to work out why.