The media has opened the doors of our execution chambers. Today, even those who trust in so-called "humane methods of killing" are jolted to hear about the tortuous descriptions of recent state sanctioned killings in the U.S. justice system.
Almost 10 years ago our bishops launched a campaign to end the use of the death penalty. They asked us to mobilize as one, to lift our voices, and bring about an end to the cycle of violence perpetuated by executions. As the 10th anniversary of this major campaign approaches, we need your voice and ask you to re-commit yourself to this important pro-life work.
Become educated. Teach others. Promote our Church’s teaching about the sanctity of all life with fellow parishioner. Raise your voice and engage with your state organizations and Catholic conference.
Success is close at hand, but we must continue our focused efforts to end the use of the death penalty. Working together, we can change our culture from one that uses violence to solve its problems to one that values life..
In this August 2014 newsletter you will find:
EVEN THE SMALLEST OF SEEDS GROWS INTO EVERLASTING LIFE
By Adrienne Walsh, Director of Advancement
In high school, I was cast in the musical “Godspell” by Stephen Schwartz. The musical is structured around a series of parables based on the Gospel of Matthew. The parable I was chosen to memorize and perform was Jesus’ story of the mustard seed:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matt: 13:31-32)
As I have grown into adulthood, I have interpreted this to mean that even the smallest act of generosity can grow into something far beyond our imagination. Each good deed performed in our lifetime grows to form a community of love and helps God build the kingdom of heaven. We bring God’s kingdom of peace, unity and love to a world faced with hostility, division and conflict. In fact, charitable giving is exactly what we are called to do as Catholics – preach the Gospel of Christ in word and action.
So today, I ask you to invest your “mustard seed” into what Catholic Mobilizing Network hopes to grow into a tree of new life. Consider a one-time or recurring donation today.
CMN lifts up the Catholic voice to end the death penalty but the fruits of our labor will not ripen without your help. I know our collaboration will be one of divine intervention and we will walk side-by-side to proclaim the Church’s unconditional pro-life teaching and promote restorative justice.
FLORIDA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE SUPPORTS ‘YES’ TO ALL LIFE
By Ingrid Delgado, Florida Catholic Conference, Associate for Social Concerns/Respect Life
There is an overwhelming disparity in who is sentenced to death depending on the victim’s race, defendant’s race, quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed. The South has carried out 82 percent of all executions since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. This concerns Floridians, whose state has led the country in the number of death sentences for the past two years, houses the second-largest death row population in the country, and is responsible for the second-highest number of executions (7) carried out in 2013.
But more importantly, we recall that we worship a God who so loved the world that he gave his only son to cleanse us of our sins – yes, even the sins of criminals - by shedding his blood at his own execution. We are called to a challenging but beautiful faith that dares us to say an unreserved ‘yes’ to all life and to forgive others’ trespasses as ours have been forgiven.
HELP END FLORIDA’S NOTORIOUS DEATH PENALTY
By Mark Elliott, Executive Director, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Florida’s death penalty program is notorious for its national record number of exonerated Death Row survivors. Since the 1970s, more than 24 wrongfully convicted people were exonerated and freed from Florida’s death row. Frank Lee Smith died of cancer after languishing 14 years on death row - mere months before DNA evidence testing previously blocked by the state revealed his innocence. Like 80 percent of the Floridians wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, Frank Lee Smith was a person of color.
Executions are irreversible and unnecessary. In Florida, the statutory alternative to the death penalty is incarceration until death. Florida’s arbitrary execution selection process has more to do with race, county politics and poverty.
CMN BUILDS CONNECTIONS AND ENHANCES PUBLIC PROFILE
CMN staff and speakers continue to connect with thousands through our media outreach efforts as we work to build a coalition of national support to end the death penalty. This month, Sr. Ilaria Buonriposi, Director of Hispanic Outreach, recorded more of our popular free and downloadable podcasts, which are syndicated to more than 150 Catholic Spanish radio stations across the country. Join us in educating others by using them in your diocese to reach Spanish speaking Catholics.
Dale Recinella, a speaker for CMN, was once again highlighted in America magazine. His remarkable July 26th interview, “Finding God on Death Row,” spotlights his ministry to those on death row and in solitary confinement. He tells a powerful story and puts a human face on the so-called “monsters” on death row in Florida. Dale reminds us, “The secular culture could be crying for vengeance, but faithful Catholics don’t start with the noise in the street.” Visit Dale’s website at www.iwasinprison.org to support his ministry.
CMN was also included in an editorial “The Death Penalty Revisited,” written by Sr. Barbara Mayer for the Global Sisters Report, a publication of Catholic News Service. Sr. Barbara is a part of the CMN Religious Coalition – a growing national group of consecrated sisters and brothers working in restorative justice programs across the country. If you would like to be a part of this collaborative group, sharing ideas and supporting one another, email email@example.com.
CMN’s book Where Justice and Mercy Meet was featured in Tobias Winright’s recent article, “Instruments of Death,” which appeared in The Christian Century. Tobias, who teaches theological ethics at Saint Louis University, refutes the idea that executions can be humane and also reflects on the burden of moral injury that those who participate in an execution may experience.
POSTERS TO PROMOTE CATHOLIC DEATH PENALTY TEACHING
One of John August Swanson's posters, now available from CMN. Click the image to view all the posters.
In partnership with artist John August Swanson, CMN offers colorful, eye-catching posters to help you end the use of the death penalty in your state. Available in four designs, and in both English and Spanish, the posters depict the execution of Christ – making the connection that Jesus himself suffered state-sanctioned execution. The posters also remind us of Jesus’ forgiveness and messaging of non-violence.
Consider hanging these posters in your parish gathering spaces, schools, or youth group meeting rooms, or offer them as a giveaway at a special event. The artist has also given us permission to customize the messages on the poster, so that you can spread your organization’s specific message about ending the death penalty in your state.
Read more and view sample versions of the posters.
CMN WELCOMES NEW DIRECTOR OF ADVANCEMENT AND NEW PROGRAM ASSISTANT
CMN is pleased to announce the addition of two new staff members in its Washington, D.C. office. Lydia Cocom (pictured left), our new Program Assistant, and Adrienne Walsh (right), our Director of Advancement.
CNN WEBSITE HIGHLIGHTS MINISTRY OF SISTER HELEN PREJEAN
This month, CNN.com published an excellent profile of Sr. Helen Prejean and her national work to end the death penalty. The article, written by Moni Basu, highlights the recent torturous executions that have been in the national news, as well as Sr. Helen’s history of activism, her vision of the future and her current work with Manuel Ortiz on Louisiana State Prison’s Death Row – a man she believes is innocent. You can keep up to date on Sister Helen’s activities by signing up for Death Penalty Discourse, Sr. Helen’s newsletter, here.
September 19-20: North Carolina Eucharistic Congress (Charlotte, N.C.)
CMN will exhibit materials at this annual event The booth will be staffed by volunteers from the Sisters of Mercy and the Gastonians Against the Death Penalty. For more information about the event visit the Congress website.
October 17: Respect for Life Month Death Penalty Walk (Livingston, Texas)
Save the Date! CMN, the Diocese of Beaumont and the Texas Catholic Conference will be co-sponsoring this event. Details to follow in next month's newsletter.
Calling all Knights on Bikes for the prayerful walk. For more information contact Carl Woodall, Pro-Life Director for the Texas Knights of Columbus at (409) 781-4509 or or firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 21: Encounter, Compassion and Hope: A Conference on Restorative Justice (Washington, D.C.)
Save the Date! CMN and The Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America will be hosting this national conference, featuring two restorative justice practitioner presentations: Fr. David Kelly, Executive Director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR), and John Sage, Founder and Executive Director of Bridges to Life. Two responding panels have also been created. Download a publicity flyer to share.
Want to know what else we're up to? Check out our full Calendar of Events.