Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
Three years ago at this time I was part of a delegation of California bishops who paid a pastoral visit to San Quentin State Prison. While there, we had the opportunity to meet with a number of the inmates on death row, hearing their stories, learning of the misfortunes in their lives, and becoming sensitized to their deep spiritual yearnings and innate desire for God. The experience put a human face on a tragic human condition that we very comfortably can – and usually do – completely ignore.
This experience also highlights the challenge we as a society face in determining how we can foster peace in this increasingly violent and complicated world. The answer is certainly not by inflicting more violence. As we, the Catholic bishops of California, said in our statement reaffirming our opposition to the death penalty: “Our support to end the use of the death penalty is also rooted in our unshakable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime…. As we pray with them and mourn with them we must also stress that the current use of the death penalty does not promote healing. It only brings more violence to a world that has too much violence already.”
We teach on this sensitive matter aware of the complexities of this issue, but also in communion with the bishops throughout the United States, with conferences of bishops throughout the world, and with the consistent teachings of the Popes of our time. As Pope Francis has recently stated: “The death penalty is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it … does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance… the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender” (message to the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty, June 2016).
As California citizens we have an opportunity to make our voices heard on behalf of the inviolability of human life and for rehabilitation over retribution. I ask you to join me in voting to end the death penalty in our state by voting Yes on Proposition 62, and voting No on 66. Doing so will put to end the myths of capital punishment – such as the assertion that it serves as a deterrent to violent crimes – and also to the flaws it perpetrates, such as its disproportionate use on the poor and minorities. Most tragic of all, though, is the finality of the sentence: no restitution is possible for a wrongful execution. Since 1973, 151 people have been released from death rows in the United States due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. How many were not so fortunate?
Voting Yes on Proposition 62 will be a vote affirming the human dignity of those on death row, affording them the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves. I also ask you to join me and my fellow California bishops by opposing Proposition 66. This Proposition would expedite executions in California. A rush to streamline that process will inevitably result in the execution of more innocent people.
In a decisive historical moment for the ancient people of Israel, when they were about to cross the Jordan River to occupy the Promised Land after wandering forty years in the Sinai Desert, Moses told them: “I set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you … may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
We are likewise at a decisive moment in our country and state, and we, too, are given the same choice, a choice we will make when casting our vote this November. Let us choose life, then, that we may live.
Posted on 08. Feb, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
The following is from a writer from Yahoo:
Nearly 750 men who have all been condemned to death live in San Quentin State Prison, California, home to the largest death row in America. Many inmates have been held in the facility for years, unsure when and if the lethal injection – the punishment allotted to them – will be administered. Executions are currently on hold in the state while a new three-drug method is considered to replace the previous one-drug technique, which was ruled to be a cruel and unusual punishment by a federal judge in 2002. This state of limbo means inmates are currently more likely to die from natural causes than to be executed. Inmates receive a minimum of 10 hours recreation time each week, spent in the caged prison yard. They are able to communicate with their cell neighbours, and to purchase small TVs to watch. Since 1978, 13 people have been executed in California.
For the full story and for more photos, click here.
Posted on 29. Jul, 2015 by Franciscans For Justice.
The bishops chairing two committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) renewed the bishops’ opposition to the death penalty in a message, July 16. The message commemorated the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and their accompanying message, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.”
“Our faith tradition offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake. No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. Today, we have this capability,” wrote Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston.
To read more, click here.
Posted on 11. Apr, 2015 by Franciscans For Justice.
The following article is from the Vatican Radio:
The Holy See on Wednesday declared “bloodless means” are capable of defending the common good and upholding justice, and called on States to abolish the death penalty.
Speaking to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, urged countries to use a “more humane” form of punishment.
“As for those countries that claim it is not yet feasible to relinquish this practice, my Delegation encourages them to strive to become capable of doing so,” Archbishop Tomasi said.
The full text of Archbishop Tomasi’s intervention is below
Statement by His Excellency Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item 1 – Biennial High-Level Panel on
“The Question of the Death Penalty”
4 March 2015
The Delegation of the Holy See is pleased to take part in this first biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty and joins an increasing number of States in supporting the fifth UN General Assembly resolution calling for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Public opinion and support of the various provisions aimed at abolishing the death penalty, or suspending its application, is growing. This provides a strong momentum which this Delegation hopes will encourage States still applying the death penalty to move in the direction of its abolition.
The position of the Holy See on this issue has been more clearly articulated in the past decades. In fact, twenty years ago, the issue was framed within the proper ethical context of defending the inviolable dignity of the human person and the role of the legitimate authority to defend in a just manner the common good of society. Considering the practical circumstances found in most States, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, it appears evident nowadays that means other than the death penalty “… are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons.” For that reason, “public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”
Political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order are moving in the right direction.
Pope Francis has further emphasized that the legislative and judicial practice of the State authority must always be guided by the “primacy of human life and the dignity of the human person.” He noted as well “the possibility of judicial error and the use made by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes… as a means of suppressing political dissidence or of persecuting religious and cultural minorities.”
Thus, respect for the dignity of every human person and the common good are the two pillars on which the position of the Holy See has developed. These principles converge with a similar development in international human rights law and jurisprudence. Moreover, we should take into account that no clear positive effect of deterrence results from the application of the death penalty and that the irreversibility of this punishment does not allow for eventual corrections in the case of wrongful convictions.
My Delegation contends that bloodless means of defending the common good and upholding justice are possible, and calls on States to adapt their penal system to demonstrate their adhesion to a more humane form of punishment. As for those countries that claim it is not yet feasible to relinquish this practice, my Delegation encourages them to strive to become capable of doing so.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Holy See Delegation fully supports the efforts to abolish the use of the death penalty. In order to arrive at this desired goal, these steps need to be taken: 1) to sustain the social reforms that would enable society to implement the abolition of the death penalty; 2) to improve prison conditions, to ensure respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Posted on 24. Jan, 2014 by Franciscans For Justice.
Take action to implement an immediate moratorium following the execution by suffocation of Dennis McGuire on January 16, 2014. Experimental executions must not proceed, and the public and Ohio’s legislature need time to review and pass legislation related to the upcoming recommendations of the Joint Task Force created to study the administration of Ohio’s capital punishment system. For more information and to take action, click here.
For more opportunities to take action, visit our Action Alerts page.