Reflection: “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. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.” (Pope John Paul II, January 27,1999, St. Louis, Missouri)
Six Communities of Women Religious Take
Corporate Stance Against the Death Penalty
Six religious communities of women, serving in Connecticut, representing over 1,000 Sisters and Associates in their respective communities have taken a strong corporate stance against the Death Penalty:
In a combined statement they write:
“We declare our solidarity with all concerned persons throughout the world who reverence the value and dignity of human life. Through this statement we express corporately our opposition to capital punishment which terminates human life and prohibits a natural death. Our corporate commitment to nonviolence and our preferential option for the poor are the core upon which we base our position and which are the values which challenge us to action.”
1. We are committed to nonviolence. The entire process around capital punishment is violent. It brutalizes everyone involved. An execution itself is a violent action and we believe that no method of execution can be considered humane.
2. We are concerned about the poor. We are concerned about the poor because the death penalty is disproportionately imposed upon the poor.
3. The death penalty is not a deterrent. Research on the issue of the death penalty confirms that the death penalty does not deter individuals from violent action. Rather, studies have shown that following an execution, the rate of homicides in a state frequently rises.
4. We are followers of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we identify with Jesus, who when asked to rule on a death penalty case, responded, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”
5. We are members of a Church that opposes capital punishment. We fully endorse the January 9, 2005 pastoral letter from Archbishop Henry J. Mansell which states: “Specifically in regard to capital punishment, we note increasing reliance on the death penalty, which diminishes each of us. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life only by taking life”, and concludes: “we, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Connecticut express our considered opposition to the death penalty in the state of Connecticut.”
We take very seriously the warning of the U.S. Bishops in their pastoral, The Challenge of Peace, which states: “The possibility of taking even one human life is a prospect we should consider in fear and trembling.” In an even stronger and more directional statement of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, 2, he exhorts, “ 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. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals a chance to reform. I renew the appeal for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”
6. Capital Punishment makes no sense. We are appalled by the killing of murderers to demonstrate that killing is wrong and that our state would perpetuate violence through the use of capital punishment. We are the only super power democracy that still uses capital punishment. We are grieved by the fact that there have been persons executed in our country who were later proven innocent.
We reverence the dignity of each person and we uphold the right of each person to have the opportunity for conversion and redemption. It is not a question of who the offender is, or what has been done, but rather, who we are as people of God.
We challenge our State to use its power appropriately, not to kill but to safeguard the lives of all its people. We call upon our State leaders to pursue authentic solutions to violence and to reconsider what it sees as a just retribution in our society. The death penalty is neither a solution to violence nor just retribution.
The six communities of Women Religious are:
Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery Daughters of the Holy Spirit
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Sisters of Mercy of Connecticut
Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception
Congregation of Notre Dame 2005
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