This week we were sent forth with John's Gospel message, "This I command you; love one another." (Jn 15:17) Our Easter message continues to expand on who we are called to love, how we are called to love and what truly loving costs. As Christians today we have to work to reignite this call to love in a society that seems to only demonize the "other." John's Gospel reminds us, "it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain..." (Jn 15:16) Love bears fruit, not anger or violence. This message comes at a cost. There are times in life it is not easy to forgive and love. It is only through forgiveness that true healing occurs and the gift of peace follows.
Let us all work towards helping healing occur in the many systems and individuals that touch our lives. We hear the words of Rev. Brendan McGuire in his homily recording (see below for a link) reminding us of words attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Let us all pray for the renewed energy in our faith to help California and the many states with upcoming legislative actions to change the culture of our country into one promoting life and restorative justice.
In this May 2012 e-newsletter you will find:
CMN news: new quotes and FACTs sheet for bulletin use; register now for july conference in maryland
Quotes and Facts About the Death Penalty: This new bulletin fact sheet provided by CMN (pictured at right) presents key quotations from Catholic leaders and other facts relevant to the death penalty for you to use and share with others. Please feel free to add your state's information for greater impact.
"Catholics and the Death Penalty": Join CMN and co-sponsor Mount Saint Mary's University for a two-day conference July 27-28.
Register | View the event flyer
AN INTERVIEW WITH NED DOLEJSI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE
Karen Clifton: Thank you, Ned, for agreeing to this interview. First of all, let me express heartiest congratulations from the Catholic Mobilizing Network staff to you and the SAFE California campaign upon reaching the goal of collecting 800,000 signatures on your petition for a November ballot to replace the state’s death penalty!
Edward E. “Ned” Dolejsi: Thank you, Karen, for the opportunity to speak about this achievement. We are assured now that there will be a proposition – yet to be numbered – on California’s November ballot to replace the death penalty with the sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
Karen: What can we learn, Ned, from this success?
Ned: The SAFE campaign began two years ago with colleagues from many different groups across this state coming together to research, plan, conduct feasibility studies and finally make the decision to move forward. Catholic volunteers and groups at the parish level stepped forward to assist the campaign by collecting signatures last February. All of our bishops participated in encouraging the people. They saw the November 2012 general election as giving our Church a unique opportunity to publicly advocate for the life and dignity of every human person.
Karen: What are the challenges and next steps for the SAFE campaign?
Ned: This phase of the SAFE California campaign is a time when the voting public can learn of the wisdom of replacing the sentence of death with the sentence of life imprisonment. The challenge in the next months is how to assist the Catholic people in forming their consciences on the issue and inviting them to vote for the Initiative. Lay and clergy leaders are getting out the information on why we are opposed to the use of the death penalty and why life without parole is better for the safety and the common good of Californians. There is also a great ongoing need for fundraising for the campaign, especially through July and August, because of the big push to buy media time during the General election. (Editor’s Note: Contributions may be made through the SAFE California campaign.)
Karen: What are some of the campaign objectives in this phase?
Ned: There is a need to get conservatives on board and the voters in the Latino community, many who either don’t know the Catholic position on the use of the death penalty or who don’t oppose it. We need to emphasize more that Catholic social teaching on the death penalty as a life issue, along with abortion and euthanasia. The bishops are ready to step forward on the death penalty, especially in this phase of the campaign. In May and June some will use their daily or weekly radio programming to reach out, in particular, to the Catholic Latino population. Many Latinos are most comfortable with radio messages, so this is critical to the campaign. The Catholic diocesan press is also an important educational arm of the SAFE campaign. For example, the media often carry stories of people who have reversed their views and now oppose the penalty; these are very compelling and effective educational tools. (Editor’s Note: For one such story, please refer to the interview with Jeanne Woodford, ex-San Quentin warden, later in this newsletter.)
Karen: What is the role of the local pastor and how will every parish be engaged?
Ned: The Catholic Conference will be getting out homily ideas on the death penalty and restorative justice that reflect the themes of the readings at Sunday Masses. There will also be camera-ready church bulletin inserts on the Catholic social teachings involved. Our objective is not to tell the people how to vote but that the Catholic Church is in favor of replacing the death penalty and why.
Karen: Are you hopeful of the voting outcome in November?
Ned: I am in that, overall, I believe the SAFE campaign will not only provide education on some of the extremely important life issues of our day but it will also help to get the people out to vote. The SAFE campaign encourages voter registration by linking discipleship with citizenship. There are other pro-life issues on the ballot: the amendment of the “three strikes” initiative to apply only to violent or serious felonies; and the sex slavery/human trafficking issue. The general election will be a unique moment for California Catholics to exercise responsible and faithful citizenship.
bishop garcia and fr. mcguire on the death penalty
Bishop Richard Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey offered some reflections at a rally to support the SAFE California Initiative to end the death penalty in that state. The event, in which CMN participated, was held during the 2012 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. He spoke about the unanimity of the bishops of California in support of the initiative and how the death penalty is a pro-life issue.
View the video
In this testimony before the California Death Penalty Commission, Fr. Brendan McGuire – a priest in the Diocese of San Jose – gives us wonderful food for thought as he reflects on the reality of anger and its influence in society’s promotion of the death penalty.
Listen to the audio
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEATH PENALTY IN CALIFORNIA
By Elizabeth Zitrin, Director of Special Projects, Death Penalty Focus
The death penalty was first authorized in California law in 1872. One hundred years later, the California Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, and 107 condemned prisoners were resentenced.
Some of the political leaders involved in the death penalty 35 years ago are still with us now, with the SAFE California Initiative to replace the death penalty qualified for the November 2012 ballot.
Our current Governor, Jerry Brown, was first elected to that office in 1974. He vetoed a death penalty bill in 1977, but his veto was overridden. Years before, when his father, Pat Brown, was Governor, the younger Brown lobbied his father not to execute convicted rapist Caryl Chessman.
In 1978, California voters passed the Briggs Initiative, which created our current death penalty statute, with a total of 28 “special circumstances” (later expanded to 39), which made most homicides eligible for the death penalty.
Now, 34 years later, Ron Briggs, son of John Briggs, an El Dorado County Supervisor, who strategized and worked for the Briggs Initiative with his father, has concluded that it was a terrible mistake and is working hard now for SAFE California, to replace the failed death penalty with life without possibility of parole.
Advocacy to replace the death penalty in California
Founded in 1988, Death Penalty Focus is the largest grassroots advocacy organization in the U.S. dedicated to ending capital punishment through public education; grassroots and political organizing; media outreach; local, state, national and international coalition-building; and the education of religious, legislative and civic leaders about the death penalty and its alternatives.
The Justice Advocates Project empowers people with firsthand experience of the death penalty system, including the wrongfully convicted and law enforcement professionals, to become advocates for fairness and justice. Justice Advocates work with DPF’s Law Enforcement Outreach (LEO) Project in bringing the voices of law enforcement professionals to the public discussion.
DPF pioneered collaboration with faith communities through the Clergy and Faith Community Mobilization Project and the 1000 Congregations Project. DPF’s International Outreach and Communications Project (IOCP) is unique in the U.S. in building important bridges between advocates for replacing the death penalty in the U.S. and the international community.
California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CCV) began as a DPF project. CCV is a coalition of families, friends and loved ones of murder victims who oppose the death penalty. The coalition supports families, friends and loved ones in telling their stories.
Replacing the Death Penalty in California in 2012 - the SAFE California Act
SAFE California is the Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act. It will replace California’s death penalty with a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole as the maximum punishment for murder. This means convicted killers will remain behind bars forever – with no risk of executing an innocent person.
Savings: Many people think that the death penalty is cheaper than life without parole. That is just not true. California taxpayers will save well over $100 million every year without releasing a single prisoner.
Accountability: Convicted killers will be held accountable and pay for their crimes. SAFE California requires persons convicted of murder to work and pay restitution into a victim’s compensation fund.
Full Enforcement: The SAFE California Fund takes $30 million a year for three years in budget savings and puts it into the investigation of unsolved rape and murder cases. Our limited law enforcement dollars should be used to solve more crimes, to get more criminals off our streets, and to protect our families.
Money for the SAFE California Fund comes directly from closing three state agencies that currently handle expensive and extensive appeals for death penalty cases. The SAFE California Fund gives a temporary boost to local law enforcement budgets at a time of severe budget shortfalls.
rev. michael carson interviews Jeanne Woodford of Death Penalty Focus
Rev. Michael Carson, Pastor of Queen of Apostles Church in the Diocese of San Jose and member of the State Board of California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty, recently interviewed Jeanne Woodford, executive director of Death Penalty Focus (DPF). Woodford previously served as the Undersecretary and Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Warden of San Quentin State Prison, where she oversaw four executions. Her journey from one responsible for executions at San Quentin State Prison to running one of the largest death penalty abolition organizations in the country is a remarkable one. Recently he had a chance to talk to her about this issue and about her work to end the death penalty in California.
Read the article: English | Espanol
Man Wrongly Convicted of Murder Released from California prison After 20 Years
Read the story of Franky Carrillo Jr., who was wrongly convicted of a 1991 murder and spent the last 20 years in prison in California.
Read the article: English | Espanol
Play Project Update: Wrapping Up A Successful Eighth Season
By Greg Callaghan, National Coordinator, Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project
The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project is wrapping up an excellent 8th season. Schools in California, Chicago, Illinois, Washington, New York, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Indiana, Utah, Ohio, and Washington, D.C, participated in the project during the 2011-2012 academic year. We are grateful to all of the casts, crews, and directors across the country that produced the play Dead Man Walking and explored the issue of the death penalty on and off the stage.
May 31-June 2: CMN will have an exhibit table at this year's National Association for Lay Ministry (NALM) gathering in Crystal City, Va. The theme for this year's conference is "New Vision, New Voice, and New Vitality" and will be focused on encouraging continued growth in lay ministry in the church. For more information about the conference, visit NALM's website.
June 2: CMN’s Dale Recinella will speak about his ministry to death row inmates at the University of Notre Dame 2012 Reunion from 9-11 a.m. at the Hammes Bookstore in the Eck Center. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
June 10-13: CMN’s Vicki Schieber will be facilitating workshops on the death penalty at the 31st annual National Convocation for Jail and Prison Ministry to be held these days at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa. For more information, visit the NCJPM website.
July 27-28: "Catholics and the Death Penalty," a two-day conference sponsored by Mount Saint Mary's University and CMN, will held this summer. It will include powerful stories from murder victims' family members, a wrongly accused death row inmate and death row ministers; presentations on Catholic teaching regarding the death penalty, and provide participants with a better understanding and deeper commitment to repeal. CMN speakers Vicki Schieber, Dale & Susan Recinella and Executive Director Karen Clifton are just some of the speakers presenting at this conference to be held on the Mount Saint Mary's University campus in Emmitsburg, Md. Registration options are for the whole conference or one day, and housing on campus is available. For more information and to register online or by phone, click here.
Want to know what else we're up to? Check out a full list of CMN Events.
Ohio: Ohioans to Stop Executions and People of Faith Against the Death Penalty have launched a new initiative to send a clear and compelling message to Ohio legislators and Ohio's governor: Ohioans do not wish to continue the broken and failed policy that is the death penalty. You may sign onto the petition as a leader of a community of faith here or sign on as a member of a faith community here.
California: All priests and deacons of the Diocese of San Diego are invited to attend a special luncheon with Bishop Cirilo Flores and Jeanne Woodford, Catholic lay leader, former Warden of San Quentin, and a SAFE California Initiative spokesperson. The event will take place on Thursday, May 17 from noon to 1:30 pm at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, 3888 Paducah Drive, San Diego. Lunch will be provided and is free. Come celebrate the success that the parishes of the Diocese of San Diego experienced in the signature-gathering phase of the SAFE California campaign to replace the death penalty with a sentence of “life without the possibility of parole.” Come learn more about the SAFE California Initiative itself and how parishes can play a major role in passing the SAFE California Initiative in the November 2012 General Election. Please RSVP to Maria Valencia in the Office for Social Ministry by email or at (858) 490-8323.
Louisiana: Join the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty for an intimate dinner and discussion with special guest Tom Lowenstein May 21, who will share his perspective on the death penalty as the son of a murder victim. Suggested donation $20. Numbers are strictly limited, so please contact the coalition if you wish to attend.
Washington, D.C.: From June 28 to July 2, the Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC) is holding its annual "Starvin' for Justice" fast and vigil to abolish the death penalty, taking place at the U.S. Supreme Court. For more information, visit the AAC website. You may also read a reflection about an experience at a previous year's fast from a Southern Methodist University student, Lauren Olsen.
California: Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Symposium on Crime, Punishment and the Common Good in California, sponsored by the California Catholic Conference, and co-sponsored and hosted by Loyola Marymount University and Loyola Law School, seeks to raise awareness of restorative justice as a better system of justice for victims, offenders and communities. Held from August 3-4 in Los Angeles, it will offer best and emerging practices that will bring society closer to this restorative ideal, and it will engage participants in a call to action to achieve this change. To learn more and to register, visit www.restorejustice.com, email or call (916) 313-4024.
For more events, news and resources, visit the By State section on the CMN website.