In this month of Thanksgiving, CMN is grateful for the gift of life - and most especially that we all live in a country with the freedom to vote and express our opinions. We are grateful for all of those who worked to educate its citizens, especially in California, on the dignity of every human person. Your work instills a hope in redemption for all humankind.
We have made tremendous progress in educating people on the Church's teaching and the practical facts about the death penalty and restorative justice. We pray for renewed strength to convert hearts and minds to the heart of the Gospel, which is love and forgiveness.
"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10)
In this November 2012 e-newsletter you will find:
The State of the Death Penalty in Texas
By Kristin Houle, Executive Director, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
While most Americans observe December 7th as Pearl Harbor Day, here in Texas that date holds additional significance. On December 7, 1982, Texas carried out its first execution since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the newly written death penalty statutes of Texas and other states in 1976 (Gregg vs. Georgia). On that day, Charlie Brooks became the first person in the country to be executed by lethal injection. Six years later, on December 7, 1989, the state put Carlos DeLuna to death for a crime he almost certainly did not commit.
Now, 30 years later, Texas continues to lead the nation in executions. Our state has carried out 13 executions to date this year, with two more scheduled in November. Overall, Texas accounts for 490 executions, out of more than 1,300 nationwide.
Yet like the rest of the country, Texas is moving away from the death penalty. New death sentences have declined more than 70% since 2003. In real numbers, in 1999 juries imposed 48 new death sentences; last year there were eight, the lowest since reinstatement in 1976. Statewide, seven new death sentences have been imposed to date this year and are increasingly isolated to just a few jurisdictions statewide.
Texas' San Angelo Diocese Brings a Message of Hope
By Marie Huemmer, Communication Director, Texas Catholic Conference
The San Angelo Diocese’s Criminal Justice Ministry is dedicated to bringing a message of faith, hope, justice, and reconciliation to all who are affected by the tragedy of crime and violence, and especially to the over 8,000 Catholics who live in the 55 incarceration facilities throughout the diocese. Through diocesan-wide outreach, the ministry recruits and trains volunteers who work to provide support, promote justice, and offer service to the incarcerated, their families, victims’ families, and ex-offenders transitioning back into society.
The Diocesan Criminal Justice ministry specifically works to accomplish the following goals:
1. Offer worship, prayer, and Catholic teaching at each prison, similar to what is provided in a Catholic parish.
2. Establish CJM support groups in the major towns to develop outreach efforts to ex-offenders and their families, as well as provide education on social justice issues.
3. Reach out to Ex-Offenders and their Families.
4. Address Social Justice Issues related to Criminal Justice.
Spotlight on Ministry of the Third Cross
Sylvia Steadham coordinates the Diocese of San Angelo’s Ministry of the Third Cross – a ministry to young women ages 12-18 from across the state of Texas, who are incarcerated for serious crimes. Volunteers, along with local priest Fr. Tom Barley, visit the women at the prison once a month and try to spend at least a half hour with those they meet. They also offer baptismal classes and other religious education opportunities to women who wish to participate; twelve women have already been baptized into the Catholic faith. Working with the unit chaplain, volunteers have helped provide the women with items such as toothbrushes and clothing, as well as rosaries and prayer cards. “We try to comprehensively address the needs of the girls,” Sylvia said.
Statewide Criminal Justice Advocacy
The Texas Catholic Conference (TCC) advocates on behalf of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas for policies and programs that support the life and dignity of every human person from conception through natural death. The TCC’s public policy positions are rooted in Catholic social and moral teaching and serve to: uphold the sanctity of life; lift up the poor and vulnerable; and help promote the common good.
new resource: prayer Vigil on the Day oF An Execution
Create for CMN by Pat DoyleDrawn from the resources compiled for a vigil in Texas, CMN is pleased to introduce this bilingual resource to assist those planning prayer vigils in states where condemned prisoners are to be executed. Although it is specifically worded for a vigil on the night before or day of a scheduled execution, it is easily adaptable to other times. It includes prayers, readings from the Scriptures, and helpful suggestions for preparing information about the person to be executed and sample announcements for bulletins or other media.
Click here to learn more and to download the file
Click here to view other prayers and inspiration resources.
For more information about activities related to the death penalty in Texas, visit our Texas page.
New Book Co-Authored by Faculty of Mount Saint Mary's University
Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty
Edited by Vicki Schieber, Trudy D. Conway, and David Matzko McCarthy
Foreword by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ
Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty comprehensively explores the Catholic stance against capital punishment in new and important ways. Shaped in conversation with CMN, as well as through the witness of family members of murder victims and the spiritual advisors of condemned inmates, this book offers new insight into the debates about capital punishment. The foundation for the church’s position on the death penalty is illuminated by discussion of the life and death of Jesus, Scripture, the Mass, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the teachings of Pope John Paul II. This enlightening book provides contemporary stories and examples, plus discussion questions to engage groups in exploring complex issues.
This book can be preordered now from Liturgical Press for a savings of 25 percent. Save even more when you order 10 copies.
To order, click here.
To read more about the book click here.
Narrow Margin of Loss on Proposition Shows That Californians Are Changing Their Hearts - But Slowly
By Karen Clifton, Executive Director, Catholic Mobilizing Network
Nearly 4.5 million Californians brought the state within inches of choosing life without parole over the use of the death penalty. Although Proposition 34 failed to pass, the outcome shows promise that we are close to changing the culture of California – from one of retribution to one of restorative justice. Of the six proposals that failed, Prop 34 lost by the narrowest margin of all of them and had the most votes in favor – indicating the truly close call that it was. Just 500,000 votes determined the final outcome.
The Catholic Church – represented by our bishops, priests, deacons, sisters, lay people, ministers and others – was out in front during the campaign sharing our important message of life, justice and mercy. Along with these thousands, Catholic Mobilizing Network stands ready to carry on the good work of education and outreach that will one day close this narrow gap. There is more work to be done to change hearts and minds. Education is the key.
“The mere fact that the state is evenly divided is nothing short of extraordinary. In 1978, 71 percent of the electorate supported the Briggs Death Penalty Initiative and now, after hearing the facts, voters are almost evenly split,” said Jeanne Woodford, the official proponent of the SAFE California Campaign and former Warden at San Quentin State Prison where she oversaw four executions. “This is a dramatic shift in public opinion. Millions of Californians now prefer the sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole to a wasteful and risky death penalty that has no benefit.”
We are grateful for all of the work that has been done by Catholic Bishops, priests, deacons, Congregations of Sisters, ministers, and educators to promote the Church’s unconditional pro-life teaching on the use of the death penalty. We are confident that California has the end of the use of the death penalty in sight.
Below are other key statements from Catholic leadership and media in California to Proposition 34's narrow defeat:
- A response from the California Catholic Conference
- A response from the Religious Sisters' Joint Campaign for SAFE California
- A response from Radio Santisimo of Sacramento in English and Spanish
new book: 'Love in a Cauldron of Misery: Perspectives on Christian Prison Ministry'
Love in a Cauldron of Misery: Perspectives on Christian Prison Ministry
By Kirk Blackard
“Kirk Blackard took extensive research, his practical knowledge of law, and his hands-on work in restorative justice to create a readable and poignant history of our judicial system. Through storytelling and anecdotes, this book speaks to both the head and the heart, making the case that we move our criminal justice system of retribution to a restorative system for those affected by crime." – Karen Clifton, Executive Director, Catholic Mobilizing Network
Learn more about this book here.
PLAY PROJECT UPDATE: NINTH SEASON under way
By Greg Callaghan, National Coordinator, Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project Our ninth season is well under way, and high school students and teachers have been making theatre and taking action across the country. At Brighton High School in Rochester, N.Y., 25 teachers in 11 departments are integrating the themes from the play into their curriculum this year. Students in advanced literature classes will write a yearlong paper on social justice, based on several readings. A peer support group in the counseling department is doing improvisational role-playing, using theater games to talk about justice and empathy. A chemistry teacher is doing a lesson on the drugs used in lethal injections.
quick quiz: cmn November 2012 newsletter
Compiled by Sr. Kathie Uhler, OSF, Assistant to the Executive Director
How’s your recall? Try this QUICK QUIZ on the November CMN Newsletter:
True or False, or Both True and False:
1. There are 8,000 Catholics in 55 correctional institutions in the state of Texas.
2. The sentencing option of life in prison with the possibility of parole is one of the reasons for the decline in new death sentences.
3. The Texas Catholic Conference supports penal reform and ending the death penalty because these policies would strengthen the common good.
4. In Texas, the Catholic Conference supports efforts to assist in the transition of ex-offenders into society, including the opt-out ban on drug felons receiving SNAP and student loans.
5. When Jesus says to the outcasts of society, like those on death row, “I will eat with you,” he renders them acceptable.
6. Like the rest of the country, Texas is moving away from the death penalty.
7. On December 7, 1982, Texas carried out the first execution in the U.S. since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the newly written death penalty statutes of Texas and other states in 1976.
8. Texas continues to lead the nation in executions, and death sentences continue from throughout the state’s jurisdictions.
9. Improvements to the quality of legal counsel for defendants is one reason for the decline in new death sentences in Texas.
10. Those who live in states that have repealed the death penalty do not bear the guilt for the executions of the other states.
Click here to view the answers.
November 16-18: CMN will have two Workshops at the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) Teach-In in Crystal City, Va. Vicki Schieber assisted by Anne Feczko will be presenting a workshop and Will Cooke will be directing a One Act Play of Dead Man Walking with a interactive feedback by Cathy Jarboe. Sr. Kathie Uhler will be exhibiting. The weekend includes a gathering of over 1,200 Ignatian-inspired leaders for a full weekend of keynotes, breakouts, and action activities for justice. For more information, visit the ISN website.
November 16-18: The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) is sponsoring an Abolition Leadership Training Workshop in Washington, D.C. CMN’s Cathy Jarboe and Sr. Ilaria Buonriposi will participate. For more information click here.
November 28: CMN's Vicki Schieber will be presenting along with other CMN staff, in conjunction with representatives from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at a meeting of state diocesan directors for in-depth teaching and training about Catholic teaching and the death penalty in Washington, D.C.
November 29: CMN’s Executive Director Karen Clifton and Education Coordinator Vicki Schieber will be presenting as part of a discussion panel entitlted "No Justice Without Life." It is co-sponsored by The Community of Sant’Egidio and the Cathedral of Saint Matthew’s Social Justice and Community Services Committee. The event will take place at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. For more information, click here.
November 29-December 1: Wayne Hipley, CMN Youth Ministry Director, and Karen Clifton will staff a CMN exhibit at the annual National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) conference in Orlando, Fla. For more information on NFCYM, click here.
December 4: CMN is one of 13 co-sponsoring organizations supporting an ecumenical Christian conversation about the death penalty in Dallas. The conversation will include the challenges of moving Texas away from a culture of vengeance toward a culture of accountability that does not rely on the death penalty; how faith leaders and people of faith can take a more proactive role in educating their congregations about this issue; and the challenges of addressing the death penalty from the pulpit. The program will also include questions from the audience. For more information, to RSVP, and to download publicity materials for this event, click here.
Want to know what else we're up to? Check out a full list of CMN Events.