“Now what?” I thought to myself as I crossed the street to find my car in the parking garage. After standing with Ohioans to Stop Executions and community members to call on Ohio Governor Kasich to end executions, I politely handed back the “thou shall not kill” sign I held and dispersed with the rest of the small crowd that had gathered just outside the Ohio Statehouse on a hot afternoon.
Rallies and demonstrations can be powerful. They bring us together with others who are passionate and committed to similar justice issues. They draw courage out of us in order to stand up for our values, for our faith, and for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Yet perhaps the courage we need most is for the quiet after the demonstration.
On July 26th executions are scheduled to resume in Ohio. There are still 31 states with the death penalty and we have Sisters and Associates living in 22 of those states. As individuals of faith, we understand that the death penalty steals away an individual’s dignity and disregards respect for all life. Sister Helen Prejean, the Sister portrayed in the movie Dead Man Walking, gave an explanation against the death penalty that is direct and poignant. She said, “Execution is the opposite of baptism into a community. Baptism into a community means “We are all connected, we are all one family and you are part of us.” And execution is removing a person from the human family, step by step, saying, “You are no longer part of us. You are not human, like we are, and so we can terminate you.”
As we continue to search for ways to unify our communities, our nation, and our world, we must embrace those on the outskirts of society and give them an opportunity for conversion. Let us begin by embracing them with prayer and seeking a baptism of love and peace in our communities.
For more information about the death penalty, see this fact sheet. Please pray for those scheduled to be executed in July:
July 26 – Ronald R. Phillips, OH
July 27 – Taichin Preyor, TX
Our faith and Catholic teaching offer a moral framework for choices about the use of the death penalty. A principled Catholic response to crime and punishment is rooted in our convictions about good and evil, sin and redemption, justice and mercy. It is also shaped by our commitment to the life and dignity of every human person, and the common good. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis teach that every life is a precious gift from God (see Genesis 2:7, 21-23). This gift must be respected and protected.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death