On August 2, 2018, the Vatican announced that it had formally changed the official Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty, calling capital punishment “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and deeming it “inadmissible” in all cases.
In the encyclical letter, Pope Francis released a year ago, he reiterates this resounding condemnation of capital punishment and issues a prophetic invitation to imagine more restorative ways of doing justice. In paragraph 246, he writes:
Saint John Paul II stated clearly and firmly that the death penalty is inadequate from a moral standpoint and no longer necessary from that of penal justice. There can be no stepping back from this position. Today we state clearly that “the death penalty is inadmissible” and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.
The Missionaries of the Precious Blood Kansas City Province has a corporate stance against the death penalty, which states:
Motivated by the Blood of Christ and called to be ministers of reconciliation we reaffirm our belief in the sacredness of life and thereby take this position that capital punishment is wrong.
To put these words into action, we encourage our priests, brothers and companions of the Society of the Precious Blood to engage in activities which will end the death penalty in those states where it is still used and to work toward the goal of ending this type of sentence in our nation.
Whenever and wherever it is deemed appropriate, we encourage our members to preach justice and mercy on behalf of the victim and perpetrator of such horrendous crimes.
Most recently the Precious Blood community joined a chorus of religious and secular groups and thousands of individuals pleading for Missouri Governor Mike Parson to commute the death sentence of Ernest Johnson, who had been convicted of brutally killing three convenience store clerks in 1994.
Johnson was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and lost one-fifth of his brain tissue with the removal of a benign tumor in 2008. Johnson’s defense team said IQ tests showed that Johnson had the intellectual capacity of a child.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Johnson’s case in May and on Oct. 5 denied an application for a stay of execution. Governor Parson declined to act to stop the execution, and Johnson died by lethal injection on Oct. 6.
If we are to take up the challenge put forth by Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis to end the death penalty, we have much work to do. The United States is one of only 14 countries worldwide that continue to execute criminals. About 106 nations have legally abolished the death penalty and another 50 nations have “de facto abolished” executions, meaning that although the practice hasn’t been formally abolished, they have not carried out executions in many decades.
On Oct. 16, Jean Swymeler, Connie Swymeler, and Margaret D’Huyvetter — all members of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty — will guide us through a discussion of the topic and propose ways that we can join this campaign.
Register for the Oct. 16 discussion (10-11:30 a.m. central time) and all the events in this series by clicking one of the buttons below. You must register to attend.
Earlier discussions in this series were about elder abuse, mothers who lost children to gun violence and mass incarceration. Videos of discussions in this series can be found on our website.
Topics for the rest of the month are:
Oct 23 — Preventing Gun Violence
Gun violence is a growing concern in our country. We will meet two priests who addressed that situation in their parish ministry. We will learn what they did and why. Guest speakers: Fathers Joseph Uecker, C.PP.S., and Mike Goode C.PP.S.
Oct. 30 — Grieving Miscarriage or Stillborn
We will meet mothers who have lost a child through a miscarriage or a stillbirth. They will tell us about the grieving process and how to find ongoing support. Guest Speakers: Kara Palladino, Colleen Sullivan, and Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony from A Mom’s Peace, in Virginia.
All sessions run from 10-11:30 a.m. central time.
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