The Death Penalty Revisited

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By Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican


The recent execution of Troy Davis in the State of Georgia has stirred up a great deal of controversy about the issue and offers us an urgent reminder to work toward ending the death penalty as soon as possible. We need to ensure that no innocent people are executed and to remove the death penalty as an option. This will take a State by State effort and a wide range of support. Every voice will count from the very old to the very young.  A good way to get involved is to check in with and learn more about the issue. You can also sign an Amnesty International pledge to fight the death penalty, at the MoveOn site.


The Catholic Church an other denominations have called for a defense of all phases of human life. In 1995, Pope John Paul 11 challenged his listeners to end state sanctioned killing. He reminded people that violence does not bring any solutions. It only begets more violence. Thirty four states now have the death penalty. There are still wrongful executions and some statistics reveal that they are more prevalent among people of color and the very poor. This is an added injustice. Despite a global outcry when more than a million people around the nation and globe signed a petition not to proceed with the death of Troy Davis, proceeded with the execution anyway. The groups of

 people opposing the execution included our Pope and former President Jimmy Carter and other officials. The death penalty is more than a political issue. It is definitely a moral issue. Why is it a moral issue? Life belongs only to God. Life ethics must apply to all phases of human life. We are not authorized to take the life of another, even the life of a murderer. 


I am always reminded of the response of Bud Welch, whom I heard a few years ago. His only daughter, Julie, graduated from Marquette University. She was bright,

successful,  and full of compassion  for people’s needs. She was about to announce her engagement at the time, to her friend Eric. We know the rest of the story. A bomb ripped through the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, that killed many of the workers, including Julie. Her father, Bud said there were no words to describe his grief and anger, when the news of Julie’s death came. He then stopped and remembered what Julie had said about the death penalty when she heard of an execution in Texas. She commented that all the death penalty does is to teach children in Texas more violence.

Bud decided to go to the home and met the father of the murderer, Tim McVeigh. Some time before. He said: “I don’t want Tim killed. I will do everything in my power to prevent it.He has been speaking against the death penalty ever since.

 Pope Benedict XV1 calls on all Catholics:

“Let us use this time to pray for those in prison, especially those on death row.Let us ask God to make us instruments of peace and healing. Pray for the victims of violence and their families and work to root out the causes of violence that is so pervasive in our society today.” We are all called to be instruments of God’s peace. Today, let us respond to God’s call and strive to break the cycle of violence. Let us work to create a society guided by the mercy and compassion of our God.


Justice Preaching Archive

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• Justice Bulletin Board •
• A New Year •
• Two Essays on Peace •
• A Call To Respect and Welcome Diversity - A Challenge of Our Faith •
• Addressing White Power and Priviledge •
• An Ethical Reflection on Work... •
• A Re-energized Catholic Church •
• A Renewed Call for Nuclear Disarmament •
• Called to Proclaim and Live With Moral Courage •
• Called To Protect the Poor In Our Economic System •
• Call To Persevere In Praying and Working for Peace •
• Care For the Environment •
• Care for the Earth •
• Caritas in Veritate •
• The Challenge of Discipleship •
• Comprehensive Immigration Reform •
• The Death Penalty Revisited •
• What Is Ecological Economics •
• Eliminating Global Poverty •
• Global Warming... Calling for an Urgent and Ethical Response •
• God's Fool •
• Green Congretations - A Growing Movement •
• More Gun Control •
• Healing the Racial Divide •
• Speaking the Truth in Today's World Takes Courage •
• Justice and Compassion •
• Labor Issues and the Catholic Church •
• Is More Consumer Spending the Answer? •
• Moving from A Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace •
• Preaching Justice & Moving from Violence to Peace •
• Reaching For the Stars - Brenda Walsh •
• A Call To Reduce Prison Population •
• The Relationship Between Labor And the Catholic Church •
• Sermon On Domestic Violence •
• Sustainability •
• The Death Penalty •
• The New Economy Movement •
• The Role of Ethical Standards... •
• War Is Not the Answer •
• Witnesses To Hope •

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