Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vigil Against the Death Penalty tonight on the Square

Bishop Latino offers his support for ending the death penalty at the State Capitol this past April
Catholic Charities in Jackson sends the following message:
Please be reminded of the upcoming execution of Benny Joe Stevens today, May 10, 2011, at 6:00 pm.  We ask that you make plans to attend one of the below vigils in your area.  Vigil guides are enclosed for any parishes wishing to hold vigils of their own.

Hattiesburg - Sacred Heart Catholic Church steps, prayer vigil, 5:30 PM

Jackson - Capitol Street side of Governor's Mansion, 4:45 - 6:15

Jackson - Smith Park prayer vigil, 5:30 - 6:00

Oxford - Square - candlelight vigil, 6 PM

Parchman - visitors' gate entrance, Hwy 49, south of main gate; arrive between 4:00 - 4:50 only; penitentiary is on lock-down and times are strictly adhered to.

The vigil service is available here.

Bishop Latino recently spoke out against the death penalty as a member of a secular and religious body of activists. The Jackson Free Press story reads:
"Bishop Joseph Latino of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson was adamant, however, that the death penalty is not a solution to violence. During his short speech, he reached out to victims' families.
'We surely recognize that crimes have been committed that are most heinous in the eyes of our society and in the eyes of God himself; however, we only continue the cycle of violence by having our state kill in the name of justice,' Latino said. 'Indeed, I am very aware of the pain and suffering of victims' families in these cases. Theirs is a suffering beyond comprehension, and they deserve our support, our prayers and our love. Peace and healing for their unfathomable pain is something only that faith can offer. Putting to death the person guilty of causing such great pain will not bring back lost the precious lives that have been taken. In fact, it will only create another set of victims, namely, the family of the person who is executed.'

..."Asked what the response would be if all pastors denounced the death penalty from the pulpit, Bishop Latino was straight forward: 'Probably, some collections would drop. I'm sure people would not buy it. I'm sure there are some people in this country who still believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'"

Bishop Latino (back row) along with Mary Woodward, director of Evangelization for the diocese, and religious leaders at the Capitol.
He also signed an emotionally charged statement agreeing with Protestant and non-Christian leaders on the issue:
WHEREAS innocent human beings have been given the death penalty and been put to death;
WHEREAS violent crime continues despite the death penalty;
WHEREAS the death penalty is not impartially sought or evenly distributed by the criminal justice system;
WHEREAS the majority of those convicted and given the death penalty lacked adequate education, and adequate financial resources;
THEREFORE, we the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, an organization of interfaith leadership, call for an immediate moratorium on sentencing human beings to death in the name of the state and in the name of justice.
We recognized that the pain families and friends of victims' suffer is beyond our deepest understanding and we keep these individuals in our prayers in the hope that one day they may find healing and peace.
We call on all people to reflect more deeply on the death penalty. We see it as our moral imperative to speak out against this unjust distribution of a penalty that is flawed.
Concerning the official Church teaching, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.' 

There is no official parish sponsorship of the vigil this evening. However, do pray for the victims of violent crimes and those who are responsible for judgments concerning human life. Even our bishop, who is entrusted with the care and leadership of our spiritual life.