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 — March 31, 201531 mars 2015
 

by Michael McGovern

As Christians begin a week commemorating the torture, suffering and execution of Jesus, prominent Catholic and evangelical leaders are urging public officials to end the use of capital punishment.

“All who reverence the sanctity of human life, created in the image of God, must never remain silent when firing squads, lethal injections, electric chairs and other instruments of death are viewed as morally acceptable,” nearly 400 Catholic theologians, women religious, Christian evangelical leaders and faith-based social justice advocates write in a statement released today. “We urge governors, prosecutors, judges and anyone entrusted with power to do all that they can to end a practice that diminishes our humanity and contributes to a culture of violence and retribution without restoration.”

Signatories on the statement include two former presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; several presidents of Catholic universities; Miguel Diaz, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; Sister Helen Prejean, a prominent anti-death penalty activist; Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians/The Simple Way; David Gushee, a leading evangelical ethicist at Mercer University; Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Lynne Hybels, evangelical author and activist; and Dr. Bill Coates, senior pastor of First Baptist Gainesville, the church attended by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.

The Holy Week push comes at a time when a diverse set of religious leaders are speaking out against the death penalty and several high-profile cases have drawn national attention. Pope Francis has raised the issue of capital punishment several times in recent days, calling the practice “cruel, inhumane and degrading.” In liturgical reflections to be used by the pope during this week’s Good Friday meditations at the Colosseum in Rome – an annual Way of the Cross service that focuses on Christ’s torture and crucifixion – the Pope will read: “When will the death penalty, still practiced in many states, be abolished?”

Last Friday, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition became the first national association of evangelical congregations to issue a call for repealing the death penalty. The coalition is urging its 3,000-member congregations to support efforts to end capital punishment in states across the country. In a March 17 statement, the Catholic bishops of Nebraska urged support for “legislative efforts to repeal the death penalty and reform our criminal justice system.” Last month, four leading Catholic publications respected in both liberal and conservative circles – the National Catholic Reporter, the National Catholic RegisterOur Sunday Visitor and America magazine – issued a joint editorial calling for an end to the death penalty. More than 430 religious leaders, including Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, sent a Feb. 11 letter to Kansas legislators calling for an end to capital punishment.

The governor of Utah recently signed a bill that brings back firing squads as an option for executions. In Georgia, hundreds of clergy and other faith leaders have asked the state to commute the death sentence of Kelly Gissendaner, a Christian and student of theology. On March 17, Missouri executed a man who was missing twenty percent of the frontal lobe of his brain. Last spring, the botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate drew scrutiny of lethal injection procedures. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that will decide the constitutionality of lethal injection protocols in Oklahoma.

The full text of the letter is included below, and the list of signatories can be found here.

As Christians preparing for the holy days of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, we speak out with renewed urgency against the death penalty. Torture and execution is always a profound evil, made even more abhorrent when sanctioned by the government in the name of justice when other means of protecting society are available. All who reverence the sanctity of human life, created in the image of God, must never remain silent when firing squads, lethal injections, electric chairs and other instruments of death are viewed as morally acceptable.

We urge governors, prosecutors, judges and anyone entrusted with power to do all that they can to end a practice that diminishes our humanity and contributes to a culture of violence and retribution without restoration. We especially ask public officials who are Christian to join us in the solidarity of prayer this week as we meditate on the wounds of injustice that sicken our society. In many ways, capital punishment is the rotten fruit of a culture that is sown with the seeds of poverty, inequality, racism and indifference to life. We silence our hearts in prayer for those killed and families who mourn their loss. We can never know your pain and anger. Let us work together for healing, restorative justice and a system that punishes criminals without bringing more darkness and death into our world. As Pope Francis has reminded us, capital punishment is “cruel, inhumane and degrading” and “does not bring justice to the victims, but only foments revenge.”

It remains a shameful reality that the United States is one of the few developed nations in the world that still executes its citizens. Last week, the governor of Utah signed a bill that will bring back firing squads. Missouri recently executed a prisoner with severe brain damage. In Georgia, hundreds of clergy and other faith leaders have asked the state to commute the death sentence of Kelly Gissendaner — a Christian and student of theology — to life without parole. Several botched executions in recent years have pulled back the veil on this inhumane and ineffective practice. We are heartened by polling that shows Americans are increasingly opposed to the death penalty. Now is a critical time. The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced it would take up an appeal by a Florida death-row inmate challenging the state’s capital sentencing procedure, which permits inmates to be executed even when the jury is not unanimous. In April, The U.S Supreme Court will hear a case that will decide the constitutionality of lethal injection protocols in Oklahoma.

In this sacred season of suffering, death and new life, we pray that our simple Christian witness is received with open hearts. 

Posted: March 31, 2015 • Permanent link: ecu.net/?p=8155
Categories: NewsIn this article: Catholic, death penalty, Evangelicals
Transmis : 31 mars 2015 • Lien permanente : ecu.net/?p=8155
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Catholic, death penalty, Evangelicals


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