Following is a resolution calling for the abolition of capital punishment, that was signed on May 24, 1999 by Fr. Raymond C. Holtz, pastor of Mother of God Church, Covington, Ky., and representatives of the Parish Pastoral Council. In sending it to CACP News Notes, Dorothy Schuette, OSB, pastoral associate of the parish, wrote: "We hope that our action will encourage others, especially faith communities, to study the issue more seriously and to join in the effort to break the cycle of violence and disregard for human life."
Mother of God Parish of Covington, Kentucky, affirming its belief in God as the author of life, in the dignity of human life, in reconciliation, and in restorative justice, now expresses its opposition to the death penalty and calls for the abolition of capital punishment. We take this stand for the following reasons:
- Jesus calls us to love and forgive even our enemies, and to reform our hearts and lives, replacing anger and retaliation with reconciliation (Mt. 5:21-45). The Catholic Church, in recent statements, calls us explicitly and powerfully to oppose capital punishment.
- "Capital punishment does nothing for the families of victims of violent crime other than prolonging their suffering through many wasted years of criminal proceedings." - October 1997 Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Texas.
- There is ample evidence that the death penalty is applied in a racist manner.
- Death sentences are reserved for the poor.
- Prisoner appeals have been severely curtailed, increasing the risk of imprisonment and execution of innocent people.
- The 1998 Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation providing "life without possibility of parole" as a sentencing option to the death penalty.
- The American Bar Association in February 1997 concluded that administration of the death penalty is "a haphazard maze of unfair practices with no internal consistency" and has called for a moratorium on executions.
- The United Nations Human Rights Commission in April 1998 called for a moratorium on executions, reporting that some states carry out executions in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner that does not spare juveniles, retarded or mentally ill persons.
Therefore, we the Parish of Mother of God commit ourselves:
- To oppose the imposition of a death sentence by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the United States or any other entity.
- To encourage the membership of our parish to work toward the abolition of the death penalty by asking respective legislators to remove the laws allowing for a death sentence and to strengthen those parole regulations and practices which fail to protect society.
- To support each other to grow in non-violence as a way of life.
- To pray for the victims and their families, for the offenders and their families, for the innocent and the guilty, for judges, jurors, attorneys, police officers, prison officials and all affected by violent crime. We further direct that copies of this resolution shall be forwarded to Governor Paul Patton, our Kentucky representatives and senators, President William J. Clinton, and our Congressional delegation.
Accompanying Press Release The foregoing resolution was also the subject of a news release issued by the Mother of God Church and sent to local news media the day prior to the state's execution of Eddie Lee Harper. Its text follows:
Catholic Parish Calls for an End to the Death Penalty Mother of God Parish, Covington, Kentucky, is calling for the abolition of state sanctioned killing. The parish Pastoral Council has approved a resolution calling for abolition of capital punishment to be sent to Governor Patton, President Clinton, our legislators and Judiciary. The pastor, Father Raymond C. Holtz, and representatives of the Council signed the document on May 24th.
The execution of Eddie Harper scheduled for May 25th points out the urgency for action by people of faith. Harper's execution will be the second for Kentucky in the last two years and the 545th nationwide since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976.
In taking this stance, the parish studied the issue from all sides and took to heart Pope John Paul's January message in St. Louis and the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Good Friday Statement of opposition to the death penalty. The council feels that there is strong congregational support for abolition based on Jesus' call to love and forgive. They further reviewed testimony that the death penalty does not relieve the suffering of victims' families, that it is a racist and classist act and has been judged as arbitrary and discriminatory by the American Bar Association and the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The parish leadership believes that the chain of violence in our society can be broken. Every link in the chain, including abortion, euthanasia, shootings in schools, terrorist bombing, ethic cleansing, and others, including legalized killing by the state, deserves our firm and relentless attention.
Mother of God Parish hopes that its action will inspire other church congregations to join in the movement to abolish capital punishment in our state and in our nation.