Catholics Ask Governor to Commute Death Row before He Leaves Office

Representative from Catholic and other organizations opposed to the death penalty delivered nearly six thousand letters to Governor Jerry Brown today asking him to commute the sentences of the hundreds of men and women on death row before he leaves office.

Earlier in the year, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was updated to reflect the official teaching of the church that the death penalty is “inadmissible.”  State-sanctioned execution is a violent rejection of the inherent dignity of human beings, inconsistently applied across demographic groups and no longer necessary to protect society given modern correctional techniques.

Governor Jerry Brown, with just weeks left in office, has an opportunity to address this appalling inequity in California’s justice system by commuting the sentences of many on death row to life imprisonment.  He can grant clemency to many of the nearly 750 people sentenced to die in California, or he can issue an executive order halting executions.  In either case, the Golden State – which has more people on death row than any other state – can join the 19 other states in the Union who do not use the death penalty.

Catholics Against the Death Penalty, People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty, the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty and other groups such as Death Penalty Focus are all pleading with the Governor to take bold action in his last few weeks.

Presenting the letters to the Governor’s office were Marciano Avilla, Diocese of San Bernardino; Sr. Mary Sean Hodges, Catholics Against the Death Penalty (CADP); MariaJose Flores, California Catholic Conference; and Magdaleno Rose-Avila, Death Penalty Focus, California.


Statement from Fr. Chris Ponnet, Co Chair of CADP, Board member Death Penalty Focus and California People of Faith against the Death Penalty, commented on the letters:

"Catholic Against the Death Penalty was formed to bring Catholic values to the public conversations for the ballot initiatives in California to end the death penalty.  In 2016, despite the loss of Prop 62 and the passage of Prop 66, we celebrated the growing numbers of Californians in support of abolition. Our role within the Catholic Church was to educate residents and to advocate for the voices of victims and their families who want justice without the death penalty.

At the end of 2017, we began working on a petition to present to Governor Brown for him to follow the example and words of his father Governor Pat Brown, who wrote his book Public Justice, Private Mercy:  "Beyond its horror and incivility, it has neither protected the innocent nor deterred the wicked."

“The nearly 6,000 letters we have collected that will be presented today (November 19, 2018) to Governor Brown reflect many hours of work at the 2018 Religious Ed Congress, the Diocese of San Bernardino, many religious community members and the local efforts of Death Penalty Focus, California People of Faith and Catholics Against the Death Penalty.

“We request the Governor before his term ends in the coming weeks, to consider the words of his father and the updated Catholic Catechism to say the death penalty is "inadmissible" for Catholics to support and we are called by faith to work for abolition. We hope Governor Brown, trained by Jesuits, will consider his legacy of respect of restorative justice.  We trust he knows that killing to punish killings only make us as State killers also.

“We thank all who helped make these nearly 6,000 personal statements of life and restorative justice become a real call for action under the law.

“Governor Brown--do the right thing.

“Under the law, commute as many of those on death row as possible.  Life without parole is seen by many as worst that the death penalty but it means we as society will not be killers.  It will leave open the possibility of redemption for those who are guilty of heinous crimes.  It also eliminates the ongoing reality of the innocent being executed by the State of California.  We trust you will join us at this time in history and move California closer to abolition.  And we pray that California, with the largest death row, will be an example for the United States.”

  • Fr Chris Ponnet Co Chair CADP, CPF, DPF St Camillus and Pax Christi So California, 323 719-7411

"Consistency in the abhorrence of violence is the hallmark of the Church's teaching on the death penalty....state-sanctioned killing diminishes us all, the application of capital punishment is flawed and inconsistent, and that the state has other ways of punishing criminals."

  • US Conference of Catholic Bishops

"The Death Penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person....the Church will work with determination for its abolition worldwide."

  • Pope Francis 2018


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