August 7, 2015

Black Catholic religious organizations release statement on death penalty

Criterion staff report

During a joint conference of four black Catholic organizations for priests, sisters, deacons and seminarians on July 27-30 in Charleston, S.C., a public statement was issued regarding the use of the death penalty. The statement reads as follows:

“The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, and the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association are profoundly opposed to the death penalty.

“We embrace the truth that all life is sacred from conception to natural death, and must not be purposely ended.

“The Death Penalty Information Center and the Catholic Mobilizing Network have compiled national reports that clearly indicate that race and poverty, in large part, are determining factors in our criminal justice system, thus creating a system which, because of its sensitivity to wealth, is innately flawed. It is a system in which a citizen is treated better if they are rich and guilty, than if they are poor and innocent.

“The link between poverty and the denial of competent legal defense is one of the most compelling reasons for the abolition of the death penalty. It is the right of everyone to stand equal before the legal systems of this country, otherwise, there remains the ever-present reality that someone is put to death not for the crime they were convicted of but because they were poor.

“We believe with St. John Paul II, who stated in 1999, ‘…no matter how heinous the crime, the offender retains their God-given worth and must be treated with dignity…’, and support Pope Francis, who stated, ‘It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means [other] than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor. … All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle … for abolition of the death penalty…’ ”

National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus
Father Kenneth Taylor, president

National Association of Black Catholic Deacons
Deacon Joseph Connor, president

National Black Catholic Sisters’ Conference
Sister Callista Robinson, O.S.F., president

National Black Catholic Seminarians Association
Seminarian Mark Bristol, president

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