As the name implies, this ministry has as its goal to make members of St. Ignatius aware of the seriousness of the death penalty in our times and the Church's teaching on this issue. Three facts bring this issue's importance into focus. Harris County and Texas in general are widely viewed as leaders in implementation of capital punishment; elected officials, including prosecutors, are avid supporters. Pope John Paul II's 1995 Encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae" (Gospel of Life) addresses sanctity of life through issues of capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, physically assisted suicide, etc. The death penalty should be abolished "except in cases of absolute necessity" (such cases are rare or non-existent). This movement has recently gained new impetus through the work of Sister Helen Prejean and the film Dead Man Walking. We are aware that this is an emotionally charged issue. The concerns of victims' families and a frightened society cannot be overlooked. But we feel parishioners (and everyone) should be come of two important facets of the death penalty question: the moral aspect and the legal and political factors.
Moral and Ethical Considerations.
We are taught from childhood that respect for all human life is central to our ethical principles. And the Church teaches the "seamless garment" concept: life is sacred from beginning to end. This implies that warfare, capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia are all an abuse of the life that has been given to us.. From a Judeo-Christian point of view, we embrace Goad as the Lord and Giver of life, and must acknowledge the unique worth and dignity of every human being. Just as Jesus forgave sinners and emphasized redemptive love, so compassion and non-violence must be preferred Catholic alternatives to the use of power and vengeance.
Legal and Political Considerations.
We must ask if the poor and disadvantaged are unfairly impacted by capital punishment and have adequate legal representation. Some question whether the death penalty is really a deterrent. In fact, the United States is one among extremely few countries in the world. that practices the death penalty. Then there are the extreme costs of the death penalty over incarceration and the risks of executing an innocent person. We must ask whether society can punish offenders through more civil means such as life sentence without parole and monetary restitution to the victims' families.