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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Jesus tells us to become fire.

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Catholics around the country are taking seriously Pope Francis’ call to abolish the death penalty

The pope's resolve on this life-or-death issue poses a challenge to the U.S. church.

About 25 years after the brutal murder of her older sister, Jean Parks unearthed her true feelings about the death penalty. 

At a meeting of San Antonio’s chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, convened by Parks, an official from the Department of Corrections spoke to the group. He invited murder victims’ families to attend the execution of their child’s convicted killer, describing how they could arrive early for a tour of the facilities. The department would assign the family a staff person and provide them with coffee and donuts. No such accommodations, he noted, would be offered to the family of the condemned. 

In that moment, a light flickered on in Parks’ soul. “I imagined myself with a family member about to be executed,” she says. “The helpless anger, hurt, and grief of not being able to prevent a loved one’s death were so similar to what my own family experienced after my sister’s death that I couldn’t understand why our government would do such a thing.” 

The death penalty, Parks is quick to point out, can compound a murder victim family’s grief. “Taking another life,” Parks explains, “does not bring peace or healing.” 

Parks cites her baptismal vows in the Episcopal tradition as forming her sense of conscience on capital punishment. In loving her neighbor, resisting evil, striving to enact peace and justice, respecting the dignity of every human being, and proclaiming the love of Christ, Parks arrived at a resolute truth: “I don’t think God ever gives up on us, so there’s always a possibility that a person will turn to God and repent. If we kill them, we steal the possibility of redemption,” she says.

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