BY ISN STAFF | June 17, 2021
Last week, the Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) announced the publication of Dignity and the Death Penalty: Evolution of Catholic Teaching, a small-group resource created in partnership with RENEW International and based on the insights of Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., a leading advocate for abolishing the death penalty. Sister Helen’s 1993 book, Dead Man Walking, and the 1995 award-winning movie of the same title, changed the way many people viewed capital punishment.
“We are thrilled to be able to share this timely and engaging new resource for Catholics looking to deepen their understanding of how capital punishment violates the sanctity of human life,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of CMN. “We are eager to see how the rich discussions and personal reflections sparked by Dignity and the Death Penalty translate into meaningful conversion and concrete action in the lives of Catholics nationwide.”
In the span of seven small-group sessions, Dignity and the Death Penalty employs Catholic Church teaching, current statistics, and testimony from people directly impacted by the death penalty to prompt in-depth discussion around the brokenness of the criminal legal system and life-affirming alternatives to capital punishment.
“I was thrilled when Sister Helen approached us about creating this resource,” said RENEW president and executive director Sister Terry Rickard, O.P. “She has done such amazing work speaking out to change hearts about capital punishment, and we were honored that she entrusted us bring her wisdom to small-group faith sharing around the country. We sincerely hope that it will help transform hearts and move Catholics to be engaged in advocacy to end the death penalty and in other pro-life issues.”
Dignity and the Death Penalty arrives at a pivotal moment in the death penalty abolition movement as executions and death sentencing rates are on the decline. Public opposition to capital punishment is at a record high, and a 2018 revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which called the death penalty “inadmissible” has brought this issue to the forefront for all Catholics. Engaging the advocacy of parishioners around the country could have a huge impact on the movement to end state-sponsored executions.
In addition to the faith-sharing resource, a series of videos related to each session, featuring Sr. Helen, will be available online for anyone who seeks to understand more about the death penalty in the U.S. Production of videos associated with this resource were funded in part by the Catholic Communication Campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.