BY ISN STAFF | October 10, 2023
Faith communities across the United States are joining hands to observe the annual World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10. Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), a national organization working to end the death penalty, has identified 16 faith-led events and counting, serving as a poignant reminder that people of faith are helping lead the national effort to abolish capital punishment.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, CMN Executive Director, expressed her optimism, stating, “We are deeply encouraged to see people of faith as some of the leading voices opposing capital punishment this World Day Against the Death Penalty. From these diverse faith groups, we are hearing a clear, unifying message that God has created every life sacred, and this makes capital punishment unacceptable in all cases.”
Among the events are several prayer vigils, one of which is taking place outside of the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge. Co-sponsored by CMN, the Promise of Justice Initiative, the Jesuit Social Research Institute, Faith Leaders of Color Coalition, Louisiana Interfaith Against Executions, and P.R.E.A.C.H, the “Prayer Vigil to Commute Louisiana’s Death Row” aimed to support an ongoing effort to grant clemency to essentially all occupants of the state’s death row. Confirmed speakers include Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, renowned Catholic anti-death penalty advocate and Louisianan, and Most Rev. Michael Duca, Bishop of Baton Rouge.
In Ohio, advocates from diverse faith communities convened at the Ohio Statehouse on Monday, October 9 for the “Day of Prayer to End the Death Penalty,” hosting a 24-hour vigil to bolster support for the two bipartisan bills aiming to abolish capital punishment in the state.
Other events adopt a more educational approach, such as the “United to End the Death Penalty Panel” at the University of Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas. Co-sponsored by UIW, CMN, Pax Christi Texas, and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, this panel will feature powerful testimonies and research from Monique Coleman, sister of a Texas death row exoneree; Mitesh Patel, a San Antonio resident who advocated against the execution of the man who murdered his father; and Dr. Doshie Piper, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at UIW. Part of CMN’s three-leg “Next Gen for Justice” Catholic College Speaking Tour, the panel was preceded by a prayer vigil for Jedidiah Murphy, who is scheduled for execution in Texas on World Day Against the Death Penalty.
“Falling squarely within Respect Life Month every year, World Day Against the Death Penalty is an important chance for Catholics to affirm the Church’s unconditionally pro-life teachings. Capital punishment is fundamentally incompatible with a culture of life. Ending the death penalty is possible, but it’s going to take our consistent witness as people of faith to get abolition over the finish line,” added Vaillancourt Murphy.
To date, 23 states have formally abolished the death penalty. More than two-thirds of U.S. states have either outlawed capital punishment or otherwise have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years.
Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization that mobilizes Catholics and all people of goodwill to value life over death, to end the use of the death penalty, to transform the U.S. criminal legal system from punitive to restorative, and to build capacity in U.S. society to engage in restorative practices. The Ignatian Solidarity Network presented Catholic Mobilizing Network with the Legacy of the Martyrs award at Ignite: A Celebration of Justice in May 2023.