The following letter was sent today to Governor Crist. Copies were sent to The Palm Beach Post, The Florida Catholic, and all Florida Bishops. A pdf copy of the actual letter is here.
August 1, 2007
Office of Governor Charlie Crist
State of Florida
PL-05 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Re: The Death Penalty
Dear Governor Crist,
After a seven-month moratorium executions have resumed in Florida.
As Catholics and as citizens of this state, we are compelled to voice to you our unequivocal opposition to this practice of State sponsored killing.
We urge you to follow the lead of Illinois Governor George Ryan who imposed a permanent moratorium on that state’s death penalty. Halting executions will not only prevent innocent people from being killed – more than 120 people who were on death row have been exonerated – but it will make us a less violent, less revengeful, and more life-affirming civil entity. Statistics show that the dozen states that chose not to enact the death penalty since the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that it was constitutionally permissible have not had higher homicide rates than states with the death penalty. In 2003 the State of New Jersey abolished the death penalty a year after imposing a moratorium.
We do wholeheartedly subscribe to the insight that violence begets violence.
The U.S. Catholic Bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for 25 years. In 2005 they issued a new pastoral statement, “A Culture of Life” to clarify this position. They state that the death penalty is unnecessary and unjustified in our time and circumstances, and that our nation should forego the use of the death penalty because:
The sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human life and dignity.
State-sanctioned killing in our names diminishes all of us.
Its application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed.
We have other ways to punish criminals and protect society.
Florida Catholic Bishops have concurred that the death penalty has been discriminatory toward the poor, the indigent and racial minorities. In their position statement released in January 2002, they state:
“Capital punishment contributes to the escalating atmosphere of violence in our society and undermines belief of the inherent worth and dignity of human life.”
Florida is one of the five states that contribute to more than 60% of the nation’s executions.
Since you have taken office, we have been very encouraged by your willingness to take bold steps to improve the lives of Florida citizens. We need your courage and leadership to get us out of this business of revengeful killing of human beings.
The members of Pax Christi Palm Beach
cc: The Florida Catholic
The Palm Beach Post
Archbishop John C. Favalora, Archdiocese of Miami
Bishop Victor B. Galeone, Diocese of St. Augustine
Bishop Robert N. Lynch, Diocese of St. Petersburg
Bishop Thomas J. Wenski, Diocese of Orlando
Bishop John H. Ricard, Diocese of Pensacola/Tallahassee
Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, Diocese of Palm Beach
Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Diocese of Venice