A Catholic Perspective on the Death Penalty

“When Cain killed Abel, God did not end Cain’s life. Instead, he sent Cain into exile, not only sparing his life but protecting it by putting a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight (Gn 4:15).”

USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

In 2018, Pope Francis approved a new draft of no. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which addresses the death penalty. It acknowledges that executions were once considered an appropriate response to particularly grave crimes, and an acceptable means of safeguarding the common good.

But it says that now, Catholics understand that the dignity of a human being is not lost, even after committing such crimes, and that there are better systems of detention that protect the public without depriving the guilty of the chance of redemption. It concludes that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Furthermore, it says the Church is working with determination for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

As of this writing, Donnie Cleveland Lance is set to be executed here in Georgia on January 29th. There is no minimizing the horror of his crime; he was convicted of killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend more than 20 years ago. But Catholics are called to believe that Donnie Cleveland Lance should not be deprived of the chance of redemption, as he too is made in the image and likeness of God.

We have an opportunity to help the Church in her mission, and not just on behalf of Lance, who has a clemency appeal pending at this time. Georgia House Bill 702 is currently working its way through the legislative process. The bipartisan measure would repeal the death penalty, and commute standing death sentences to life in prison without parole. You can make a difference by contacting your legislators and urging them to support the bill.

Remember, Catholics are called to be a people of life, under any and all circumstances:

“Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good. We need then to show care for all life and for the life of everyone.”

Evangelium vitae, 87

Despite our horror and outrage at violent crime, and our desire to lift up and comfort the victims, we cannot deny that the death penalty is inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Please help us end it in the state of Georgia.

Sources:
https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/08/02/180802a.html
https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/executions/upcoming-executions
https://pap.georgia.gov/press-releases/2020-01-23/parole-board-consider-clemency-donnie-cleveland-lance
https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/recent-legislative-activity
http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/death-penalty-capital-punishment/catholic-campaign-to-end-the-use-of-the-death-penalty.cfm

Execution Date Set for Donnie Lance

Just hours after sparing Jimmy Meders, the state of Georgia announced that Donnie Lance is scheduled to be executed at 7 PM on January 29th, 2019. Should the Board of Pardons and Paroles deny his request for clemency, please plan to join with Georgians of all faiths at one of the vigil sites below. In the meantime, please keep Donnie, his family and friends, and the family and friends of Joy Lance and Dwight Wood, the victims, in your prayers.

Vigils for Donnie Lance

Americus
Time: 7 PM
Location: 1324 GA Hwy 49 South, Americus, GA 31719
Contact: Elizabeth Dede
Phone #: 229-591-0114
Email: elizabeth@koinoniafarm.org

Athens
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: UGA Arch on East Broad Street
Contact: Robbie Buller
Phone #: 706-338-4572
Email: robbie@jubileepartners.org

Atlanta-State Capitol
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 206 Washington St, Atlanta, GA 30334
Contact: Peggy Hendrix
Phone #: 404-771-8940
Email: peggyhendrix2000@yahoo.com

Augusta-Augusta Judicial Center
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 735 James Brown Blvd, Augusta, GA 30901
Contact: Ayman Fadal
Phone #: 706-284-3002
Email: afadel97@gmail.com

Clarkesville-Courthouse (Near the Gazebo)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 226 Grant St, Clarkesville, GA 30523
Contact: Anne Hall
Phone #: 706-754-7011
Email: annehall987@gmail.com

Columbus-Columbus Consolidated Government Center
Time: 6 PM
Location: 100 10th St, Columbus, GA 31901
Contact: Edward Dubose
Phone #: 706-464-8539
Email: edubose252@aol.com

Dawson
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: Hwy 520 & Hwy 82
Contact: Rev. Holley
Phone #: 229-407-0101
Email: tholley@mediacombb.net

Decatur-Old Courthouse on the Square (Ponce Side)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 101 E Court Square, Decatur, GA 30030
Contact: Andrew Johnson
Email: ahjohnson113@gmail.com

Jackson-GA Diagnostic and Classification Prison (Death Row)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 2978 GA-36, Jackson, GA 30283
Contact: Mary Catherine Johnson
Phone #: 404-273-0621
Email: mcjohnson78@yahoo.com

Johns Creek-St. Brigid Catholic Church
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 3400 Old Alabama Rd, Johns Creek, GA 30022
Contact: Cathy Schneider
Phone #: 502-592-9123
Email: cathyschneider123@gmail.com

Macon-City Hall
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 700 Poplar St, Macon, GA 31201
Contact: Kellie Divis
Email: kjdivis@gmail.com

Marietta-Cobb County Courthouse (On the Square)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 12 E Park Square, Marietta, GA 30090 (on the corner of Cherokee & Roswell Street)
Contact: Debby Freel
Email: debbyfreel@gmail.com

Savannah-City Hall
Time: 5 PM
Location: 2 E Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401 (Corner of E Bay & Bull Street)
Contact: Sister Jackie Griffith
Phone #: 912-484-8378
Email: jackiegriffith@comcast.net

Clemency Granted to Jimmy Meders

Six hours shy of his execution, Jimmy Meders was granted clemency by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. His sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As a result of this wonderful news, all vigils for his execution were cancelled.

56% of Georgians Favor Replacing the Death Penalty

In a poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy from December 19 through December 23, 2019, 56% of Georgia voters favored replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. 33% were opposed while 11% were undecided. The margin for error in the poll was +- 4 percentage points.

Respondents were asked:

Because of the constitutionally-mandated appeals, additional trials and associated housing expenses, the death penalty costs Georgia taxpayers substantially more than sentencing prisoners to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Additionally, death penalty cases can drag on for more than a decade, forcing victims’ families to endure years of uncertainty and waiting. In contrast, a sentence of life in prison without parole would offer swift and certain justice that allows these families to move on with the healing process.

Given this, would you support or oppose replacing the death penalty in Georgia with a life sentence without parole?

The results paint a clear picture – faced with an expensive and error-prone system, a majority of Georgians are in favor of eliminating the death penalty and redirecting needed money to solving other crimes, investing in education to prevent crime, and providing more services to victims and their families.

The results hold true across the entire state, with a majority in each region in favor of replacement:

Region Support Oppose Undecided
Atlanta Metro61%27%12%
North Georgia46%43%11%
Central Georgia51%40%9%
South Georgia52%38%10%

The results were similar across age ranges, with a higher number of those under 50 favoring replacing the death penalty:

Women more strongly favor replacement, though a majority of men are in support:

Execution Date Set for Jimmy Meders

The State of Georgia has scheduled the execution of Jimmy Meders for January 16th, 2020 at 7 PM. If carried out, this would be the first person put to death in Georgia this year. Should a stay not be granted, and If you are able, please consider joining with Georgians of all faiths at one of the vigils below.

Regardless, please keep Mr. Meders, his family and friends, and the family and friends of Don Anderson, the victim, in your prayers.

Vigils for Jimmy Meders

Americus
Time: 7 PM
Location: 1324 GA Hwy 49 South, Americus, GA 31719
Contact: Elizabeth Dede
Phone #: 229-591-0114
Email: elizabeth@koinoniafarm.org

Athens
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: UGA Arch on East Broad Street
Contact: Robbie Buller
Phone #: 706-338-4572
Email: robbie@jubileepartners.org

Atlanta-State Capitol
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 206 Washington St, Atlanta, GA 30334
Contact: Peggy Hendrix
Phone #: 404-771-8940
Email: peggyhendrix2000@yahoo.com

Augusta-Augusta Judicial Center
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 735 James Brown Blvd, Augusta, GA 30901
Contact: Ayman Fadal
Phone #: 706-284-3002
Email: afadel97@gmail.com

Clarkesville-Courthouse (Near the Gazebo)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 226 Grant St, Clarkesville, GA 30523
Contact: Anne Hall
Phone #: 706-754-7011
Email: annehall987@gmail.com

Columbus-Columbus Consolidated Government Center
Time: 6 PM
Location: 100 10th St, Columbus, GA 31901
Contact: Edward Dubose
Phone #: 706-464-8539
Email: edubose252@aol.com

Dawson
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: Hwy 520 & Hwy 82
Contact: Rev. Holley
Phone #: 229-407-0101
Email: tholley@mediacombb.net

Decatur-Old Courthouse on the Square (Ponce Side)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 101 E Court Square, Decatur, GA 30030
Contact: Andrew Johnson
Email: ahjohnson113@gmail.com

Jackson-GA Diagnostic and Classification Prison (Death Row)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 2978 GA-36, Jackson, GA 30283
Contact: Mary Catherine Johnson
Phone #: 404-273-0621
Email: mcjohnson78@yahoo.com

Johns Creek-St. Brigid Catholic Church
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 3400 Old Alabama Rd, Johns Creek, GA 30022
Contact: Cathy Schneider
Phone #: 502-592-9123
Email: cathyschneider123@gmail.com

Macon-City Hall
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 700 Poplar St, Macon, GA 31201
Contact: Kellie Divis
Email: kjdivis@gmail.com

Marietta-Cobb County Courthouse (On the Square)
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: 12 E Park Square, Marietta, GA 30090 (on the corner of Cherokee & Roswell Street)
Contact: Debby Freel
Email: debbyfreel@gmail.com

Savannah-City Hall
Time: 5 PM
Location: 2 E Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401 (Corner of E Bay & Bull Street)
Contact: Sister Jackie Griffith
Phone #: 912-484-8378
Email: jackiegriffith@comcast.net