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Supporting a Culture of Life
The Florida bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for more than 25 years. Last fall, the bishops initiated new efforts in their campaign to end the use of the death penalty - calling it a time to teach clearly, encourage reflection, and call for common action in the Catholic community.

Leading the educational and advocacy efforts on behalf of the Florida bishops are Dale and Susan Recinella of the Diocese of Saint Augustine. They have been conducting seminars in parishes throughout the state educating Catholics on the church’s teaching on capital punishment. Together they are spreading the message that Florida should suspend all executions and exercise the option of life in prison without possibility of parole, sparing the families of the victims as well as the inmate from inhumane suffering.

The Florida bishops, through their Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty, have compiled several resources to help individuals, parishes and dioceses participate in this national campaign effort. Here are some sobering facts for reflection:

• There is no evidence that the death penalty deters violent crime - The average murder rate is 5.3 in death penalty states and 2.8 in states without the death penalty. As a region, the South accounts for more than 80% of the executions and has the highest murder rate. The Northeast carries out less than 1% of the executions and has the lowest murder rate (2004 FBI Uniform Crime Report).

• Life without parole is an effective and less expensive alternative to the death penalty - Lifetime incarceration costs far less than the death penalty. The cost of imposing the death penalty has been estimated as 2- to 6-times greater, $3.2 million versus $750,000 for one person (Miami Herald, 1988).

• Victim’s families deserve our special care and concern - Repaying cruelty with cruelty does not bring healing. Killing the guilty does not bring back or honor the dead. The finality of execution means that great care must be exercised in its application. As a result, there are often long delays between a finding of guilt and execution, thus prolonging the involvement of the victim’s family in a legal process in which they are pressed to maintain a hostile stance toward the criminal. This process may actually delay “closure” for the family.

• Execution of innocents is a real danger.

• Application of the death penalty is deeply flawed - more than 120 death row inmates in 25 states have been exonerated since the death penalty was reinstated in 1973. Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations.

In closing, “The death penalty diminishes all of us. Its use ought to be abandoned not only for what it does to those who are executed, but what it does to us as a society. We cannot teach respect for life by taking life.” (USCCB, Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty, 2005).

For more information and resources, visit or

- Kathleen Bagg-Morgan, editor