The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“We are called to be heralds of hope”

With those words, a Catholic bishop has called for mercy for a convicted killer sentenced to die:

As Virginia prepared to execute convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington called for mercy and urged that Muhammad’s sentence be commuted to life in prison without possibility of parole. 

In the needles of lethal injection, we see the manifestation of despair,” the bishop wrote in his column for the Nov. 5 issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald, his diocesan newspaper. 

“And in this despair, in advocating the use of the death penalty, our society has moved beyond the legitimate judgment of crimes. 


Brothers and sisters, we are better than this,” he added. “We are called to be more than slaves to despair; we are called to be heralds of hope.” 

Muhammad, 48, was scheduled to die by lethal injection in a Virginia prison Nov. 10 for the Oct. 9, 2002, murder of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, one of 10 victims killed during a three-week spree police said was carried out by Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in the Washington area. Three other people were wounded. 

Malvo, 17 at the time of the shootings, is serving a life sentence in a Virginia prison.

You can read the bishop’s full column right here.

Comments read comments(5)
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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted November 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm

And no mention of the price correctional officers pay to to keep murderers in jail for life. I found it very difficult to find the stats of officers murdered by murderers in jail–noone seems to give a hoot or a holler about their lives. As in this column–there is a big hole of negligence of awareness that there will be a very high price paid by some officers who are murdered by people who, in many states, would have been executed and not able to murder again. Based on all the literature –like the piece here–about capital punishment I have read, noone cares about the families of murdered officers, noone’s heart bleeds for them. Heck, noone against cap punishment apparently gives them one word or one thought–or even a prayer vigil for their souls.
Last year 7 correctional officers were killed in the line of duty mostly murdered by murderers –an average year. In 1971 23 were likewise killed in the line of duty. Overall–according to one collection of data 400 have been killed in the line of duty going back to the late 19th Century. But, who cares??? Anyone???

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Mike L

posted November 5, 2009 at 9:49 pm

A very good point, Deacon. In addition there are also many prisoners killed in prison by their fellow inmates, and some of those killed were there for far less crimes. Life prison without parole does not mean that they are made harmless. Rather it simply puts at risk a group of people that we would rather not think about. It also does not mean that the condemned person cannot escape.
That having been said, I do think that the death penalty has been way overused and abused. The catechism states that a criminal may be executed for the common good, not for revenge. Too often this has not been the case.

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RP Burke

posted November 6, 2009 at 8:53 am

1. Deacon Bresnehan also argues for improving security within the prisons, and not just zapping someone who might (or might not) kill again.
2. If someone is to die in jail, I find it presumptuous that we (as a society, represented by the state) would overrule God’s time as to when the person would die.

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Mike L

posted November 6, 2009 at 11:08 am

But RP Burke, would it not be presumptions the we would overrule God’s time as to when the person would die in the case of an execution?
But then I also wonder at times about our attempts to overrule God’s plan by extending natural life through medical care.

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Paul Snatchko

posted November 6, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Dear Deacon John B.,
Thank you for your comment. You are correct. We do need to think (and advocate and pray) more about prison security and provide all of the needed tools and resources for those who work in prisons.
I care about the correctional officers who have died in the line of duty and will pray for them.
Regarding a prayer vigil for them, I would be willing to help arrange one. Please be in contact with me if you would like to pursue that further.
Regarding the overall question of capital punishment, however, I would like to remind you of the words of Pope John Paul II during his 1999 visit to St. Louis:
“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation.
“A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.
“Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 27). I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”

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