In recent years, more and more Americans agree that life without parole and rehabilitation are humane alternatives to capital punishment. This sentiment has brought the death penalty in our country to an all time historic low.
Given the advances that we as a society have made towards a culture of life, we at OneLife LA are greatly saddened to hear that the Department of Justice is scheduling federal executions for the first time in two decades. This is an alarming reversal of our country’s ongoing evolution towards a society that respects life from conception to natural death.
We ask everyone to join us in prayer for the five inmates scheduled for a federal execution under the DOJ. We reaffirm our commitment to seeking rehabilitation for offenders while seeking justice and support for their victims.
However, we are grateful that Gov. Gavin Newsom suspended the California death penalty in March, which granted a reprieve to 737 people on death row. We agree with Newsom that the death penalty is “ineffective, irreversible, and immoral,” and we see this decision as a reflection of a growing global awareness of the dignity of human life.
“Every human life is precious and sacred in the eyes of God and every person has a dignity that comes from God,” Archbishop José H. Gomez says. “This is true for the innocent and it is true for the guilty. It is true even for those who commit grave evil and are convicted of the most cruel and violent crimes.”
We believe that nothing can lesson a person’s inherent dignity—this is true for all people at all stages of life, for all abilities and even for the most hardened criminal. This is what it means to build a culture of life.
The Archbishop adds that the death penalty can no longer be used as an excuse to protect the innocent. “With advances in law enforcement and criminal justice,” he says, “we do not need to execute criminals to keep our society safe or prevent violent offenders from committing further violence. "
Many great thinkers of past generations have supported the end of capital punishment. Martin Luther King, Jr. said the death penalty goes “against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”
Charles Dickens reminded readers that, “Dead men never repent.” Mahatma Gandhi said, “God alone can take life because He alone gives it.” And Victor Hugo wrote, “Death belongs to God alone.”
Jean Vanier, a great defender of the marginalized, believed that we must forgive our enemies, but he also understood that “crimes of oppression and massacre leave deep wounds.” He once referenced a woman whose family had been massacred in the Rwanda genocide. This woman felt anger and revolt, which he called “healthy” and “natural.”
He wrote, “Apathy in these circumstances would be a sign of depression and of a refusal to live.” This woman learned to accept her feelings and began the long and difficult road towards forgiveness. She decided against seeking revenge.
Vanier added, “Forgiveness is then to have hope for the oppressor, to believe in their humanity hidden under all their brokenness.”
We are grateful to the men and women who have shown us that forgiveness is possible, and we are also grateful for those who have worked to rehabilitate criminals. This is how we establish a culture of life.