Friday, 27 June 2008

Bishops to Gov. Crist, ‘set a new standard of respect for life’

Bishops to Gov. Crist, ‘set a new

standard of respect for life’

TALLAHASSEE | Florida’s bishops have called on Gov. Charlie Crist

to “set a new standard of respect for life” in the state by ending use

of the death penalty,

beginning by halting the July 1 scheduled execution of Mark

Dean Schwab.

Schwab, 39, is on death row for the April 18, 1991, rape and murder of


Junny Rios–Martinez of Cocoa. In a letter to Crist dated June 25,

the bishops said

they are praying for the victim and know they are unable to

fully grasp the pain

experienced by his family. They lamented, though, that taking the

life of another

who has killed perpetuates violence as a solution.

“The Lord commands us to forgive, just as our heavenly

Father has forgiven us.

It is only through the process of forgiveness that we are healed

and our suffering

can be alleviated,” Bishop Victor Galeone, episcopal moderator for

the State Pro–Life Coordinating Committee of the

Florida Catholic Conference

and bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, said in press release

from the conference.

Schwab was scheduled to die by lethal injection Nov. 15, 2007,

but the execution

was blocked a day earlier by the U.S. Supreme Court while the

court considered

a Kentucky case concerning the constitutionality of

lethal injection as

a method of execution. Schwab’s is the first execution to

be scheduled

in Florida since the high court’s April 16 ruling that the use of

the three–drug

cocktail is not cruel and unusual punishment.

The letter, signed by the leaders of Florida’s six dioceses

and the leader

and two auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Miami,


that the state has the right to execute murderers. However,

it pointed to

problems with fairness in the way the death penalty has

been applied.

“More and more states in our nation are taking a second

look at the use of

the death penalty as a form of punishment. Over the years,


within our own state have reported an inequality and


in who receives a death sentence,” Sheila Hopkins,

the Catholic

conference’s associate director for social

concerns/respect life,

said in the conference’s release.

Catholics throughout Florida have planned prayerful

protests of Schwab’s

execution. For example, prayer vigils are scheduled

in the Diocese of

Venice for the scheduled time of the execution, and

parishes in the

Orlando Diocese have chartered a bus to protest

outside the prison

that houses that death chamber in Starke.

The bishops, too, said they are approaching the

execution with prayer.

They wrote to the governor: “As we pray for

Junny Rios–Martinez and

his family, we pray also for you, as well as for those

on death row,

that we all will acknowledge God as the Lord of Life,

and that we

all may learn, not only to obey the commandment not

to kill human life,

but also to revere it.”

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