Last month, people of faith, including hundreds of women religious, mobilized to take a stand against the death penalty in Virginia. There were two big issues at stake both involving the practice of executions. First, The Virginia General Assembly voted to bring back the electric chair as an active execution method. Women religious from all across the country raised their voices against this cruel measure and asked Governor McAuliffe, a Catholic, to veto the bill. Their voices were not ignored; at the eleventh hour Governor McAuliffe rejected the electric chair amendment.
Unfortunately, the Governor also proposed an amendment to allow the state to obtain lethal injection drugs in secret from compounding pharmacies. The Department of Corrections claimed it could not find a reliable supplier of the drugs and needed to hide behind a cloak of secrecy. This was not the ethical solution. Women religious again rallied to advocate for justice- this time to ask the legislature to veto the Governor’s amendments. Sister Ilaria, CMN’s Director of Latino Outreach, and her community of Comboni Missionary Sisters participated in a press conference in a public stand for Catholic values.
After two rounds of voting, the legislature ultimately decided to accept the secrecy amendment. We are disappointed in the outcome but not disheartened. The service of leadership demonstrated by people of faith, particularly women religious, is changing the culture of the death penalty. Thank you to Sister Ilaria, the Comboni Missionary Sisters, and all those who continue to bravely champion life and dignity.