Based in Ohio, with additional locations in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia, the Congregation of St. Joseph “is a community of more than 700 vowed women religious dedicated to the love of God and neighbor, committed to sharing life together in community, and missioned to be a unifying, reconciling presence wherever we live and minister. We are joined in this commitment by more than 500 lay associates.”
Death Penalty Statement
Our faith and the mission of unity of the Congregation of St. Joseph call us to a reverence for all life, including the lives of people who have been convicted and sentenced to death. The command not to kill is a basic tenet of all of the world’s major religions. The compassion of Jesus and his strong expression of mercy and justice further move us to give particular attention to persons who are poor, vulnerable and those considered outcasts in our society.
Our moral and spiritual opposition to the death penalty is further affirmed by the words of the late Holy Father, who called recourse to the death penalty “unnecessary” and painfully reminded us that our “model of society bears the stamp of the culture of death, and is therefore in opposition to the Gospel message.” (Pope John Paul II. World Day of the Sick, Washington, DC, February 2003)
In addition to our opposition to the death penalty itself, we are seriously concerned about how it is administered. Various studies have documented the connections between poverty, racism and abuse and the demographics of our prison populations. The results are prison and death row populations that are disproportionately poor, black and Hispanic.
Furthermore, redressing such abuses of justice becomes absolutely urgent when, as case reviews have shown, innocent people have been executed. A key finding by the Death Penalty Study Commission in New Jersey, which abolished its death penalty in 2007, concluded that, “The penological interest in executing a small number of persons guilty of murder is not sufficiently compelling to justify the risk of making an irreversible mistake.” More recently, New Mexico also abolished the death penalty.
As a result of our traditional practice of discerning God’s movement among us through a process of communal education, contemplation and dialogue, the Congregation of St. Joseph will work to abolish the death penalty. We will continue to offer support to the families of murder victims, as well as to prisoners on Death Row. We will work for systemic change through prison reform and abolition of the death penalty in the United States and Japan, where our sisters also minister to God’s people.