Sisters of St. Francis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

August 24, 2011

We are a congregation of approximately 540 Catholic women religious who:

  • choose a Gospel way of life lived in community
  • are dedicated to serving others, especially those who are economically poor, marginal, and oppressed
  • minister in the United States in approximately 24 states as well as Europe and Africa
  • serve in a variety of ministries and settings
  • we follow the values of the Third Order Regular Franciscans
Death Penalty Statement (1999)
The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia voted to take a corporate stand against the death penalty, a stand firmly grounded in Catholic social teaching and in their Franciscan heritage and tradition. In the past the position of the Catholic Church on capital punishment was more ambiguous than on other life issues. Since 1980, however, the U.S. bishops have spoken out as individuals and as a body against state-sanctioned killing. The “consistent ethic of life” articulated by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1989 provided a framework for all issues involving defense of human life and rejection of violence. Perhaps no Church leader has spoken with greater clarity against the death penalty than Pope John Paul II. His appeal for the life of convicted murderer Darrell Mease in January 1999, made media headlines and spurred the U.S. bishops to issue an administrative statement, “A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty.” The pope’s call also motivated Equal Justice USA to undertake the “Moratorium Now!” Campaign, which includes a “Model Catholic Resolution” signed, as of July 12, 1999, by more than 500 groups, including the leadership team of the Sisters of St. Francis. This corporate stand is one more concrete way of affirming our belief in nonviolence and to “take the necessary steps to be a healing, compassionate presence in our violent world, especially with…those who have no voice.” We acknowledge the emotional challenge of this issue. Our corporate stand in no way condones or tries to mitigate the often heinous crimes of murder which must not go unpunished. Nor does it ignore the need to reach out with compassion to families and friends of victims. It does affirm the innate dignity of all human life, even the life of one who commits an evil act, and calls for an end to statesanctioned murder. We also recognize that, as the numerous exonerations in recent years evidence, innocent persons are sometimes convicted of murder and that biases and prejudices are sometimes factors in our judicial system. Congregation Website