The death penalty is not only legal in Georgia, it is routinely carried out and it is widely supported by public officials and the electorate. In the midst of this reality, the Georgia Catholic Conference speaks consistently against the death penalty, in harmony with our state’s bishops.
Abolition of the death penalty in Georgia must originate at the grassroots before change will occur in the halls of the Capitol — and this type of advocacy requires faith and perseverance at all levels. Nearly two years ago, Deacon Dick Tolcher created Georgia Catholics Against the Death Penalty as a forum to educate Catholics about Catholic teaching on the death penalty and coordinate our efforts throughout the state. The organization enjoys the support of all the bishops of Georgia. On their website you will find a moving statement of welcome and encouragement from Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
GACADP works in close collaboration with CMN, incorporating CMN materials and workshops into the important work that it does.
Legislation to abolish or restrict imposition of the death penalty appears in every session but rarely generates even a committee hearing, let alone positive action. Conversely, legislation supporting the death penalty enjoys favor. Georgia performs executions with lethal injections, but opposition to the death penalty in other parts of the country has limited the availability of the necessary drugs. As an alternative, the state wanted to engage local compounding pharmacies to produce the drugs and, in the most recent session, felt the need to pass legislation making the source of those drugs a “state secret.” Despite our opposition, and that of other groups, the bill (HB 122) has become law.
The Georgia Catholic Conference can address public officials directly and articulate Catholic teaching, but change will only come when the voting public recognizes the injustice of death penalty. In Georgia, the Catholic conference works closely with Georgia Catholics Against the Death Penalty as well as diocesan offices supporting justice and peace, respect life, and faith formation in a collaborative effort to spread the Gospel’s pro-life teaching in all its richness.
This article first appeared in CMN’s May 2013 Newsletter.