||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Proof Of Life
By: Dale Recinella
It’s midsummer in steamy north Florida. The halls of death row are stiflingly hot and humid.
Officers come off each task in the unairconditioned corridors pale and drenched with sweat. The inmates, caged in their cells behind a wire mesh that further inhibits airflow, seem barely alive.
“If I’m going to keep doing this I’ve got to lose some weight,” I vow out loud after three hours in the hellish heat and one hundred percent humidity.
“You wanna lose weight? Try eating this!” one of the death row inmates laughs and holds his lunch tray of ‘mystery meat’ up to the wire wall between us.
“Sorry, I can’t. It’s against the rules.”
“Lucky for you, man,” the fellow in the next cell chimes in. “Hey, we saw your dude on the news last night.” The appearance of the man speaking reminds me of the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. He’s also well read and well spoken, but with distinctive shades of country.
“Excuse me, who’s my dude?”
“You know, the guy with that hat.”
“Oh, the Pope.” I’ve learned that many men from rural Florida have never met a Catholic before coming to prison. For them the trademark of Catholicism is the image of the papal miter. Their misguided rural preachers taught them that it is a satanic symbol of the antichrist and the whore of Babylon from the Biblical Book of Revelation.
“Yeah, that dude,” the Professor is pleased that we’re communicating. “He was meeting with the President. Man, I don’t want to tell you the stuff I learned coming up about him and you people. But I will say this. He seems to be one of the only ones out there who is talking straight.”
“Let me put it to you straight. Your dude seems to be the only one out there who cares about human life. He’s telling the Pres this stuff about research on babies….you know what I’m talking about?”
“Yes. It’s called stem cell research.”
“Yeah. That stuff. Well your dude is taking it straight to the Pres and telling him like it is. It’s downright immoral. It’s evil.”
“Man, where you been?” the fellow who offered to share his lunch with me rejoins the discussion. “People out there don’t care about morality or human life anymore. Even some of the ones against abortion are in favor of killing little babies to save their own necks. They just afraid of getting sick when they get old. I seen it on the tube. Ain’t that right preacher?”
“I think they are confused.”
“Confused? About what?”
“They’ve been told that the babies left over from fertility centers are going to be disposed of anyway. So they think it is okay to use them for experiments.”
“See what I mean?” the Professor shakes his head. “We here are all going to be disposed of. What’s to stop them from doing research on us? Once you start this, where does it end?”
“That’s the point our Pope was making to the President. Once you make human life a relative value, it’s a toboggan run into hell.”
“Ain’t this what the Nazis did? Didn’t they do research on people?”
“Yes. First they declared some people weren’t human. Then they did experiments on them that were inhuman.”
“Well it don’t need no declaration,” the lunch man points at me through the mesh. “You can say people ain’t human just by acting like it’s true. Look at us in here in this heat. A person could be sent to jail for keeping a dog in these conditions. Is we human or are we less than dogs? When do the experiments start on us?”
First published: The Florida Catholic, August 9, 2001
© 2001 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed