The Death Penalty In Black And White – Part III
I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
November 6, 2007
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

The Death Penalty In Black And White – Part III
By: Dale Recinella

Back in the 1980s, I had been a partner in two Miami based law firms.


The Friday Rule was “anybody who answered the phone after 4:30pm on a Friday deserved whatever happened to him.” The logic was impeccable. Nobody would call a law firm after 4:30pm on a Friday unless it was a crisis. And guaranteed, the crisis would always consume the entire weekend of the unfortunate scrivener who took the call.

Twenty years later I’m no longer with any law firm. Yet, the Friday Rule comes rushing into memory as the late afternoon caller to my home launches into his attack without even pausing for salutatory pleasantries.

“Excuse me,” I interrupt. “But how did you get my phone number?”

“It’s not the nineties, man. Nobody is invisible anymore. Anyway, I used to respect your column and all that. But you blew it. All that nonsense connecting slavery and the death penalty. Where do you get that stuff? You really stretched for it.”

“Not really. In those articles I simply recite the actual facts of history and the statistics of the modern American death penalty. There is no stretch.”

“Oh come off it! The death penalty is in the Bible. How can you compare it to slavery?”

“Believe it or not, one hundred and sixty years ago Christians in the future Confederacy were quoting Scripture to support slavery as God’s plan for society. It was really no different in that regard than all the Christians quoting Scripture verses to support the death penalty today.”

“There you go again, citing some off the wall fringe group as though they represent all of us.”

“Not really. Over 90% of the Christians in the slave states were Methodist and Baptist, and the southern portion of those two denominations split from their northern counterparts over claimed Scriptural support for slavery.”

“Duh. Excuse me, but we’re Catholic, remember?”

“Unfortunately historians seem to believe that all of us had members who were involved in using Bible-based faith to support the institution of slavery: Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran and, yes, even Catholic. The few histories that have been done on this issue indicate that by the 1850s all the major Christian denominations in the South had members who were espousing a Scriptural basis for slavery. Admittedly, most were concerned that either the slave trade or the actual practice of slavery in the South wasn’t conforming to Biblical guidelines.”

“No way, man.”

“Yes, way. Those histories show that Christians throughout the Confederacy could rattle off the Scripture verses that were touted to support slavery as God’s will for society—just like Christians do now with the Scripture verses that are alleged to show the death penalty as God’s will for society. We are experiencing a modern version of the same defective Scriptural approach.”

“Like what? What approach?”

“The flawed Biblical logic for both slavery and capital punishment goes something like this. First, the practice is in the Old Testament. Second, Christ and the Apostles never explicitly said it was wrong. And third, by taking St. Paul out of context, it could be argued that he approved it in the Epistles, at least by implication. Back in the mid-1800s, some theologians and renowned pastors were even quoting the Noahic curse of Ham as Biblical proof that God intended people of color to be enslaved. Now, some quote the Noahic covenant in Genesis as Biblical proof that God intended the death penalty for society. The parallels are incredible.”

“I can’t believe what you’re saying. How could this happen?”

“It seems that those using a fundamentalist Biblical method to support slavery never asked whether slavery was consistent with the spirit of Jesus Christ. Of course it is not. And neither is the death penalty.”

“But Christians have always done all sorts of things that aren’t consistent with the spirit of Jesus!”

“Now there’s something to think about all weekend.”

Statistics updated as of September 24, 2007.



First published: The Florida Catholic, November 13, 2003 © 2003 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic. Used with permission. No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission. All rights reserved Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.

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This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.

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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

If you Like this Weekly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
Sr. Patricia Proctor
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from Amazon.com)

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.



This ezine edited by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC - Poor Clare Sister
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