||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Interview of Dale S. Recinella -- PART I
By: Dale Recinella
Vatican Radio, Rome, Italy
Interview of Dale S. Recinella -- PART II
Recorded April 25, 2006 -- Broadcast April 26, 2008.
Vatican Radio: So where do you go from here? As you say this is a very disappointing step in what seemed to be slow but sure progress towards the abolition or at least a permanent moratorium on the death penalty in the United States.
Dale Recinella: Well, there are two aspects to that question Philippa: one is personal and the other is in terms of the ministry work. Monday morning I will be on death row with the retired bishop John Snyder who goes with me twice a month to distribute communion and sacraments. The most immediate impact is we will be ministering to the men who are now anticipating the effect of this decision on their life immediately. That’s the immediate effect of this decision.
A longer effect is feeling a need to somehow bring the awareness of our Catholic Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to the reality that the death penalty is a respect life issue. When partial birth abortion was before the U.S. Supreme Court about a year and a half ago the five Catholic Justices stood courageously and sustained the right of the states to ban partial birth abortion. It was absolutely the right decision morally, ethically, and legally. But somehow they have not yet heard that the death penalty is a respect for life issue. And it is primarily the five Catholic Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who continue to sustain and keep the death penalty in operation in America.
Vatican Radio: Why is this? Are the church leaders not making their voices heard clearly enough?
Dale Recinella: The bishops in America have been very clear. In fact, they have produced materials both written and on DVD which Susan and I use in all our talks to Catholic groups in the United States. The materials and resources they have provided are phenomenal. And yet, as we go around Florida and around the United States speaking to Catholic churches, Catholics in respect life organizations--people who have been a part of fighting the culture of death for three decades—constantly come to us afterwards and say “I had no idea that the Catholic Church has a position on the death penalty”. Somehow the word has not yet gotten down to the people in the pews.
So, we really are in need of the popular Catholic media like EWTN and Catholic Answers, the TV and radio media from which ordinary Catholics get so much of their Catholic information when their not in church on Sunday, we really need them to emphasize the Church’s teaching on this issue and to emphasize the leadership of the Catholic bishops. That is how this teaching will be disseminated to American Catholics at large, and especially to our wonderful five Catholic Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who need to know that this is not just an issue of legality. This is an issue of morality and ethics; the death penalty in America is “cruel and unnecessary” , and it needs to stop.
Vatican Radio: You’re also working at the same time beyond the Catholic community; you’re also trying to reach out aren’t you? Particularly to that very strong Baptist presence down there in those southern states that maintain the use of the death penalty.
Dale Recinella: Absolutely, and it’s essential that we do that in order to end the death penalty in the United States. If you look at the eight most Catholic states in the United States, the total number of executions over thirty-one years for all eight states put together is two. When you look at the ten states that have the lowest percentage of Catholics, they have an average of over thirty-two executions each over thirty-one years. The Bible belt is where the death penalty is taking place in the United States. Ten years ago the leadership of this large religious phenomenon was the Southern Baptist Convention and many other southern churches followed their lead: believing very strictly that the Bible mandates the death penalty and that to go against the death penalty was to go against God’s word. We have been working, not just us, but many others in the United States as well, to correct this misreading of Scripture. That was the reason I wrote the book The Biblical Truth about America’s Death Penalty.
Now, recently, when I was on a radio show from Washington D.C. opposite the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (which is kind of their version of the Vatican) he was very clear that Scripture does not mandate the death penalty, but rather it provides the death penalty as an option that can be used by government. And for policy reasons, he said, they recommend that we have it. Well this is massive, this is a major reformulation. And so we are able to say on the religious front that the battle has been won. But just as the Catholics in the pews still need to get the message from the bishops, we have to make sure that the Baptists and the Protestants in the Bible-belt pews get the message that the death penalty is not mandated by Scripture. Then, reason can intervene in making a decision. Of course when reason intervenes on the American death penalty, the death penalty is over. It’s an abomination: all the facts about what it does to people, racial bias, bias against the poor, the percentage of the executed that are mentally ill, and on and on. When reason comes to bear on the reality of the American death penalty, it’s over.
So we look at our work as being one of education: educating Catholics on what the Church teaches and what the reality is, and educating our Baptist and Protestant brothers and sisters on what the Bible really says and what the reality is. And as people become educated to both of those things, we believe we will see an end to this. But we must also educate our five Catholic Supreme Court Justices.
Vatican Radio: My thanks to Dale Recinella Catholic lay chaplain to prisoners on Florida’s death row. You can find out more about his ministry and that of his wife Susan on their website www.iwasinprison.org.
And that’s all for me, Philippa, and all of us here on the English program today. Join us again tomorrow or on the internet again if you can on www.vaticanradio.com
 Pope John Paul II, St. Louis, MO (January 1999).
Broadcast by Vatican radio, Rome, Italy on April 26, 2008
© 2008 Radio Vaticana.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
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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