||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 I
Recorded April 25, 2006 -- Broadcast April 26, 2008.
Vatican Radio: The European Union this week appealed to the governor of the U.S. state of Kentucky to commute the execution of a convicted killer to life imprisonment. Earlier this month, Americaís Supreme Court ruled that the use of lethal injection to execute prisoners did not violate the constitution as a form of cruel and inhumane punishment. The decision, supported by seven judges with just two against, means that many U.S. states may now lift moratoriums on executions that have been in place while the highest court considered the case brought by two death row inmates in Kentucky. Most states now use the three drug lethal injection method, but in recent years there have been a number of executions in which the drugs failed to take effect immediately, with witnesses reporting the condemned taking up to thirty minutes to die. This latest development came on the second day of Pope Benedictís pastoral visit to the United States. It marks a big setback for anti-death penalty campaigners, especially for Catholics who were hoping that some of the Supreme Court Justices might follow the Churchís teaching on this issue.
Dale Recinella: In actuality, it is primarily the five Catholic justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who continue to sustain and keep the death penalty in America in operation.
Vatican Radio: Dale Recinella is a Catholic lay chaplain to prisoners on Floridaís death row and in solitary confinement cells. Heís been traveling around Italy this month [April] with his wife Susan who also ministers to death row families and educating young people about the anti-death penalty campaign in the United States. Just before he returns to America, Dale came to Vatican Radio to tell me more about what this new development means for him and his work.
Dale Recinella: Itís very, very disappointing. Every time a major case is before the U.S. Supreme Court, their first decisionówhich isnít written but must be made before they make a written decision on the caseómust be whether to deal with the case as narrowly as possible, just the very, very minute specifics of the facts, or to deal with it as broadly as possible. In this case there was the potential to deal with it as broadly as possible and to say simply that capital punishment is cruel and inhumane, itís unnecessary, and itís not constitutional in this day and age in a first world democracy. Thatís what we had hoped for.
They opted to make the decision as narrowly as possible, so narrowly that one of the judges that was in the majority of the 7 to 2 vote said that because of precedent and the narrowness of the Courtís scope in this case he must go along with the majority; but he went on record to say that capital punishment should be stopped in the United States because itís cruel and inhumane. So, there is hope although it was a very disappointing decision and what it does mean immediately is that the execution machinery is going to restart.
Vatican Radio: How much is this decision there in Kentucky likely to influence the other states in that area, in that southern region?
Dale Recinella: Well, itís such a strange situation. We have thirty-eight states that have the death penalty, but even of those thirty-eight; five have never used it, another six have only used it one time in thirty-one years. Almost 91% of the executions in America in the last thirty-one years have been concentrated in just fourteen states, for the most part the states with the lowest percentage of Catholics. These states have been waiting for this decision, and this includes Florida. We anticipate now that this lethal injection protocol has received a nod from the U.S. Supreme Court weíre going see an attempt by these states to catch up on their executions, and unfortunately, weíre expecting a flurry of executions in the rest of 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. Thatís 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.
Next Week: Vatican Radio Interview of Dale S. Recinella -- PART II
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.
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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