||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
When Is a Rose Not a Rose?
By: Dale Recinella
Lush green woods frame the fields across the full compass.
Just before the fields are the barely visible remnants of smooth gray walls that once echoed with cries and thuds of adolescent handball enthusiasts. Trees and foliage have long since forced their way through the cement. I can’t believe I’m old enough to have played handball before those trees claimed the courts.
Thirty-six years ago  I arrived here at the age of 14. This monastery of Franciscan Friars was my home for four years of high school. Back then we called it a “priest factory.” The proper nomenclature was “minor seminary.”
The large e-shaped main building is still here. The bell tower and chapel are intact. But the tan corridors that once led to classrooms, dorms and study halls are now pastel ribbons of purple and pink that connect over eighty small residential units. The entire facility has been converted to a low-income retirement apartment building. Soon the soccer fields will sprout moderate-income town homes, assisted living quarters and a skilled-care nursing home. An alumnus two years my junior joins me for a walk in the cool Cincinnati evening.
“Things sure have changed,” he laments. “Used to be you could get expelled for bringing a single woman on the property. Now, sixty-eight of the residents are single, widowed women. They’ve taken over the place!”
“Yeah,” I laugh. “From all appearances it looks like the same old place. But in reality it’s completely different.”
He slows down as we come to the lake, switching gears to a more difficult subject. “Dale, we all respect your ministry work, especially on death row. But some of us have questions. Some of the guys read your column pretty regularly. They have folks in Florida that send it to them or some get the paper up here. This stuff you’ve been writing about the death penalty and the ancient Hebrews … well answer me one thing. Are you trying to say that the Jews didn’t use the death penalty? We all know they did.”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying.”
“We’ll I’m glad to hear that. But what exactly are you saying?”
We approach the foot of the drive, the transition point in the landscape between the lake filled valley beneath the main building and the tree-covered paths to the Lourdes Grotto. I turn to the huge brown structure now looming over the top of the hill behind us. “What I’m saying is similar to the case of this old building.”
“Well look at it. It’s still brown and brick, still has the bell tower, still has the same windows and doors. From right here, it looks just like the place where we used to live and say office and study over thirty years ago. But would you call it a seminary?”
“Hey, it looks the same superficiallybut it’s not the same at all. The inside has been gutted and completely changed. Besides that, it’s full of elderly women. It doesn’t even serve the same purpose. It’s not a seminary anymore... it’s just a building that looks like a seminary used to look.”
“That’s exactly my point about our American death penalty. From a distance it looks similar to what the Hebrews did under the Old Testament. But as soon as you look closely, it’s absolutely clear that there is nothing in common between our death penalty and the Biblical death penalty other than the fact that somebody gets killed. There is no such thing as a Biblical death penalty in America. It would be less dishonest to call this retirement village a seminary than it is to try and justify our American death penalty based on Scripture.”
 Now, it has been 42 years ago.
First published: The Florida Catholic, July 12, 2001
© 2001 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
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