But what about …?
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I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
October 1, 2012
Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Correctional Chaplain Florida's Death Row & Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella,Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed and for seventeen years a Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults.

But what about …?
By: Dale S. Recinella
Catholic Correctional Chaplain for Florida’s Death Row

Last week marked my first ever trip to Cody, Wyoming, a town just minutes from the East Gate (U.S. 14) to Yellowstone National Park.

When we receive guests in Florida, deference to certain local proclivities is expected: trips to honor the Mouse (Disney World), to rub the coquina walls of Fort Marion (St. Augustine), and to ride the glass bottom boats through the alligator pitted river (Wakulla Springs, where the Tarzan movies of my youth were filmed). So I consented to the touristy regimens of my local experts, including the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum and the Plains Indians Museum. I begged off on the Wild Sheep Museum.

Aside from those few tourist mandatories, all pursued in snow flurries and chill breezes of less than 25 degrees, the trip was deadly serious: the annual statewide meeting of the Wyoming Catholics United for Life. Usually, this once-per-year gathering hosted speakers and topics more typical of religious Right to Life Conferences. This year the subject was all about capital punishment and the concept of God’s mercy.

In the course of an intense day, the statewide audience heard the riveting testimony of a mother whose son at college had been brutally abducted, tortured and murdered in a gang thrill-kill. As she wrapped up the description of her journey to forgiveness, it seemed impossible for there to be any oxygen left in the hotel, let alone the room.

Then, Fr. Augustine Judd, a Dominican priest and theologian, delivered two one-hour presentations on the Catholic Church’s history with and theology of capital punishment, culminating with the Church’s modern day application of that tradition: moral exercise of the state’s power to execute only obtains when bloodless means are not sufficient to protect innocent life in society.

I was there to share the story of our family’s journey from my first career (as a Wall Street finance lawyer) to our death row ministry of the last fifteen years. Then, in a second talk, to bring the audience up close to death row and the death house. Finally, in the evening keynote at dinner, they asked me to share my personal journey and change of heart on the death penalty—a change that took place in the late 1980s, at least a decade before we came into death row ministry.

The participants were incredible. Fully engaged. Brimming over with questions and encouragement. I marveled at their stamina in the face of such a deluge of difficult talks. As the dinner ended and a closing benediction was given, many lined up to share their appreciation and last questions with the speakers. That is when a very serious and concerned lady approached me.

“Thank you for your stories. It was all quite incredible, this whole day. But I have a concern. Don’t we need the death penalty for the ones who are sociopaths, who have no remorse, the ones who are …”

“I think the term you are looking for is ‘intrinsically evil.’”

“Yes,” she takes my hand in a gesture that is clearly more forceful than she meant it to be. “Yes, the ones who are intrinsically evil, who have no remorse. Who are cocky and brazen about the horror they have done. Don’t we need the death penalty for those ones?”

“Are you Catholic?” I ask gently.

“Yes, but why should that matter?”

“Because as Catholics we do not believe that anyone is intrinsically evil, no matter how sociopathic they are. We believe that everyone is susceptible to the power of the Cross and Resurrection and can be redeemed.”


“The notion of predestination to Hell, which is what it means to be intrinsically evil, is from John Calvin. It is part of a theory of double predestination: that some people are predestined by God for Heaven, and others are predestined by God for Hell. As Catholics we do not believe that.”

“What do we believe?”

“We believe that God creates and predestines everyone for Heaven, but we get to choose whether or not we accept the gift.”

“So, these people get off Scott-free without eternal punishment?”

“Only if they repent.”

“But what if they just repent to avoid Hell?”

"We as Catholics call that imperfect contrition, repentance out of fear of the loss of Heaven and of the pains and punishments of Hell. And, yes, we believe that can be a sufficient route to salvation. It is not as good or as pure as perfect contrition, repentance out of the horror of the harm we’ve done to others and the offense of our crimes to a pure and perfectly loving God. But, we believe that imperfect contrition can result in salvation. And that everyone, no matter how perverse his or her sins are, is capable of repentance.”

“Well, let me tell you, brother, if that is true, God and the Church are a lot more merciful than I am!”


©2012 Dale S. Recinella, Tallahassee, Florida U.S.A.
All rights reserved. No reuse or republication without permission.

Upcoming Events:

Now I Walk on Death Row - in Italy

          Catholic Correctional Chaplain for Florida Death Row
          Catholic Volunteer for Ministry to Families of the Executed

Events throughout Italy October 15 – November 3, 2012:
     Turin, Genoa, Milan, Florence, Rome and other locations to be set
Nel braccio della morte: Un avvocato di Wall Street diventa cappellano dei condannati a morte per fare quello che Gesù ha detto
(Edizioni San Paolo: 2012).
The Italian edition of Now I Walk on Death Row will be available for purchase and signing at all events. Contact: E-mail

Now I Walk on Death Row - in Boston, MA

    Catholic Correctional Chaplain for Florida Death Row

Boston College and Sant’Egidio Cities for Life

Thursday November 29, 2012

Details in next month’s Ezine

I Was In Prison
News & Updates
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.

Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!

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 Monthly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
The Poor Clare Sisters
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 The Poor Clare Sisters of Spokane
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach