A New Day Shines – The Tower, September 3 2010
I set out to write introductory remarks for this column as this academic year commences. Yet, the words never came to me as I tried to comment on old news and new beginnings. Then an e-mail arrived and these words flowed out because this is really a story of new beginnings.
her name is Teresa Lewis and she is a Child of God. Twenty days from today, the Commonwealth of Virginia will kill Teresa, unless the execution is stayed.
The specifics of her care are, like any legal matter, far too complex for this brief article. She pleaded guilty to involvement in a murder-for-hire plot, after cooperating with the police and informing them of the masterminds and killers in the plot. (As an aside, neither of these men received the death penalty). Teresa now waits out her time as the only woman on Virginia’s death row.
Teresa is far more than her conviction though. She is a mother, a grandmother, and a devout Christian. Multiple prison chaplains who know Teresa have written letters to the Governor of Virginia explaining Teresa’s deep faith, and the positive ways she has affected those inmates around her.
Yet, for Catholics these specifics are almost irrelevant. Most importantly, she is our sister in Christ and she has the right to life, even after her most grievous sins.
Officially, the Church teaches that the death penalty may be used “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor (CCC 2267).”
The era which we find ourselves in led John Paul II to write in Evangelium Vitae that cases in which the death penalty can be applied “are very rare if not practically nonexistent.”
Cases for the application of the death penalty are only hypotheticals at this point. Certainly the American penal system, seriously flawed as it may be, does possess the capacity to protect society from the most dangerous of criminals. There is no plausible defense for the use of the death penalty in the world today.
In recent years, the Catholic Church, from the Popes and episcopal conferences down to parish priests and lay grassroots organizers, have spoken out against the use of the death penalty.
It is telling that a 2001 Vatican statement affirmed this growing movement stating, “The Holy See has engaged itself in the pursuit of the abolition of capitalist punishment as an integral part of the defense of human life at every state…”
Now we have an opportunity to help in the effort to save Teresa’s life and allow her to continue on her journey of reconciliation with God.
After the 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., at Fall Fiesta on the tables of various groups, and through the Pryz next week, members of the university community will have the opportunity to sign petitions to Governor Bob McDonnell. We are asking him to commute Teresa’s sentence to life in prison.
As The Catholic University of America, we proudly call ourselves pro-life. In so many ways, we act to protect lives and further the common good. It is time to unite and act once against in showing how pro-life we truly are through our prayers and in our actions.