In my never endless reading stack, I’ve found some amazing non-fiction works. My most recent read was “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions” by Sr. Helen Prejean. *Disclaimer! This woman is one of my heroines!*
Sr. Helen openly and honestly presents a case for human dignity in regards to the death penalty. Through three main case studies, she demonstrates how our court system is rife with failures and repetitive mistakes. In addition, Sr. Helen crafts a fascinating discussion of the changes to the Catechism, the evolution of change that has occurred in the Church’s stance on the death penalty, and the explains the demographics of those who occupy death row.
I was honored to meet Sr. Helen in 2005 after performing in the stage version of “Dead Man Walking’. This was a strong primer into the issues that this book presents. The play was the most moving piece of theater of have ever been involved in. Cast in the role of the prisoner’s mother, I was swiftly introduced into the pain and suffering that exists on all sides. Each night provided us the opportunity to be witnesses to this struggle. The cast of 8 walked off stage each night trembling and silently sobbing. I’ve been greatly affected by performances I have acted in, but never, ever, like this.
The words that I could not find to express experience through “Dead Man Walking”, were “How can one possibly subject human beings to torture and death and yet respect their dignity”? This was the question that Sr. Helen asked of Pope John Paul II when meeting him for the first time.
That reflection is the central theme of this work- how is the death penalty demonstrating dignity and respect? If we, as Catholics and Christians, find upholding life’s sacredness as one of our most important duties, how is this done when we allow the death penalty to be used?
No matter your belief on the death penalty, this book is a must read.“Forgiving violence does not mean condoning violence. There are only two alternatives to forgiving violence: revenge, or adopting an attitude of never-ending bitterness and anger. For too long we have treated violence with violence, and that’s why it never ends.” -Coretta Scott King