Saturday, January 15, 2011


I am pleased that St.Joseph Church is one of the sponsors for Mercer University's "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Freedom Lecture at Mercer University." Mercer University is a Southern Baptist university. Not only does this lecture occur on Dr. Martin Luther King's holiday but also during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are pleased that Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ will be speaking at this wonderful event.

Dead Man Walking Author to Speak at Mercer on King Day
January 17 at 7:00 PM

MACON — Sister Helen Préjean, author of Dead Man Walking, will deliver Mercer University’s inaugural Freedom Lecture at 7 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 17, in Willingham Auditorium on the University’s Macon campus. The event is free and open to the public, and a book signing will be held immediately following the lecture in Newton Chapel. In addition to Préjean’s lecture, she will give a writing workshop and there will be two free film screenings.

One of the foremost advocates for the abolition of the death penalty, Préjean is a Roman Catholic nun, social activist, community organizer, best-selling author and a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. While serving the poor of New Orleans, she began correspondence with a man on death row, eventually became his spiritual adviser and accompanied him to his execution. From her experiences, Préjean wrote Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. A Notable Book and Pulitzer Prize nominee, the book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 31 weeks. It was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film by Tim Robbins, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

The book and film have helped to propel Préjean to the forefront of the debate over the death penalty and she has been interviewed by hundreds of broadcast and print media outlets around the world. Her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was published in 2004. In it, she tells the story of two men, Dobie Gillis Williams and Joseph O’Dell, whom she accompanied to their executions. She believes both of them were innocent. Fifteen years after beginning her crusade, the Roman Catholic sister has witnessed five executions in Louisiana and today educates the public about the death penalty by lecturing, organizing and writing. As the founder of “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans, she continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims, as well.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Freedom Lecture at Mercer seeks to bring leading thinkers to the University whose vision reflects the values of faith, education, freedom, community and morality expressed in the institution’s mission and in the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Film Screenings (Free)

At the Death House Door
A documentary that focuses on the career of a chaplain at the Texas Department of Corrections and his change of heart and view about the death penalty.
Sunday, Jan. 16, at 1:30 p.m.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, Social Hall

Dead Man Walking
Starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn and directed by Tim Robbins
Monday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m.
Cox Capitol Theatre

The event is co-sponsored by Mercer University’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies, Mercer Office of the Provost, Centenary United Methodist Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church and The Regeneration Writers. It is presented in partnership with Congregation Sha’arey Israel, Cox Capitol Theatre, Daughters of Charity, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, Georgians for an Alternative to the Death Penalty, High Street Unitarian Universalist Church, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, St. James Episcopal Church, Temple Beth Israel, Tubman African American Museum and Tremont Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

About the College of Continuing and Professional Studies
The College offers degree programs and lifelong learning opportunities for adults who seek leadership roles in their communities and beyond, professional transition and advancement, and lives that have meaning and purpose. The College offers undergraduate degree programs in organizational leadership, human resources administration and development, public safety, liberal studies (individualized), and human services, and graduate programs in counseling, school counseling, and public safety leadership. Its programs are offered on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses, at the University’s regional academic centers in Henry County, Douglas County, Eastman and Newnan. Beginning the fall of 2011 the College will offer a Bachelor of Science in Informatics and in January 2012 a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit


pinanv525 said...

January 19 is also the birthday of Robert E. Lee, a man of character, dignity, and courage. A brilliant military commander and strategist, he went all the way through West Point without receiving a single demerit. For many of us growing up in the South, he was the example of a gentleman, scholar, and warrior that we were encouraged to emulate. He represented the highest moral ideals, loyalty, and social grace that we lack today. There was a full length portrait of Lee in uniform hanging in my grammar school auditorium.

Anonymous said...

This a good example of a position the Church takes on a social issue that needs a way through presented as an alternative.


pinanv525 said...

Yep. The Catechism allows for the death penalty, but not as a mere gratuitous measure of revenge. The law used to be seen as the temporal arm of the,liberal/progressive Priests,nuns,and laity often choose to take positions that are either directly in conflict with the laws of the land or that might be described as "scoff-law" positions (This has long been popular among liberal Protestants. Their seminaries even encourage it). This is most unfortunate.

S. Truth said...

R.E. Lee was a traitor, violating the solemn oath he took as an officer in the United States Army. As brilliant as he certainly was, he strove to destroy the nation for which thousands of Revolutionary fighters gave their lives.

He fought a war to enable the continued enslavement of men, women, and children. Men of the highest moral ideals do not behave in this manner.

Oh, and I, too, grew up in the South and am the descendant of two great-grandfathers who fought in the army of the CSA.

kiwiinamerica said...

One of the foremost advocates for the abolition of the death penalty, Préjean is a Roman Catholic nun, social activist, community organizer, best-selling author and a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

OK, well we won't hold all those things against her, seeing as St. Joseph's is sponsoring her.

However, Sr. Prejean's fight against the death penalty would be more convincing if it was matched by a similar abhorrence for the murder of unborn children. I started to tune out the good sister after she gave an equivocating answer when queried about abortion: (cf. Interview by Robert Holton in Our Sunday Visitor for April 14, 1996): “Abortion is much more complex than a mere choice, because the cross hairs of this decision are in the woman’s body, and the woman decides this. I think for us to really answer the abortion question so that women don’t have them, we really have to look seriously at the whole thing of birth control, family planning, and not having unwanted pregnancies.”

Sorry, sister. That doesn't cut it for me.

However, she really lost me during the Terri Schiavo horror. Interviewed on CNN about Terri's situation she dismissed it out of hand and launched into a rant about the death penalty:

Prejean: "You know, I just heard that President Bush is saying this is about defense of life. (Prejean signed a petition calling for Bush's impeachment) Look at all of the human energy around this woman, who is in a, you know, a state where you're saying, "Is she alive?"

"Does she deserve to die? Well, we have killed almost 1,000 people through the death penalty."

"If you want to talk about defense of life, you not only have to talk about this single individual and all of this around her particular life where her husband and other members in the family say, in fact, she should be allowed to die that, in fact, she already has died -- I see it as a bogus, diversionary thing."

Sr. Helen Prejean and others like her can get quite worked up about the rights of serial murderers on death row, but they never seem to be quite as excited about the rights of innocent unborn babies. That's because too many of them see abortion as merely unfortunate: they positively do not believe it is intrinsically evil.

I'll be giving her lecture a miss.

pinanv525 said...

S. Truth, You need to read a bit more history of the War Between the States and a bit more about Robert E. Lee. PS The war was not about slavery per se, and Lee was not a slave holder.

pinanv525 said...

Sounds like Prejean is another of your modern issue "nuns" with a liberal social agenda. I wouldn't walk across the street to hear her if they paid me to do so.

Frajm said...

Just keep in mind that soon to be Blessed John Paul II was strongly opposed to the death penalty. Keep also in mind thay Catholics will be at the talk opposing the death penalty and at Macon's walk for life next Monday observing Roe v. Wade. I doubt that most pro life evangelical protestants would attend Sr. Helen's talk and most mainline protestants would not attend the walk for life. Praise God that soon to be Blessed John Paul II challenged Catholics and all the world to a consistent ethic of life! That my friends is what seperates us from the pack!

pinanv525 said...

With all respect, Fr., it sounds like Prejean is a pro-abortion, Left Wing lulu...called for Bush's impeachment...give me a break. She is clearly one of these "nuns out of habit" types that are just impossible for me to take seriously. It is a head scratcher why parishes such as St. Jo's, with conservative Priests who want to emphasize Cathiolic identity and a return to some of the pre Vat II strengths, of the Church would choose to support her talk. We are basically giving aid to the enemy.

John Brown's Body said...

S. Truth has her facts straight. R. E. Lee did violate his oath as an officer in the United States Army. He did engage in a war, the aim of which was the destruction of the union that the brave soldiers of our Revolution shed their blood to establish. The war was fought over the continued subjugation (slavery) of Africna-American men, women, and children.

"States Rights" is a white-wash (pun intended) used by those who want to portray the "War of Northern Aggression" or the "War Between The States" as an homorable struggle against a despotic government. It wasn't.

pinanv525 said...

John Brown, If you read first person accounts, diaries, letters and news articles of the day, as well as histories written during the Civil War era, you will find that the over-riding issue among Southerners was State's Rights. Few of the men who fought for the Confederacy were slave owners...and, do you think all those young, non-slave owning men would have gone to war and given their lives over a bunch of slaves? Everywhere in the letters and literature of the day is the outrage spoken of in relation to "invasion," "tyranny," and "usurpation." The issues are much more complex than your Yankee whitewash, as well. For instance, Lincoln re-garrisoning Ft. Sumter was a deliberate and unnecessary provocation. Lincoln himself did not see slavery as the primary issue involved, but it was a way to win popular support with the northern populace because it was an emotional issue that could be used to manipulate the masses. Lincoln said he wanted "to preserve the Union...with or without slavery." Besides, the US Congress was about to abolish slavery by vote, anyway. In another few years it would have died a natural death. Lee abhored the institution of slavery but, lacking an economic alternative for the South, he felt it was a necessary and temporary evil.
The Confederacy was a duly established nation with a President, Vice President, Cabinet, Congress, Constitution, and currency. The issues in question are still wit our current administration for which state's rights is anathema. It is the ultimate Carpetbag Government.
If Lee was a traitor, then weren't the Minutemen and Founders just a rabble of traitors, as well? They, too, established a nation in direct conflict with their Sovreign.

kiwiinamerica said...


I'm entirely on the same page as the Church and Pope John Paul II when it comes to the death penalty. No arguments from me.

I simply don't regard Sr. Prejean as an authentic spokesperson for the Church on life issues.

John Brown's Body said...

The argument that the Civil War was not about the continued subjugation of African-Americans might be believeable were it not for the treatment of Blacks after the war.
Across the South, Jim Crow laws, which had absolutely nothing to do with "States Rights," included:

In Georgia no colored barber could serve as a barber to white women or girls;
In Louisiana blind colored persons could not be cared for in wards with white persons;
In Georgia blacks and whites could not be buried in the same cemeteries;
In Alabama bus stations, separate waiting rooms and ticket windows for whites and blacks were required;
In South Carolina no white child could be placed in the legal custody of a black person;
In Florida the education of black and white children had to be in separate institutions;
In North Carolina separate libraries for blacks had to be maintained, if at all;
In Georgia blacks and whites suffering from mental illness had to be cared for in separate facilities;
In North Carolina the state militia was completely segregated and colored troops were to be under the command of white officers;
In North Carolina no white female nurse was allowed to treat colored males;
In Mississippi prisons, separate 'apartments' were to be maintained for black and white convicts;
In Kentucky the children of whites and blacks in reform school were to be kept absolutely segregated;
In Oklahoma a teacher who taught in an integrated school was guilty of a misdemeanor;
In Georgia those selling beer or wine had to serve either exclusively black or exclusively white clients.

None of these or thousands of other Jim Crow laws had anything to do with "States Rights."

John Brown's Body said...

Further, in most states no black could vote, hold public office, serve on any jury, or give testimony against a white person.

None of these laws had anything whatsoever to do with "States Rights."

The Civil War was about the continued subjugation of African Americans.

Anonymous said...

Regarding capital punishment, the CCC2267 reads: The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.' [68]

In the last line "practically" means not "virtually," but "in practice."

John Brpwn's Body said...

Not only were laws passed to continue the subjugation of Blacks, but equally noxious "racial etiquette" rules were enforced with violence and threats of violence.

Blacks were addressed by the first names and never called Mr., Mrs., Miss, Sir, or Ma'am. [As a small child I was addressed as 'Master John' by the blkack woman who worked for an aunt and uncle.]

A black man never offered to light a white woman's cigarette - it was considered too "intimate."

A black was always intriduced to a white, never the reverse.

Blacks were never allowed to show affection for one another in public as it was "offensive" to whites.

A black man could never offer his hand to a white man.

If blacks and whites ate together, the whites were always sevred first.

A black person never rode on the same seat as a white person in a car - in a truck, they rode in back.

No, this was not a "States Rights" war - it was a war to continue the subjugation of blacks.

Anonymous said...

Pin, I love you but you really got us off track this time!

Re Prejean - I have to side with Kiwi on this one - we as Catholics are called to be wholly pro-life. It is our stand & witness in the one primary area that marks us as Catholics when other Christians fail to be counted.

FJM - why do you so easily dismiss Protestant involvement in pro-life issues?
The March for Life began as an ecumenical movement as did the Rescues for Life by former Protestant leader (and now Catholic) Randall Terry. The 'problem' with many Protestant movements is that they fail to 'stay the course' - if something is new & exciting, Protestant involvement will be strong for awhile, but then will wane with the passing of time. I have seen (and experienced) this trend over & over & the historical Protestant church supports this statement (26K denoms & counting). Still - there is no denying that the Protestant church has had an important impact in the Pro-Life movement & I am disappointed that you would so easily dismiss this.

This is year 38 for Roe vs. Wade & Catholics have continued to remain firm in their presence in Washington. Over 300,000 (predominantly Catholic) attended last year (including my family as we make this an annual pilgrimage) despite the ongoing media blackout re this important event.

If all of us who declared ourselves as Christians & Catholics were to stand up strongly & consistently for Life, we would make an impact that could not be ignored. But as it currently stands, the issue of Life is often for us as Catholics as Prejean speaks: “Abortion is much more complex than a mere choice...we really have to look seriously at the whole thing of birth control, family planning, and not having unwanted pregnancies.”

In response to this statement, I am reminded of the words of Mother Teresa: "It is a poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you please."

May God have mercy on all of our souls for our sins of omission each time we choose silence on the topic of Life from conception to natural death. -pgal

Frajm said...

I heard Sister Helen last night and she gave an excellent talk and there was nothing said that opposed the teaching of the Catholic Church in the area of the right to life of a person from conception until natural death.
It is true that in the area of the death penalty there is a caveat stating that it may be used in rare instances when it is the only means to protect society from an unjust aggressor.
But in most modern societies we can build prisons to hold people of this type for a life time, true life imprisonment. Sister Helen is very much in favor of life time imprisonment for such serious offenders. But she also recognizes that the rich who murder can hire lawyers to prevent in most cases a death penalty verdict whereas as the poor who overwhelmingly fill our death row prisons cannot afford such a luxury and end up being executed.
Most of the people in the room last night were Protestants of a more liberal persusation but who oppose the death penalty. I suspect Sr. Helen is a progressive in our Church too and may have some odd ideas in the pastoral sense about poor women and abortion. She did not say a word about it last night.
This coming Monday I and many other Catholics will join our Evangelical and more conservative Protestant brotehrs and sisters for the Walk for Life. Not a word will be spoken by any Protestant at their "unecumenical" service that I will attend as they don't ask Catholics to participate at the service only to walk the walk, and no one will speak of the consistent ethic of life and pray for our nation to be pro-life from the moment of conception until natural death. It just won't happen. But there will be no heresy or false teachings on abortion from this Evangelical group of Protestants, they just don't adhere to our catechism on the death penalty just as Sister Helen must not be in full conformity to the Church's teaching on abortion and our pastoral response to those in crisis pregnancies.
The Catholic Church offers no caveat that allows for a direct abortion even in the case of a deformed baby or in cases of rape or incest.

pinanv525 said...

John Brown/Ignotus,
The treatment of Blacks after the war has absolutely nothing to do with the causes of the war. The vindictive and incompetent "carpet bag" administrations set up in the South after the war by the US government and the Republican Party were the foundation for the strong reaction later on when the Democrats once again gained power. Incompetent Blacks were placed in positions of authority and political power, crimes against whites (especially white women) were ignored and scofffed at, graft and corruption were rampant, and Northern White politicians were openly making statements such as, "we must keep Negroes and their affairs in the South." You really need to read a book now and then.

Frajm said...

Not only are Civil War comments not suited to this particular blog, but I'd prefer that we stick to the issues of respect for human life which includes the unborn and how we treat them and also the born, guilty or innocent and how we treat them.
The Civil War was won by the North and we are the USA today. There is not such thing any longer as the Confederate States of America. Now I must admit that I was confused in grammar school when our history teacher said that in fact it was impossible for the south to secede from the union as it was against the Constitution of the USA. Yet the southern states that did secede had to be "readmitted" to the union which implies that in fact they did secede. But at any rate, the war is over and for a long time and we have Civil Rights today and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the most significant historical figure in this regard.

pinanv525 said...

Fair enough on the War Between the States, Fr.

With regard to the death penalty, I believe a nation that truly reveres life will properly execute those who willfully and wantonly destroy and abuse it. That is true reverence for life...innocent, productive, compassionate life. Those who take that life habitually, callously, and viciously surrender their own right to life. This nonsense about being anti-death penalty "because I am pro-life" or whatever is misguided. Theoretically, if murderers, rapists, terrorists, etc. were indeed removed from society in prisons forever, then perhaps we could talk about no death penalty. But, liberal judges, parole boards and politicians make this impossible by continuing to release hardened violent criminals back into society. This is the most callous disregard for life I can imagine, the returninmg to society of those who have wantonly destroyed life. It is as callous as the murderer himself.

I also find it interesting that, in my experience, most of your anti-death penalty crowd are pro-abortion. Even the popularly "beatified" types like Prejean utter some mealy-mouthed double talk about abortion and euthanasia. The anti-death penalty business is one of your "designer" obligatory liberal "causes," along with gay rights, pro-choice, antiwar, and a few others. It has become almost a cliche'.
This is not to say that there are not devout Christians who, for strictly non-political, non-idealogical reasons oppose the death penalty. I can understand and appreciate that; I just do not agree with it.
I have also heard it said that "the death penalty has no place in a civilized society." Fine. First create your "civilized society" and we'll talk...or do you think we are civilized because we have flush toilets, penicillin, and IPods?

Anonymous said...

What seems to be the intersection of these arguments is that people will exercise their ethics within the context of their environment. If they can rise above it, even a little, they are exhibiting moral strength that is far beyond normal. Many people knew that slavery was a problem, but dealing with it was beyond the ability of a single person. Condemning a person in that time for supporting slavery disregards the human condition. Certainly, treating slaves humanely within that strange relationship is the minimum one could do. Wrestling with the merging of a huge, poorly educated group that was socially oppressed into a free society is a continuing task and beyond the ability of a single person. Taking a position these many years later and passing judgement passes beyond vanity into foolishness.

Martin Luther King is not inspiring because, as some think, he was of such high moral fibre. To the contrary he was clearly a man with clay feet that set himself on the track to deal with his situation intelligently and logically. He set high standards for himself and did not let failure to attain those standards stop him from trying again. Many seem to want to deify him and I think that is a huge mistake, for it lets us off the hook by imbuing him with qualities a mere mortal does not have. He was inspiring because he was just like us and strove to rise above that state and bring us with him.


John Brown's Body said...

Yes, the Civil War is over, but there are those who insist on re-writing the history of that conflict in order to ease their consciences regarding the extreme disrespect for human life that was evidenced by 1) pre-Civil War slavery, 2) a war conducted to a) destroy the Union, and b) to continue the immoral subjugation of blacks, and 3)the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws that were enacted with no "States Rights" motivation whatsoever.

(That is the longest complex sentence I have written in the past 25 years - I apologize. But MAN, it is good!)

To suggest that Jim Crow is the resault of carperbagger intervention is, again, to ignore the facts. Southern states with Southern legislators elected by Southern citizens enacted these laws.

Frajm said...

I'm not going to post anymore comments about this from anyone so don't send it. I will have the last word. In 1957 when I was 4 years old, I got on the bus in Atlanta, Georgia as a new immigrant to this country with my mother who is Italian and not yet a citizen and with an army wife who was her close friend. The other army wife had a "maid" as we called it back then who had to go to downtown Atlanta too after having worked in the morning at our friend's home. Of course blacks had to sit in the back of the bus and there was a sign on the seats indicating where blacks had to be. If more whites were on the bus, that sign would be moved so that blacks had to stand rather than whites!
At any rate, my mother's friend who was from Ohio wanted to sit near her black maid to talk with her but couldn't sit with her or she with us. So they positioned themselves so that the maid sat on the first seat for the "coloreds" and we sat on the last seat for the whites. I remember my mother and her friend talking with the maid. The white bus driver became very agitated, stopped the bus, went to my mother, her friend and me a little four year old and told us to stop talking to each other or get off the bus! This was just a couple of years after the Rosa Park's incident in Birmingham.
The south should be not be proud of its position on states rights to exclude people of color from equal rights. The blatant prejudice I saw growing up, the nasty words I heard whites use against blacks, even little old white church ladies with blue hair was absolutely shocking. We have nothing in the south to be proud of in terms of institutional and personal racism and prejudice against blacks or any other minority. But with that said, I do think that southern whites today relate much better to blacks than northern whites do. We're miles ahead, but not perfect by any means.
I might add that later on when I was about 11 or 12 and had taken the bus downtown in Augusta and on the way back, our bus was almost empty and I went and sat on the huge back seat of that bus and the bus driver commanded that I come to the front because I wasn't a "nigger!" and shouldn't be back there! Don't defend the south in this regard!