WASHINGTON--Acting on behalf of Pope John Paul II, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United
States wrote to the governors of Alabama, Texas and Virginia in recent days, appealing for clemency for persons scheduled for execution.
On June 15, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo wrote to Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama in an appeal for clemency for Brian Baldwin who is scheduled to be executed June 18. Baldwin was sentenced to death in 1977 for the abduction and murder of a 16-year-old girl.
"As you know, the Holy Father's appeals to end the death penalty have become more and more frequent and pressing, especially as the new Millennium draws near," the Archbishop wrote.
Archbishop Montalvo noted that in the homily of his Mass in St. Louis on January 27, 1999, the Holy Father stated: "a sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform."
On that same occasion Pope John Paul added that the "new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life, who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation." The first and fundamental "human right" is certainly the right to life.
"The Holy Father prays that the life of Mr. Baldwin may be saved through your compassion and magnanimity," Archbishop Montalvo wrote. "His Holiness counts on your right to spare a life by commuting this sentence with a gesture of mercy that would hopefully contribute to the promotion of nonviolence in today's society."
On June 16, Archbishop Montalvo wrote to Governor George W. Bush of Texas, asking clemency for Joseph Stanley Faulder, a Canadian citizen who was first convicted in 1977 of killing an East Texas widow in a botched robbery. The nuncio noted that his predecessor, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, had sent an earlier appeal to Governor Bush, on December 3, 1998.
The execution was then delayed and a new date was set for June 17. Archbishop Montalvo said this was the reason he was renewing the appeal that the life of Mr. Faulder be spared.
"While understanding your duty of applying the law, we count on your right to spare a life by a gesture of mercy that would certainly contribute to the promotion of nonviolence in today's society," the Archbishop said. "On the other hand, is not the right to life the first and most important of all the human rights?"
On June 15, the Archbishop wrote to Governor James S. Gilmore of Virginia, asking for clemency for Douglas C. Thomas who was scheduled to be executed for killing his girlfriend's parents in 1990 when he was a teenager. The Virginia Supreme Court stayed the execution June 16, citing a ruling five days earlier that juveniles cannot be prosecuted unless both of their parents are notified.
In January of this year, the Pope successfully appealed to Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri to commute the death sentence of convicted murderer Darrell Mease. The U.S. Bishops' Administrative Board, on Good Friday, April 2, 1999, issued a strong statement calling once again on the nation's more than 60 million Catholics to oppose capital punishment.