Students welcomed Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to speak about the Church and Catholic perspective surrounding the death penalty as part of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory juniors’ preparation for the most intensive research project in ethics class all year. The death penalty was one of many social justice issues juniors pondered in the weeks prior to the event. SHC’s Brother Victor Kenneth, FSC, facilitated the conversation with the archbishop in the school’s theater on the De Paul campus. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions about the archbishop’s perspective and engage in an open conversation with him on the importance of this topic.

Archbishop Cordileone has previously spoken out against the death penalty. As an archbishop of the Catholic Church, he considers the death penalty to be unnecessary and ineffective as a tool for enforcing justice….

In this conversation with Brother Kenneth, the archbishop shared his personal experience in familiarizing himself with the death penalty during his college years, honestly admitting to having not given it much thought throughout high school. It did not seem like a pressing issue to him then. Through his relationship with God and his faith journey in becoming an archbishop, he shared the story of his first time at San Quentin visiting prisoners on death row….

Archbishop Cordileone reflected that after looking in the eyes of each prisoner, it became clear that the human dignity they possessed was being stripped from them. He proceeded to pray for each prisoner. He said many prisoners on death row still had faith and practiced that faith by reciting prayers and carrying a crucifix. From this experience, he urged everyone to remember the value of human life, which is a gift from God.

When asked about inequalities in society that may lead to a disproportionate number of certain groups of people being on death row, such as African Americans, Archbishop Cordileone agreed and said it is a complex issue. Racist attitudes are still around in our country, he said, and that is part of the problem. But it is much deeper, more subtle and more insidious than that. He sees it as a long and lingering effect from slavery, which separated families. This left the African American family structure in a weakened state at a time when other social revolutions were taking place related to sexual activity, childbearing, child rearing and marriage. As a result, a disproportionate number of African American families continued to splinter. Today, he said, the out-of-wedlock birthrate for African American families is 75%. The archbishop quoted several studies that indicate the harmful social consequences of fatherlessness. This doesn’t mean, he said, that those growing up in single-parent households are not going to do well in life. Many are blessed with single parents making great sacrifices for their families. But when the problem grows dramatically, it begins to impact circumstances that we see today….

Full story by Isabella Rinaldi, Sacred Heart student, on San Francisco Archdiocese site.