The church teaches that "every life has value and dignity. That is a given," said Andy Rivas, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference during a Feb. 24 program at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. Rivas helped devise a program of events in Texas in November that sought to link the issues. The day started with a Mass at a chapel in Huntsville, Texas, celebrated by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, which attracted an overflow crowd. After Mass, most people walked about a mile to a Planned Parenthood clinic in the town; some who had trouble walking stayed behind for eucharistic adoration. After praying outside the Planned Parenthood clinic, the group prayed a "rosary for life" while walking another mile or so to the state prison in Huntsville, where all the states executions are carried out.
But in trying to curb the use of the death penalty in the Lone Star State, Texas Catholics have had to "pick and choose" the individual cases they think would merit the attention of the governor. Cardinal DiNardo in such cases writes a letter of support for sparing the prisoner, as does the bishop of the diocese where the crime occurred. "Its always helpful to have an archbishop or a cardinal write," Rivas said.
But a recent state effort to expand the application of the death penalty, despite Texas Catholic Conference lobbying efforts against it, passed overwhelmingly. "There are 33 Catholics in the Legislature. We had only two vote our way," said Rivas.