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Nuns support former Illinois governor's decision to commute death sentences

Friday, January 17, 2003

TERRE HAUTE -- A group long-opposed to the death penalty has issued a statement supporting former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's decision to commute death sentences before Ryan left office.

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods issued a statement to that effect Tuesday.

"We realize it took great courage for Gov. Ryan to make such an important, controversial decision," said Sister Ann Margaret O'Hara, general superior of the Sisters of Providence. "We pray that his courage will be an example to governors in other states who face similar issues. This is a landmark action, and we hope Gov. Ryan's initiative creates a movement of significant change for the 38 states, including Indiana, that still rely upon capital punishment."

The congregation's position is that "justice can be served without the influence of revenge entrenched in administering the death penalty."

"Perpetuating killing is not the answer," said O'Hara. "Capital punishment does not deter crime. We all should focus on the sacredness of life."

The past exoneration of Death Row inmates also entered into the argument made by the Sisters of Providence.

"How does killing by the state prove that killing is wrong?" asked Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, co-chairperson of the congregation's Peace With Justice Committee. "Statistics of the prison population prove beyond a doubt that the death penalty is inflicted most often on the weak, the poor, the ignored and racial minorities. It is really a lottery, administered with extreme randomness."

The Sisters of Providence, a Congregation of more than 530 women, have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, northwest of Terre Haute.

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