Lay people, religious women and priests are increasing their efforts to raise awareness throughout the archdiocese and working together with the interfaith community on the importance of voting yes on Proposition 34 in accordance with Catholic social teaching.About 150 parishes dedicated Oct. 7, Respect Life Sunday, to educating and informing parishioners about the measure and its consequences not only for those waiting on death row, but for society as a whole.“By respecting the human dignity of even the most serious criminals, we are sending a strong message: that every life is sacred and that we want to be a society to vote justice and mercy,” said Archbishop José Gomez in a video in English posted on the archdiocese’s website.The Catholic bishops of California have publicly stated on the Catholic Conference website that they will vote yes on the proposition.Capital punishment in California, originally instituted in 1872, remained for a century until the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1972. But five years later it was reinstated by the Legislature and was affirmed by voters in 1978. Since then, restorative justice advocates say that about $4 billion has been spent on 13 executions in California, and millions continue to be spent for each person waiting on death row.More significantly, they add, more than 100 people sentenced to the death penalty nationwide were found to be innocent of the crimes of which they had been accused.Archbishop Gomez states in the video in Spanish that by replacing the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole, society “will still do justice to the victims of horrendous crimes and will make sure that an innocent person will never be executed in California.”“This is another respect life issue,” Javier Stauring, co-director of the archdiocesan Office of Restorative Justice, told The Tidings.“We are called to honor life from conception to death and people sentenced to death also have a God-given dignity, which should be protected,” he continued. “We tend to forget that Jesus was also a prisoner who was executed; he was also a victim of the death penalty.” The Death Penalty Initiative Statute “repeals the death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole,” says the summary in the state’s General Election Official Voter Information Guide.The measure would apply retroactively to those already on death row, who must work while in prison following regulations of the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. Their wages will be used to pay victim’s restitution and fines. In addition, $100 million will be directed to law enforcement agencies for investigation of more than 1,000 unresolved homicides and rape cases.Training for Respect Life leaders has been held in more than 100 parishes and information kits have been distributed to Catholic school teachers by the offices of Restorative Justice and Justice and Peace. For more information about the Catholic Church’s position on Proposition 34, visit or To reach the Office of Restorative Justice, call (213) 438-4820; for the Office of Justice and Peace, call (213) 637-7560.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1026/prop34/{/gallery}