TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the scheduled execution date approaches for a Florida man convicted of murder, local Catholics are offering prayers and renewing their call for an end to the practice of the death penalty.
“Even those who have committed terrible deeds and caused great pain possess a human dignity that is inherent in all persons,” said the Florida Catholic Conference in a statement. “This dignity, instilled by our Creator, is neither earned, nor can it be forfeited.”
The conference urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott to spare the life of Marshall Gore, who is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 1 for the murders of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick.
While voicing “profound sadness” over the murders and praying that the victims’ “families are able to realize true peace and healing,” the Florida Catholic Conference said that “Mr. Gore’s execution serves only to further distort society’s understanding of the sacredness of all human life.”
“The state’s responsibility to protect society and punish criminals can be accomplished without resorting to the death penalty,” the statement continued.
It added, “A sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole is a severe punishment, which allows for the prospect of conversion for the sinner and gives us the opportunity to forgive the wrongdoings.”
A number of vigils have been planned throughout the state to show solidarity and to pray for victims of violence, people on death row and an end to the death penalty.
In the Diocese of St. Augustine, prayer vigils will be held in front of the Duval County Unified Courthouse, Flagler County Courthouse and St. Augustine Beach City Hall, as well as across from the Florida State Prison Execution Building.
The Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese will hold a 7pm Eucharistic Holy Hour Sept. 30 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
Catholic Charities’ Respect Life Office is co-hosting a 5:30pm prayer service on Oct. 1, followed by a procession and silent vigil at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg will host an evening prayer session Oct.1 on the local radio, which will also be available online. Prayer vigils will also be held in Miami, Orlando and Venice.
Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty have organized a community prayer service in front of the governor’s residence on the evening of Oct. 1.
An interfaith remembrance service has also been planned for noon the day after the execution at the Capitol.
The Florida Catholic Conference said, “With this deliberate taking of a life, the state demonstrates that killing is an acceptable manner in which to address harmful and hurtful acts. We believe it is not.”