Dead Man Walking in Denver? Pope sets Sr Helen Prejeans right!

On his blog, With a Grain of Salt, Peter Holmes picks up Mark O’Shea’s reaction to the comments of Sr Helen Prejean (the author of Dead Man Walking) who addressed a Democrats interfaith meeting in Denver. Usually an invitation is extended to the local bishop to bless the Democrat assembly – but you can just imagine the speech they would have gotten from the current local ordinary of Denver, can’t you? (See this CNA report)

Anyway, as Peter notes, Sr Helen gave them a little more than they were expecting when it came to opposition to the death penalty:

Following the hot topic of abortion, Sister Helen Prejean tackled another: calling for abolition of the death penalty to raucous applause at the DNC’s interfaith gathering.

She received nothing but a stony silence, however, when she questioned the basis of the biblical crucifixion story as a “projection of our violent society.”

“Is this a God?” Prejeans asked about the belief that God allowed his son, Jesus, to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity. “Or is this an ogre?”

Well, the Holy Father must have been listening, because he answered her question in his Angelus address just a few days later:

If to save us the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it certainly was not because of a cruel design of the heavenly Father. The cause of it is the gravity of the sickness of which he must cure us: an evil so serious and deadly that it will require all of his blood. In fact, it is with his death and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death, reestablishing the lordship of God.

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0 Responses to Dead Man Walking in Denver? Pope sets Sr Helen Prejeans right!

  1. Peregrinus says:

    “Usually an invitation is extended to the Archbishop of Denver to bless the Democrat assembly . . .”

    I assume you meant the Archbishop of the city in which the Convention is held; it moves around.

    But, in any event, I don’t think this is correct. If I’m not mistaken, the Democratic convention has been addressed by the local archbishop only once in the last 25 years (1984, Los Angeles), and the Republican Convention not at all.

    For obviousl reaons, the parties like to be even-handed in these matters, inviting religious leaders from a variety of denominations and traditions to deliver invocations. Catholics have to take their place in the queue. And, again for obvious reasons, the parties like to invite leaders who are known to be, if not sympathetic to them, at least to have no major beefs. As far as Catholic bishops are concerned, both of the major parties would present a variety of, um, issues that it would be difficult not to comment on.

  2. Schütz says:

    Quite right, Perry, that’s what I meant. I have altered the post to read correctly. I have also added this link, which I was referring to:

  3. Peregrinus says:

    There’s nothing in the CNA report that says the local archbishop is usually invited to speak. And, in fact, I don’t be believe he is.

    And on the main point . . .

    The problem with relying on the secular media is that they stop just when it’s getting interesting. Unlike Mark Shea, I feel the need to know what answer Sr Prejean offered to her rhetorically-posed question, before I accuse her of expanding a political position into the whole of the Faith, or of denying scripture.

    The Rocky Mountain News tells us (a) that Sr Prejean was addressing “the DNC’s interfaith gathering”, and (b) that her question was met with “nothing but a stony silence”. Well, duh. Doesn’t St Paul say that Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles? Nothing has changed since Paul; the non-Christians’ single biggest problem with Christianity is the notion that God is (a) incarnate, and (b) murdered, and I think that goes for non-Christian theists, for atheists and for seculars. So what reaction do you expect if you plonk that issue into the middle of the table at an interfaith gathering? Rapturous applause? Gales of laughter?

    Mark Shea sees the fact that she asks this question as evidence of near-apostasy – regardless, apparently, of what answer she offers. I can’t but note that this view is, well, convenient for someone of Mr Shea’s broad political leaning. If I had to identify someone who might be allowing politics to trump faith in this instance, I have to say that on what I see here Sr Prejean’s is not the name that leaps first to mind.

    If we condemn Sr Prejean simply for raising this theological problem, must we not also condemn St Paul? Or are Real Christians supposed to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist because, hey, God loves you just as you are, which means everything you think and believe is just fine with him and He would never, like, confront you by challenging any of that with something as inconvenient as a contradiction.

  4. Christine says:

    I guess I can’t express my appreciation for Papa Benny enough times.

    Clearly and succinctly he has again explained the meaning of the Crucifixion.

    Peter has spoken.

  5. Schütz says:

    I deleted a lengthy pro-capital punishment comment on the blog attacking Sr Helen for her anti-capital punishment stance. For the record, like JPII and Papa Benny: I am generally against the death penalty. At the same time, I don’t deny that the state has the right to exercise justice through capital punishment.

  6. dudleysharp says:


    I am the one whose post you removed. Obviously, it is your site and you may remove any post you wish.

    However, I did not attack Sr Prejean for her anti death penalty stance. The anti death penalty is perfectly legitimate.

    If you read the post, others had identified a number of very significant problems with her two books. I found a number of errors or inconsistencies in other areas, one very specific to the subject essay on your blog.

    Just to clear things up.

  7. Schütz says:

    And, Dudley ol’ boy, you would have been more than welcome to say just that. But I think a simple link to where this evidence may have been found would have been sufficient. But the accuracy or otherwise of her “Dead Man Walking” story was not really the point of my post, and you did go on a little long for a mere comment in a combox!

    No hard feelings, I hope.

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