Skip Navigation Links
Catholic News
Special Reports
Google Plus
RSS Feeds
ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Into the Abyss

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

On October 24, 2001, Jason Burkett and Michael Perry, both 19, murdered Sandra Stoler, her son Adam, and his friend Jeremy Richardson in Conroe, TX, so they could steal Sandra Stoler’s red Camaro.
Both Burkett and Perry were found guilty; Burkett got life in prison and Perry was sentenced to death. Perry exhausted all of his appeals and was executed by the State of Texas by lethal injection on Jul 1, 2010.
Director Werner Herzog has created a quiet, pensive documentary that never rushes. His voice is quiet and non-judgmental and he evokes deep responses. It’s like watching 48 Hours or Dateline crime show on slow motion. He interviews friends of the accused and family and friends of those who were killed. He revisits the crime scenes with law enforcement officers on duty during the days of the killing to the shoot out and capture of Burkett and Perry.
The strongest part of the film, for me, was the interview with captain of corrections, Fred Allen. He led the tie-down team for 130 executions before resigning after the execution of Karla Faye Tucker in 1998. He lost his pension when he resigned but could not do it any more and questions the morality of the death penalty; he no longer believes anyone has the right to take the life of another human being.
Herzog treats his subject with an even hand, even the woman who married Burkett in prison and somehow became pregnant with his child without conjugal visits.  At the end Adam Stoler’s sister says that she is doesn’t want to seem like an evil person but that she is glad she went to the execution. Herzog then asks her if the death penalty is something she thinks Jesus would do. She replies, “Probably not.”
The opening interview is with a chaplain who describes his role and you cannot almost see his heart break. If the executed have no one to claim their bodies, they are buried in the prison cemetery, each grave marked by a cross with numbers; no names; a reminder of how many of the executed were poor and probably had inadequate defense.
I think The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains Catholic teaching very clearly in paragraph 2267):
“Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
“Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’"

Since 2000, there have been 278 murders carried out by the State of Texas. According to the website of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on November 17, six executions are scheduled for January – March 2012. 234 executions have been carried out since Governor Rick Perry became governor in December 2000.
The five countries that have executed the most people since 2007 are Pakistan, the United States, Iraq, Iran, and China.
As former death house officer Fred Allen says in “Into the Abyss”, we need to abolish the death penalty and it is so easy to do it. We just have to change the law.

Search reviews at

Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Maria Faustina Kowalska: St. Faustina's name is forever linked to the annual feast of the Divine Mercy (celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter), the divine mercy chaplet and the divine mercy prayer recited each day at 3 p.m. by many people. 
<p>Born in what is now west-central Poland (part of Germany before World War I), Helena Kowalska was the third of 10 children. She worked as a housekeeper in three cities before joining the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925. She worked as a cook, gardener and porter in three of their houses. </p><p>In addition to carrying out her work faithfully, generously serving the needs of the sisters and the local people, she also had a deep interior life. This included receiving revelations from the Lord Jesus, messages that she recorded in her diary at the request of Christ and of her confessors. </p><p>At a time when some Catholics had an image of God as such a strict judge that they might be tempted to despair about the possibility of being forgiven, Jesus chose to emphasize his mercy and forgiveness for sins acknowledged and confessed. “I do not want to punish aching mankind,” he once told St. Faustina, “but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart” (<i>Diary</i> 1588). The two rays emanating from Christ's heart, she said, represent the blood and water poured out after Jesus' death (John 19:34) </p><p>Because Sister Maria Faustina knew that the revelations she had already received did not constitute holiness itself, she wrote in her diary: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God” (<i>Diary</i> 1107). </p><p>Sister Maria Faustina died of tuberculosis in Krakow, Poland, on October 5, 1938. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993 and canonized her seven years later.</p> American Catholic Blog Since Christians are brought into God’s family through Christ, and since we share in God’s life-giving grace, we are united in a unique and powerful way. This allows us to love and care for one another, as we are commanded to do.

The Blessing of Family

St. Faustina Kowalska
This 20th-century Polish nun encouraged devotion to God’s Divine Mercy.

Respect Life Sunday
Catholic Greetings and encourage you to support local and national efforts to protect and defend human life from conception to natural death.

St. Theodora
Though she was born in France, we honor Mother Theodore Guerin as an American saint.

The Holy Guardian Angels
Guardian angels represent us before God, watch over us always, aid our prayer, and present our souls to God at death.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Remember this 19th-century saint, known and revered as the Little Flower, with a Catholic Greetings e-card.

Come find us at: Facebook | St. Anthony Messenger magazine Twitter | American Catholic YouTube | American Catholic

An Site from the Franciscans and Franciscan Media Copyright © 1996 - 2015