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Adelaide Catholic prison chaplains have
renewed calls for the global abolition of the
death penalty following the recent offer by
Australia’s bishops to assist the Federal
Government in an international campaign
to end capital punishment.
Chaplains Brother Martyn Paxton and
Mel Monfries have also condemned the
practice of life sentences, used in South
Australia, echoing Pope Francis’ recent
description of life-long imprisonment as a
“hidden death sentence”.
The Australian Catholic Bishops
Conference recently offered the Australian
Government assistance through Holy
See diplomats in its international efforts
to abolish the death penalty. More than
half the world’s countries use capital
punishment, including some of Australia’s
biggest trading partners and closest allies
(China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the
“The death penalty fails to deter people
from crime, is applied inconsistently,
has cost innocent lives, and can be the
result of inadequate legal representation
affecting society’s poorest and most
vulnerable,” said Br Martyn, Catholic
chaplain for the Adelaide Remand Centre
Br Martyn has been communicating
with US death row prisoner Clinton Lee
Young, who was sentenced to death by
lethal injection after receiving a murder
conviction in Texas. He was 19 when he
was put on trial for murder. Texas has
executed more inmates than any other
American state, with 530 people executed
“There are some serious issues regarding
the evidentiary basis of Clinton’s
conviction; he’s already served 13 years
on death row,” said Br Martyn.
“It’s almost as though the system is saying
that we are giving you the death penalty
because we believe there is no way you
can be rehabilitated,” said Ms Monfries.
She has been a Catholic prison chaplain
for 10 years and regularly visits five of
South Australia’s nine jails.
“I think everyone has the capacity to be
rehabilitated,” she said.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
president Archbishop Denis Hart has
written to the Joint Standing Committee
for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade,
which is holding an inquiry into Australia’s
advocacy for the abolition of the death
“The imposition of the death penalty is
cruel and unnecessary for what it does to
those found guilty, to their families and
to our societies,” said Bishop Hart in the
During a visit to the United States in
October, Pope Francis said the death
penalty should be opposed as strongly
as the use of capital punishment. “A
sentence of life (without parole) is a hidden
death penalty,” Pope Francis told the
International Association of Penal Law in
Ms Monfries said she had worked with
men sentenced to life who had remained
in jail beyond their release date after
repeated parole refusals by the Parole
“I know a couple of men who have been
sentenced to life and they often say to me:
why don’t they just kill me, at least then my
family would be free?” said Ms Monfries.
In South Australia, life sentences are for
the term of a person’s life and can include
a non-parole period or minimum term. The
longest current non-parole period for a life
sentence in SA in 39 years and six months.
Last financial year about 10 per cent of the
SA Department of Correctional Services’
$265,748 million annual budget was spent
on rehabilitation services.
Adelaide artist Romina Penna knows well
the meaning of mercy.
She sees it regularly at the Mary Potter
Hospice in the Calvary North Adelaide
“It is the most beautiful place to work and
the supportive multi-disciplinary team
will go out of their way to grant patients
their final wish and to make sure that
each person is completely respected and
honoured,” says Romina.
She has been commissioned by the
Adelaide Archdiocese to create a piece
of art to mark the Year of Mercy, which
began on December 8 (see story page 5).
Romina has been coordinating the Fra
Angelico Art program at the Mary Potter
Hospice for the past two years. The
program helps terminally ill patients create
long-lasting art works for their loved ones.
“Volunteer artists work with patients by
their bedside using their fingerprints to
create art that is a tangible imprint of their
lives for loved ones to keep when they are
gone,” says Romina.
In November, she was helping 85-year-old
Doreen Crosby decorate a platter for her
family. Doreen has been at the hospice
since November 6. She is suffering from
“The program helps create a positive
memory for families who are spending
their last moments together,” says
Ceramic mugs, plates, photo frames,
Christmas baubles and platters receive
the unique finger mark or handprint of
patients and become family heirlooms for
generations. Patients in the program have
also made quilts, paintings, drawings,
beaded jewellery and clay sculptures.
Wesley Glanville says his father’s artwork
– a hand-printed plate – sits proudly in the
family lounge. Jack Glanville died last year
at the Mary Potter Hospice.
“The family sees the plate as a reflection
of Jack’s strength and his large palm as
representative of his courage and loyalty
and love for them,” says Wesley.
Romina and a team of three volunteers
have helped more than 240 patients create
masterpieces for their families over the
past two years.
She says there are certainly days when
it can be sad but that she feels enriched
by the wonderful people she meets
and knows that it can be a very healing
experience for patients and families.
“It’s a real privilege for me because it’s
such a private time in a person’s life that
most people are not exposed to and
you are given permission to comfort a
patient and their family in some way,”
says Romina. “It gives them a chance to
express love at the end of their lives which
can help them make peace in their lives
and create bridges.”
Fra Angelico Art was initiated more than 11
years ago to support patients and families
receiving palliative care. The program is
offered free of charge through donations.
To donate call the Mary Potter Foundation
on 8239 0119.
PUT A STOP TO IT: (L-R) Adelaide Catholic prison chaplains Brother Martyn
Paxton, who has been writing to US death row prisoner Clinton Lee Young, and Mel
Monfries are supporting the Catholic Church’s push for the global abolition of the
Death penalties must go
MERCY AT WORK: Doreen Crosby working on art for her family with Fra Angelico
Art program coordinator Romina Penna at the Mary Potter Hospice.
Priceless artwork leaves a mark
By Rebecca DiGirolamo
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