by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv, Bishop-President of Pax Christi USA
& Marie Dennis, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
On his way out of office, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted clemency to 10 people who had served long sentences, including David Gilbert. President Joe Biden last week also said that he was considering broader use of compassionate relief of sick or elderly incarcerated persons. Gilbert was the only one of those whose sentences Cuomo commuted who is required to apply for parole before being released.
As Christians, we applaud the expanded use of clemency, a synonym for the mercy and forgiveness at the heart of the Christian faith. Society needs appropriate sanctions for criminal behavior, but those sanctions need to be applied with hope for rehabilitation. We believe in the capacity of all people to change and to grow and in our own obligation to forgive our brothers and sisters who repent of their sins.
Forgiveness is not only an act of an individual but also of the community. Its exercise, when an offender is rehabilitated, is a function of those charged with parole decisions. As the bishop-president of Pax Christi USA and former co-president of Pax Christi International, the decades-old Catholic movement working to live out “the peace of Christ,” we were among those in touch with Cuomo’s office urging clemency for Gilbert on humanitarian grounds…