By way of introduction, my name is Matt Brower and I am both the new Executive Director of the Montana Catholic Conference and the President of Montana Abolition Coalition Executive Board. I come to the conference and coalition having spent the last six and a half years in Whitefish managing my own law practice and having previously served in ministry positions within the Catholic Church back in my home state of Michigan. My wife and I are thrilled to be in Helena with our little 5 month old daughter and excited about the great adventures and challenges awaiting us as we continue with the vital work of the coalition.
One of the things my wife and I have found we love about Helena is the opportunity to worship at our Cathedral Parish of St. Helena. This is for us a special treat particularly at this time of year.
This past week I, and millions of other Christians around the globe, celebrated what is for us the holiest time of the year culminating with the great celebration of Easter. It is a time when Christians of faith are compelled to reflect on sin, injustice, death, hope and love. Christians who fail to truly engage these holy moments with eyes of faith and open hearts run the risk of seeing in Easter little more than the recounting of nice stories accompanied by beautiful flowers, fine attire and fabulous feasting with family and friends. But, what is the example and reminder set before us? Isn’t it something far more?
On Good Friday we recall that Jesus, deemed a criminal by those in authority, gave his life for all. This ought to remind us just how infinitely precious the gift of life is and the importance of standing together as a human family to safeguard this gift even when it means advocating on behalf of those who are sometimes the hardest to love.
None of this is meant to suggest that one needs to be a person of faith to stand in opposition to the death penalty. Persons of different faiths or no religious faith can and do join together to work toward abolition because persons of good will can see by reason that the death penalty is a scourge upon our land and an impediment to the creation of a just society.
Recently I came across a talk given by Pope Francis during a visit he made last July to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa where thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa have sought refuge and a better life. Many have died trying to simply safely reach this tiny island only 70 miles off of the African coast. During his homily Pope Francis said, “In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.”
By supporting and participating in the work of the Abolition Coalition you stand in solidarity with all those of good will who strive to eliminate the death penalty in Montana. You stand against the “globalization of indifference” and fight for a more just society that recognizes the value of human life. This is a struggle worth engaging in and a fight worth fighting. Hearts and minds are being won and I am confident that with your help we will see the day when the death penalty is but a sad historical note in Montana rather than a current tragic reality.
We can all look forward with a great hope to that day.