By John Dear SJIn the spring of 1988, while I was teaching in Scranton, Philadelphia, the state officials announced that Pennsylvania would carry out its first execution in decades. People across the state, nearly all Christian, supported the scheduled murder. “What we need is someone like Mother Teresa to intervene for us,” I said to a friend, a monsignor who worked at the diocesan office. “Not many people know this,” he confided, “but I’ve led several annual retreats for her. I’m sure she would help.”
I called the office of the Governor, a widely respected Catholic, and asked if he would receive an appeal from Mother Teresa on behalf of the condemned man. One day before I was going to contact Mother Teresa, a stay of execution was granted. Over the next few years, I arranged Mother Teresa’s intervention on behalf of death row inmates on eight occasions. Each time, she eagerly offered her support and the prayers of her community in an effort to stop killing and end the death penalty.