Timothy Swope

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2004


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

James P. Hanigan


Advocacy, Catholic, Prisons, Social Thought


This dissertation, "Defining the Church's Advocacy Role to the Modern Prison System," is developed from the Catholic Church's social thought over the past century and the episcopal teaching of the American bishops over the past three decades. Chapter one reviews the concept of 'advocate' and the Church's advocacy role to the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. Chapter two reviews the episcopal statements concerning the advocacy role to the prisons and the question of the death penalty in general.

Before defining the specific role of the Church to the prison system, this role of advocacy must deal with the question of Church and State in the United States of America and what values are appropriate to the mission both of the Church and the State. Chapter three addresses these issues.

Chapter four speaks to the Church's advocacy role to the inmate in the prison system. The values of justice and freedom are those values which are seen as appropriate for both the Church's advocacy role and the mission of the criminal justice system to the inmate. The application of the values is brought to bear through the three central Christian doctrines of creation, sin and redemption. Creation is that which speaks to the human dignity of the inmate. Sin is that which is able to understand the deep objective evil that takes place when a crime is committed, and redemption for the possibility of the transcendent which can empower the inmate for rehabilitation. In this chapter it is suggested a modified use of the 12 Step program of recovery could be used as a model to use the Christian doctrines to operate in the public and secular world of a government institution with out violating principles of Church and State. There would be a de-creedalizing the presence of the transcendent.

Chapter five addresses the area of victims of crimes, families of the criminals, correctional workers and the prisons and prison system as such. This chapter uses the same values of freedom and justice mediated through the hermeneutical key of creation, sin, and redemption. The chapter concludes that the role of Church advocacy is to be based on the Church's doctrines of the value of human life, the reality of evil in the world and especially in prisons, and the offering of transcendent power by the Divine Presence which enacts justice and brings true freedom into the lives of inmates, the lives of those touched by their crime, and the institutions which have them in their charge.