Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Thinking of the death penalty

Today’s blog from the Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) focuses on the death penalty. It begins with this quote from Pope Francis:

“All Christians and men of good will are thus called to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom”

The entry is titled, Yes. The Church Is Opposed to the Death Penalty. This may take some by surprise, but opposition to the death penalty has been a Catholic teaching for many years.

Pope Saint John Paul II prayed the following at a Papal Mass at Regina Coeli Prison in Rome on July 9, 2000: "May the death penalty, an unworthy punishment still used in some countries, be abolished throughout the world." He also spoke out against it on many occasions, such as the previous year when he said the following on a visit to the United States:

A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.

In 1999, the USCCB issued A Good Friday Appeal To End The Death Penalty. They wrote, in part:

For more than 25 years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for an end to the death penalty in our land. Sadly, however, death sentences and executions in this country continue at an increasing rate. In some states, there are so many executions they rarely receive much attention anymore. On this Good Friday, a day when we recall our Savior’s own execution, we appeal to all people of goodwill, and especially Catholics, to work to end the death penalty.

There is much more information on the website of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

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