On this Good Friday, a day when we recall our Savior’s own execution, we appeal to all people of good-will, and especially Catholics, to work to end the death penalty. – Pope John Paul II, 1999
The Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty (CMN) reflects on Good Friday on how the use of capital punishment affects all of us as a society. (For more detail than is posted below, please click here)
For more than thirty years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for an end to the death penalty in our land.” The number of executions has declined each year in the past decade to 43 in 2011, a 56% decline since 1999 when there were 98. The 2011 Gallup Poll recorded the lowest level of support in the U.S., and the highest level of opposition, in almost 40 years. Only 61% supported the death penalty, compared to 80% in 1994. Among Catholics a recent poll showed that only 48% of Catholics support the death penalty. Regular churchgoers and younger Catholics are less likely to support it, and a third of Catholics who once supported the death penalty now oppose it.
“We are encouraged by these new and growing signs that efforts to stop executions in our country, and around the world, are taking effect.”
Indeed, Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II have called us and the worldwide community with new urgency to stand against capital punishment and to promote prison reforms and restorative justice.
Towards a Culture of Life
Our society tends, all too often, towards a culture of death. In a real sense our society’s dysfunctions breed criminals through poverty, fatherlessness, discrimination, injustice, lack of opportunity and hopelessness. How much of the gang violence linked to the drug trade is occasioned by the addiction of the whole society to illegal drug use? Many of our social pathologies make us more prone to crime and violence.
We oppose the death penalty not just for what It does to those guilty of horrible crimes but for what it does to all of us as a society. Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We
cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders.
The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.
We urge all people of good will, particularly Catholics, to work to end capital punishment. At appropriate opportunities, we ask pastors to preach and teachers to teach about respect for all life and about the need to end the death penalty.
Jesus refused to stone the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8: 1-11), reminding us to be cautious in judging others and to have hope in the possibility of reform and redemption.
What Catholics Should Know About the Death Penalty
- Genesis 2:7, 21-23 – Every life is precious, a gift from God.
- Exodus 21:23-25 – “Eye for eye” meant to limit retribution,
- not to require a minimum punishment.
- Romans 12:17 – “Do not repay injury with injury.”
- Blacks are 13% of US pop. but 42% of death row inmates.
- Over 90% on death row could not afford their own attorney.
- Among Catholics only 48% support death penalty; churchgoers & younger Catholics are less likely to support it. Zogby Int’l 2006 Poll.