'Abhorrent' Practice of Death Penalty in the US Must End, Urge Catholic Publications in Plea for People of Faith to Join Them

Lethal injection table
Undated photo of a lethal injection table. |

Four Roman Catholic publications have issued a joint statement calling for an end to the death penalty in the United States, and have asked all people of faith to join them in their cause.

"We, the editors of four Catholic journals — America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter and Our Sunday Visitor — urge the readers of our diverse publications and the whole U.S. Catholic community and all people of faith to stand with us and say, 'Capital punishment must end,'" the statement read.

"The practice is abhorrent and unnecessary," it added. "It is also insanely expensive as court battles soak up resources better deployed in preventing crime in the first place and working toward restorative justice for those who commit less heinous crimes."

The editors point out that in April the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Glossip v. Gross case, which could potentially establish death by lethal injection, the most common execution method in America, as being a cruel and unusual punishment.

With the court expected to issue a ruling in June, the Catholic editors share their hope is that it will "hasten the end of the death penalty in the United States."

The Catholic Church has long maintained its opposition to capital punishment, which is legal in 32 states.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, and chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has said: "... the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing."

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has added: "Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. ... But killing the guilty does not honor the dead nor does it ennoble the living. When we take a guilty person's life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture and we demean our own dignity in the process."

The editorial praised Chaput's comments, and said that prisoners who've committed a crime will answer before God. It points out, however, that by supporting the death penalty, people add to instead of heal the violence.

The editorial also highlighted a few of the high-profile executions in America throughout 2014 which were complicated due to the lethal injection procedure, sometimes causing intense suffering to the death row inmates.

According to a Gallup poll from October 2014, the majority of Americans continue supporting the death penalty. Sixty-three percent of the respondents were in favor of capital punishment for someone convicted of murder, while 33 percent said that they are not in favor. Four percent failed to provide an opinion.

A 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that support for the death penalty among Catholics and among Christians varies greatly by racial/ethnic groups.

While 59 percent of White Catholics said they are in favor of capital punishment, 37 percent of Hispanic Catholics were opposed. And while 67 and 64 percent receptively of White Evangelical Protestants and White Mainline Protestants backed the death penalty, only 33 percent of Black Protestants said the same.

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