Magazine article The Christian Century

Catholic Bishops Again Condemn Death Penalty

Magazine article The Christian Century

Catholic Bishops Again Condemn Death Penalty

Article excerpt

The U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have renewed their call to end the death penalty, saying state-sponsored executions are unfair, unnecessary and unhealthy for America's soul.

The nation's Catholic bishops, in Washington for their annual mid-November meeting, affirmed church teaching that allows capital punishment in limited circumstances, but said life imprisonment is a better alternative. "We seek to build a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill," the bishops said in an 18-page statement. "This cycle of violence diminishes all of us."

On the death penalty, the bishops are hoping to harness growing skepticism over capital punishment among both Catholics and the general public. A poll commissioned by the bishops in March found that support for the death penalty among Catholics has slipped to just 48 percent, down from 68 percent in 2001.

It might be a mistake, however, to make too much of the declining numbers. A separate Gallup poll conducted last spring for the National Catholic Reporter found that 57 percent of Catholics support "stiffer enforcement" of the death penalty.

While abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty are frequently condemned as part of a "culture of death," the bishops were clear that capital punishment is different, and that "people of goodwill disagree" on its merits. …

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