Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Pray, Preach, Teach for End to Capital Punishment, Bishops Say

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Pray, Preach, Teach for End to Capital Punishment, Bishops Say

Article excerpt

In a Good Friday statement, the U.S. bishops urged an end to capital punishment, asking Catholics and all people of good will to preach, teach, pray and serve as witnesses against this "tragic illusion."

"We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes but for what it does to all of us as a society," said the April 2 statement of the administrative board of the U.S. Catholic Conference.

"Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life," it continued. "We cannot overcome crime simply by 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."

The statement noted that the church's teaching on the subject has evolved. It refers to Pope John Paul II's request to governments to stop using capital punishment in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"), and his observation in St. Louis in January that instances where the death penalty is necessary to protect society are "very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

"Sadly, many Americans, including many Catholics, still support the death penalty out of understandable fear of crime and horror at so many innocent lives lost through criminal violence," the Good Friday statement said.

"We hope that they will come to see, as we have, that more violence is not the answer. …

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