Bishops Denounce Death Penalty: Good Friday Letter Cites Pope's Plea to End Capital Punishment
Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The nation's Catholic bishops yesterday said they hoped the crucifixion of Jesus, observed as Good Friday, will move citizens and lawmakers to end capital punishment in America.
"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 death penalty," they said.
In a letter, the 55-member administrative board that oversees the bishops' policy statement cited Pope John Paul II's call at Christmas to end capital punishment.
The pope also urged the United States to be "unconditionally pro-life" during his visit to St. Louis in January.
The bishops noted that they have opposed the death sentence for 25 years, but that now executions are so commonplace many go unnoticed.
"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 letter said. "We hope they will come to see, as we have, that more violence is not the answer."
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in the District, said religious groups are a primary advocate among human rights, civil liberties and other groups critical of capital punishment.
"It certainly can have an effect," Mr. Dieter said of the bishops' statement. "The death penalty is basically an ethical issue, a moral issue."
The center does not take a stand on death penalty laws, which are allowed by a 1976 Supreme Court ruling and exist in all but 12 states and the District. …