“The death penalty neither deters others, nor brings this perpetrator to understanding, but instead, in the worst of ironies, publicly validates the very act of taking a human life.”
~ Bishop Peter A. Libasci
As Pope John Paul II discussed in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, human life is a gift given from God, and every human being inherits the dignity of that life. The death penalty is contrary to this belief, as it affords the government the right to determine the time of death for those who have committed certain heinous crimes. While the Church recognizes the historical purpose of the death penalty, it seems that the penalty no longer has a place in modern society.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “Assuming the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude the recourse of the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, the authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity with the dignity of the human person” (no. 2267). As the Bishops of the United States have said, “sentences such as life in prison without parole provide non-lethal alternatives” to the death penalty and render unnecessary the use of the death penalty in the United States. USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, 2005.
Therefore, the possibility that no other means to deal with the aggressor’s presence could be used is almost inconceivable. In the Holy See’s Declaration to the First World Congress on the Death Penalty, it is stated, “It is surely more necessary than ever that the inalienable dignity of the human life be universally respected and recognized for its immeasurable value. The Holy See has engaged itself in the abolition of capital punishment…and does so in defiance of any assertion of a culture of death.”
Facts about Death Row:
Over 3,100 inmates are on death row in 37 state and federal prisons. The largest number, over 700, is in California.
Since 1973, there have been over 140 exonerations of death row inmates.
Eighteen states do not impose the death penalty.
A 2009 poll commissioned by the Death Penalty Information Center found police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce crime. The police chiefs also considered the death penalty to be the least efficient use of taxpayers' money.
(Source: Death Penalty Information Center)
HB 147 - Capital Murder Statute - January 26, 2011
Bishop Christian's Testimony against Death Penalty - May 14, 2010
SB 472-FN - Making the Commission of Certain Murders Eligible for Death Penalty - February 12, 2010
Bishop Libasci's Remarks at the Press Conference to Announce the 2014 Campaign to Repeal the Death Penalty in New Hampshire
Parish Suggestions to Support Repeal of the Death Penalty
Declaration of the Holy See to the First World Congress on the Death Penalty
USCCB Statements on Death Penalty
Dear Father Kerper: Don’t Murderers Deserve to Die?
Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty
Faith Catholic: Sister Helen brings Christ to ‘dead men walking’
The teaching of the Church on both legitimate self-defense and the death penalty.
A Culture of Life in New Hampshire by Bishop McCormack and Bishop Christian