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Papal and Vatican Statements

The Holy See (the Vatican) advocates on behalf of all life, including the condemned. Below is a list of recent papal statements relating to Catholic teaching on the death penalty. 

More Papal and Vatican Statements

Read the death penalty section of "Fratelli Tutti," the latest papal encyclical released by Pope Francis on the subject of fraternity and social friendship.

After an audience with Pope Francis earlier this year, and following his approval, the Vatican’s CDF says it has made changes to the CCC on the death penalty according to which capital punishment is inadmissible.

On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, while speaking on the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis chose to make an unequivocal statement: The death penalty... "is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel" and that it "heavily wounds human dignity."

“There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.”

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Statements

In the Catholic Church in the United States, pastoral statements are offered by individual bishops in: dioceses, state Catholic conferences, regional synods, or the national conference (USCCB). In the case of the death penalty, U.S. bishops have been strong anti-death penalty advocates.

More United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Statements

WASHINGTON — With more federal executions scheduled in December and January, two bishop chairmen call on the Administration to recall God’s mercy during Advent.

In advance of a new wave of federal executions in November 2020, two bishop chairmen issued a statement calling on the Trump administration to act as a witness to the dignity of all human life.

“We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions.”

WASHINGTON —Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement in light of additional federal executions this week and new executions set in September.

Bishops Statements

In the Catholic Church in the United States, pastoral statements are offered by individual bishops in particular dioceses, state Catholic conferences of bishops, regional synods of bishops, or the national conference (USCCB) when seeking to apply universal church teaching to particular circumstances or issues. In the case of the death penalty, U.S. bishops have often been strong anti-death penalty advocates for persons sentenced to be executed.  The list below includes more recent pastoral and state conference statements relating to Catholic teaching on the death penalty and its application to particular laws and state-sponsored executions.

More Bishops Statements

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson appeals to the conscience of all humanity and asks our federal government to halt the upcoming executions within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute.

The resuming of federal executions, scheduled from July 13 to August 28, to be carried out in Terre Haute, Indiana, falls within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

"Each person is created by God in his image and likeness, and the dignity that flows from God’s creative act cannot be removed by the actions of any person, no matter how bad, no matter how hurtful."

In support of a strong innocence claim and in alignment with the Church's stance against the death penalty, the Florida Bishops issued a statement urging Governor Ron DeSantis to halt the execution of James Dailey on November 7, 2019.

“We are disappointed and surprised by the state’s haste to set execution dates for six men on death row at the same time a federal court is reviewing Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol to determine if it is constitutional."

The eight Catholic bishops serving Maryland are urging President Donald Trump to stop the planned federal execution of Dustin Higgs, scheduled for Jan. 15, 2021.

Dustin Lee Honken was convicted in 2004 of the horrific acts of killing five people, including two children. He is scheduled to be executed on July 17, 2020. We ask that you commute Mr. Honken’s sentence, as well as the sentences of others to be executed this summer, from death to life without the possibility of parole.

Religious Orders Statements

Religious communities of women and men are active in efforts to abolish the death penalty. Below you will find a growing number of statements from different congregations who view the death penalty as incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are you a member of a religious community? Has your community issued a statement on the death penalty which is not listed here? We would love to share it! Please contact CMN and provide us the information below:

  • A paragraph about your community and its mission, including what state(s) you are located in
  • Your statement
  • A link to your website’s death penalty page (if you have one), or a link to your website (homepage)

More Religious Orders Statements

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary in the Woods, Indiana reside just five miles away from the facility where federal executions take place. The Sisters issued this statement in response to the July 25, 2019 decision to resume federal executions after a 16 year moratorium.

As women committed to justice, taught by the example of Jesus in the Gospels and by the Catholic Church, we reverence all life. In response to these teachings we, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts, are opposed to using the death penalty as a punishment for crime.

We are committed to being instruments through which love, justice, and peace shape our nation and our world. We respect and support Pope John Paul ll’s appeal “for a consensus to end the death penalty which is both cruel and unnecessary.” We endorse ending the death penalty in conjunction with the mission and ministry of the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

Compelled by the Gospel message and challenged by our Foundress, Marie Esther Blondin, whose vision mandates us to bring all to the fullness of life, we, the Sisters of Saint Anne of the United States oppose the death penalty.