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Papal and Vatican Statements

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

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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.

"Thank you, Lord, for the witness of those who inflicted suffering and who ask for forgiveness; for the witness of those who suffered unjustly and who forgive.

On Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018 Pope Francis' General Audience highlighted the role of sin in violating our relationship with God and neighbor alike.

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."

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.

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Following the publication of the revised section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the death penalty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, welcomed the change and echoed the call to end the death penalty in the United States.

"There is no doubt that the Catholic Church stands out for its commitment to the right to life from conception until natural death. This ethic has profound consequences not only for abortion, but for many other areas of life, including the death penalty, the application of scientific research to human subjects, the right to adequate health care, and the role of the state in promoting the common good. Our civil society will be all the poorer if Senators, as a matter of practice, reject well-qualified judicial nominees whose consciences have been formed in this ethic."

"It can be very difficult to think of mercy at a time when justice for unthinkable crimes seems to cry out for vengeance," Bishop Dewane commented, "[t]he harm and pain caused by terrible sin is real." Yet, he invoked Pope Francis' reflection that, "Jesus on the cross prayed for those who had crucified him: 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do' (Lk. 23:34).  Mercy is the only way to overcome evil.  Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough. Justice and mercy must go together."

In the middle of 2015, the two chairmen of the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and on Pro-Life Activities co-authored a joint statement stating a recommitment and reminder of the campaign to end the death penalty that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops institute

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.

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"With the clear and cogent clarification of the successor of St. Peter, there now exists no loophole to morally justify capital punishment."

"For some years now, I have expressed my concern that the death penalty is both cruel and unnecessary and I have called for its abolition. So, I welcome the changes to The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty and I am grateful for Pope Francis’ leadership in working for an end to judicial executions worldwide."

Bishop Daniel Thomas of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo released a statement on Pope Francis' revision of the Catholic Church Catechism on the death penalty late yesterday.

Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel of the Archdiocese of Lafayette has released a statement in support of Pope Francis’ stance that governments should be working to eliminate the death penalty.

State Catholic Conference Statements

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In an August 9 letter to Governor Rick Scott on behalf of the bishops of Florida, Michael Sheedy, executive director, appealed to the governor to commute Jimenez' death sentence to a life sentence without parole. 

The Catholic Bishops serving in Nebraska, Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, and Bishop Joseph G.

Gov. Bruce Rauner today called for the reinstatement of the death penalty for individuals convicted of mass shootings or the fatal shooting of a police officer.

Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. – Pope Francis

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

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. 

We, the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton Ohio, publicly condemn the use of capital punishment in the United States and in the world. We believe the use of capital punishment is responding to violence with violence and perpetuates the cycle of violence and revenge.

Other Catholic Organizations

Many Catholic Organizations have issued statements against the use of the death penalty. On this page, you will find a selection of statements from Catholic organizations at the state and national level.  If you are a member of a Catholic organization and you have issued a statement on the death penalty which is not listed here, please contact CMN.

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"Each human has innate dignity, even those whose lives have been deeply marred by injustice, and those responsible for causing it."