This October, Catholics across the country found ways to celebrate Respect Life Month by educating, advocating, and praying for an end to the death penalty.
Respect Life Month is a time for Catholics to contemplate the sanctity of life and to oppose broken systems that violate human dignity, including capital punishment.
From diocesan and parish-wide initiatives to individual actions by people the pews, here are a few ways that Catholics advocated against the death penalty this Respect Life Month.
Virtual Prayer Services
The Archdiocese of Atlanta recorded a virtual prayer service that streamed on its Facebook page the weekend of World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10). The service included a reflection on mercy and justice from Bishop Bernard Shlesinger and concluded with the promotion of two advocacy actions: an anti-death penalty petition to the Georgia General Assembly and CMN’s petition urging President Biden to commute the federal death row.
In collaboration with CMN, the Diocese of Cleveland’s Social Action Office also organized a virtual prayer service for Ohio Catholics. Participants prayed together for an end to the state’s death penalty, and learned about two abolition bills moving through the legislature.
Also in Ohio, several Sisters of Mercy from the McAuley Convent took part in Respect Life Month and the first Ohio Death Penalty Abolition Week (October 8-17, 2021) by participating in several activities, including attending a program of a brief video and prayer service, writing postcards thanking their legislators who support the state’s two abolition bills, and praying for individuals currently on death row.
Several dioceses in death penalty states including Utah, Wyoming, Texas, and Oklahoma shared information, wrote articles, and provided resources about the death penalty through their diocesan-wide networks.
One advocate in Louisiana, the state with the nation’s highest per capita death row exoneration rate, reached out to their pastor and local Catholic leadership encouraging the inclusion of the death penalty in their parish's Respect Life Month activities.
In Connecticut, the Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry in the Archdiocese of Hartford coordinated a presentation for Catholic students about the death penalty.
St. Patrick’s Church in the Diocese of Monterey, California invited parishioners to participate in CMN’s monthly First Friday Virtual Prayer Vigils and made plans to share advocacy actions such as CMN’s petition to President Biden.
How Will You Participate Next Respect Life Month?
There are countless ways to bring the death penalty into a community’s Respect Life Month programming.
Whether it’s a group of women religious writing postcards to their legislators, diocesan directors sharing examples of death penalty-themed Prayers of the Faithful in their weekly newsletters, or individuals in the pews appealing to their pastors for a homily on upholding a consistent ethic of life, every effort to include the Catholic Church’s teaching on capital punishment is a valuable contribution to honoring human dignity.