Leading Catholic newspapers call for abolition of death penalty


Four leading Catholic newspapers in the US have united to publish an unprecedented joint editorial calling for the abolition of capital punishment.

America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter and Our Sunday Visitor called on all Catholics to demand an end to the death penalty.

Legal executions take place in 32 states, mainly by lethal injection. Death sentences can be applied under the eighth amendment to some murders by adults. Texas and Oklahoma are among the states where it is most commonly applied.

The editorial follows a decision in January by the US Supreme Court to hear arguments in an Oklahoma case involving the same lethal-injection protocol that led to three internationally-publicised problematic executions last year. The court is expected to rule on whether the use of lethal injections is constitutional or whether it is a cruel and unusual punishment.

The editorial reads: "The court will likely issue a ruling by June. Our hope is that it will hasten the end of the death penalty in the United States."

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, of Miami, and chairman of the US bishops' committee on domestic justice and human development, has said: "The use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing."

Boston Cardinal Seán O'Malley, chair of pro-life activities, has argued: "Society can protect itself in ways other than the use of the death penalty. We pray that the Court's review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end."

The editorial notes that the Catholic Church has fought against the death penalty for decades and that the late Pope St John Paul II amended the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church to include a de facto prohibition against capital punishment. Last year, Pope Francis also called on all Catholics "to fight ... for the abolition of the death penalty."

The editorial describes the practice as "abhorrent and unnecessary" as well as "insanely expensive".

Dennis Coday, editor of National Catholic Reporter, told Catholic News Service: "There's been a growing consensus among the public and especially among Catholics of the need to bring an abolition, or at least a moratorium, to the death penalty in the country. I think that's perfectly clear from public opinion surveys, especially in the last year that execution after execution has failed or been botched."