WASHINGTON, D.C. - The bishops chairing two committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) renewed the bishops' opposition to the death penalty in a message, July 16. The message commemorated the 10th anniversary of the bishops' Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and their accompanying message, "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death."
"Our faith tradition offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake. No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. Today, we have this capability," wrote Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston, chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
The bishops cited progress over the last decade, including several states abolishing the death penalty, other states enacting moratoria, and death sentences being at their lowest level since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. The bishops also noted Pope Francis' call for an end to the use of the death penalty.
"Pope Francis, like his predecessors, provides a clear and prophetic voice for life and mercy in calling for all people of good will to work to end the use of the death penalty," Archbishop Wenski said of the message. "In anticipation of Pope Francis's visit to the United States in September, we join our voices with his and continue our call for a culture of life. As a people of life, we say it is time for the U.S. to abandon use of the death penalty."
The full text of the message is available online.