Abolish the Death Penalty

As Catholic women religious, we are committed to a consistent life ethic, which means reverence for all of life…With the Bishops of the United States, we believe that our witness to respect life shines most brightly when we demand respect for each and every human life, including the lives of those who fail to show that respect for others

Second GNSH Statement of Corporate Stand Against the Death Penalty, Affirmed October 23, 2000

As Catholic religious sisters, called by God to be “co-creators of our world and to continue the reconciling work of Christ in our times” (GNSH Constitutions) we are committed to a consistent life ethic, which means reverence for all of life…With the Bishops of the United States, we believe that our witness to respect life shines most brightly when we demand respect for each and every human life, including the lives of those who fail to show that respect for others. (US Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, “Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics,” 1998)    Read the full text of our stand

Why choose to focus on the death penalty?

Primarily because the only way to end the death penalty is through legislation because it is a matter of state law. Simply put, changing laws will end the death penalty, as has been done in a number of states already.

If we live with the truth that every human being is made in the image of God, we claim value to all of human life- perfect and imperfect. It is hard to imagine that any Christian would condone state executions of anyone, when we are witnesses to the execution of Jesus Himself.

The Big Picture:

  • 32 States currently have a Death Penalty plus the US government and military;
  • 18 States do not have a Death Penalty, plus the District of Columbia.
  • As of July 10, 2016, 2,905 people are on death row.
  • At least 4 percent of all people who receive the death penalty are innocent, if a new study is correct.

The number of people sentenced to die for crimes they didn’t commit is often described as “not merely unknown but unknowable.”  There is no systematic method to determine whether a criminal conviction is right, which would prevent the deaths of wrongly-sentenced people
If the Good Shepherd goes after one sheep in the flock of 100, surely we can hold out the hope that those who are found guilty of their crimes are allowed the possibility of reform. Justice Sonia Sotomayor signed a 1981 anti-death penalty memo saying that “capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society.” The memo went on to say, “The death penalty is final. It eliminates all possibility of reform of the offender.”

What can you do to help end the Death Penalty?

  • Pray for an end to this travesty of justice.
  • Promote and advocate for the end of the death penalty.
  • Stay informed on this issue through a variety of sources.
  • Protest at death sites.
  • Become involved in prison ministry and minister to those who have been released from prisons.
  • Pray for those scheduled for execution along with prayers for the victims of these crimes and their families.
  • Affirm the belief that two wrongs do not make a right.

 A Prayer to Abolish the Death Penalty

Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ

God of Compassion, You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust. Expand and deepen our heart so that we may love as You love even those among us who have caused the greatest pain by taking life. For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance as we fill up death rows and kill the killers in the name of justice, in the name of peace.

Jesus, our brother, you suffered execution at the hands of the state but you did not let hatred overcome you. Help us to reach out to victims of violence so that our enduring love may help them heal.

Holy Spirit of God, You strengthen us in the struggle for justice. Help us to work tirelessly for the abolition of state-sanctioned death and to renew our society in its very heart so that violence will be no more. Amen


Click the following links for more information:

USCCB FAQ Catholic View of the Death Penalty

Death Penalty Information Center

National Coalition Against the Death Penalty

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

American Civil Liberties Union

Sister Helen Prejean

The Grey Nuns