Catholicism and Capital Punishment

Written on: March 1, 2021

There will be an online conversation about the intersection of faith and the death penalty on March 10th. The panelists will share their personal experiences with the capital punishment system, followed by a Q & A session. Registration and Information Link

The following is from Sister Jean Liston who became a pen-pal for people in prison, which led to her becoming an advocate to end the death penalty.


Opinions change when we acquire new information based on accurate facts and insightful experience.

In his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, issued on October 3, 2020, Pope Francis reminds us that “we are made in the image and likeness of God. We should never execute another. The use of the death penalty is not a punishment we should use to kill our guilty or innocent brothers or sisters.”

In recent years, education on the cruelty and ineffectiveness of the death penalty has increased. Society is coming to realize that the death penalty is not the answer. However, 53% of the 51 million Catholics in the United States believe in the use of the death penalty. We need to educate and help change opinions on this topic.

Merrick Garland, in his confirmation hearing to serve as United States Attorney General, spoke of how his opinion on the death penalty has changed. He noted that the use of the death penalty “has given him great pause” because of the obvious racial disparity as well as the number of exonerations that come from death penalty cases.

Since 1989, 375 individuals have been found innocent due to DNA testing. Some of these individuals have served 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years in prison due to a flawed defense. In Philadelphia, the odds of receiving the death penalty increased by 38% when the accused was a person of color.

Twenty-nine states have abolished the use of the death penalty; 22 states have not. In four states, Governors have imposed a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

What are we called to do? I believe our call is to continue to educate ourselves and the general public on the necessity to ban the use of the death penalty.

You are invited to participate in a webinar via Zoom on “Catholics and the Death Penalty.” This webinar is sponsored by “Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty” with the Grey Nuns as a co-sponsor. The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10th, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Two great resources from Catholic Mobilizing Network

  1. RACISM AND THE DEATH PENALTY: COMPOUNDING SYSTEMS OF DEHUMANIZATION – one page resource exploring the connections.
  2. RESTORATIVE APPROACHES IN A TIME OF RACIAL RECKONING – one page resource on restorative justice.

One thought on “Catholicism and Capital Punishment

  1. Helen says:

    I am a victim survivor. I am against the death penalty in all circumstances. A human remains a human, even though they have sinned. They are not mad dogs. They should not be hung, shot, be stuck with a poison dart, gassed, or fried alive! We have prisons to keep violent offenders from society. We do NOT need death camps in America. For the religious who can’t make up their minds about the death penalty, I ask a question… where in the Bible does it say that vengeance is yours?

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