Eliminating the Death Penalty

In the first six weeks of 2023, six offenders on death row were executed by lethal injection in the United States—three in the state of Missouri. Capital punishment is a legal penalty at the federal level in 27 states, though only six (Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas) use capital punishment. Internationally, the U.S. is among only 20 of the world’s 195 countries that use capital punishment. The death penalty in Chile was repealed in 2001. Peru is one of seven countries that has abolished capital punishment for “ordinary crimes only.” In Japan, capital punishment is a legal penalty for murder. Last December, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the ninth resolution for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with 125 votes in favor, two more than in 2020. However, the U.S. voted against the resolution for the ninth time.

In the U.S., President Biden is the first president to publicly oppose the death penalty. Biden’s administration declared a moratorium on federal executions in July 2021, the first for a presidential administration. But advocates insist that a moratorium on federal executions is not enough. Almost all offenders on federal death row were raised in poverty, experienced abuse and neglect, and witnessed pervasive violence in their homes and communities. Many suffer from mental illness. The dignity of the human person is the foundation for Catholic social thought and is found in other faiths and philosophies. The death penalty doesn’t solve the evil of violence or terrorism; it furthers it.

Loving God,
we pray for your guiding spirit.
Continue to move us…
Move us always towards profound love of our neighbor without distinction,
Move us to deepen and broaden our understanding of the interlocking issues,
Move us to deepen our commitment to a consistent life ethic,
Move us beyond this great polarization and indifference in our world today,

Embolden us to a commitment to the sacredness of all life
And to see every human person as created in your image
and worthy of our care and respect.
Embolden us to stand in solidarity with all persons, especially those who are the most vulnerable.
Embolden us to speak up and use our voices to advocate for the elimination of the death penalty.
We ask this in your loving name. Amen.