Catholic Conference of Ohio
Friday, March 23, 2018

Issues - Catholic Conference of Ohio

Death Penalty

At the heart of Catholic teaching on the death penalty is the belief that " Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end…” (Catechism, No. 2258).

Regarding the death penalty, the catechism of the Catholic Church states:​

“Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent”(#2267).


Pope Francis on the Death Penalty

 “It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor … All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty.” International Association of Criminal Law Address 10/24/2014

"Nowadays the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. It is an offence against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God’s plan for man and society, and his merciful justice, and impedes the penalty from fulfilling any just objective. It does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance…”

“The death penalty is contrary to the sentiment of humanitas and to divine mercy, which must be the model for human justice. … There is discussion in some quarters about the method of killing, as if it were possible to find ways of 'getting it right'. … But there is no humane way of killing another person…”

“Dear friends, I encourage you to continue with your work, as the world needs witnesses of God's mercy and tenderness, and may the Lord Jesus grant the gift of wisdom, so that the action taken against this cruel punishment may be successful and fruitful". International Commission Against the Death Penalty Address 3/20/2015


Death Penalty Resources

Catholic Bishops of Ohio Teaching Statements on the Death Penalty

Death Penalty Education Brochure

This brochure offers:

  • Summary of Catholic teaching,
  • Prayer to end the death penalty;
  • Resources and action steps


Ohio Parole Board Recommends Clemency for William Montgomery

Contacting Governor is Urged

The  Ohio Parole Board recommended that Gov. John Kasich show mercy toward William T. Montgomery by a vote of 6-4. Mr. Montgomery is scheduled for execution on April 11, 2018. 

The Catholic Bishops of Ohio have sent a letter urging Governor Kasich to commute Mr. Montgomery's sentence to life without parole.

Link to Ohioans to Stop Executions regarding case documents and background materials


Governor Grants Temporary Reprieve In Pending Execution

Raymond Tibbetts' execution rescheduled for October 17, 2018

Governor Kasich issued the reprieve in light of a letter he received on January 30 from a juror on Tibbetts’ case. The execution was scheduled for February 13. Because the Ohio Parole Board issued its report and recommendation without considering the letter, Kasich has asked the board to convene a hearing for the purpose of considering the letter and the issue it raises. In his letter, the juror said that he would not have voted 20 years ago to execute Tibbetts if he’d known the extent to which Tibbetts was abused as a child.

Additional Information

Alva Campbell’s Execution Postponed

After several attempts, suitable veins could not be found

Alva Campbell’s execution has been rescheduled for June 5, 2019 due to issues related to finding suitable veins. Mr. Campbell is now the second death row inmate whose execution started but was not completed since 2009. Prior to the failed Ohio execution in 2009, the last failed attempt was in 1947.

“This traumatic series of events could have been easily avoided. Campbell’s health concerns were well documented, and everybody knew this was going to pose issues, said Kevin Werner of Ohioans to Stop Executions. “We cannot allow this practice to continue. Death row inmates can be held accountable and society can be kept safe without executions. Our thoughts are with those who witnessed the attempted execution this morning,” Werner noted.

Pope Francis Promotes Further Understanding of the Death Penalty

Calls the Death Penalty an "Inhumane Measure"

In an Oct. 11, 2017 speech to members of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Pope Francis said the topic of the death penalty should have “a more adequate and coherent space” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. "...It must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity. It is per se contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor. No man, “not even a murderer, loses his personal dignity" (Letter to the President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, 20 March 2015), because God is a Father who always awaits the return of his children who, knowing that they have made mistakes, ask for forgiveness and begin a new life. No one ought to be deprived not only of life, but also of the chance for a moral and existential redemption that in turn can benefit the community..."

2017 Respect Life Program Brochures on Death Penalty

What to Do When a Friend Is Considering Abortion
PDF Version

Respect Life Program 2017

"Be Not Afraid" is this Year's Theme

Respect Life Sunday is observed every year on the first Sunday in October (Respect Life Month). This year's theme, "Be Not Afraid," is featured October 2017 - September 2018.

NEW materials are produced each year to help Catholics understand, value, and become engaged with supporting the God-given dignity of every person—which naturally leads to protecting the gift of every person's life.

Digital Resources

Gary Otte Scheduled for Execution on September 13, 2017

Gary W. Otte is scheduled to be executed at 10 am EDT on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.  Forty-five-year-old Gary is convicted of the murder of 61-year-old Robert Wasilkowski on February 12, 1992, and for the murder of 45-year-old Sharon Kostura on February 21, 1992, both in Parma, Ohio.  Gary has spent the last 24 years of his life on Ohio’s death row.

We offer our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Robert Wasikowski and Sharon Kostura. We pray for Mr. Otte and his family and friends.  We pray for governor Kasich and all who must participate in our state executions.  We look forward to the day when the death penalty is only remembered as part of Ohio’s history.

Letter to Governor Kasich asking for clemency

Harvard Study Finds Most Ohio Death Row Inmates Have Serious Impairments

Ohio Public Radio Reports on this Study

Of the 26 Ohio men set to be executed in the next three years, a review by Harvard Law’s Fair Punishment Project shows almost two thirds suffered serious childhood trauma. Nearly a quarter are likely severely mentally ill and 42% have other impairments such as brain injuries.

Ronald Phillips Executed in Ohio

Declared dead at 10:43 AM on Wednesday, July 26, 2017

After a three-year break, Ohio resumed executions by giving a lethal injection to Ronald Phillips. Mr. Phillips became the 54th person executed in Ohio since executions resumed in 1999.

The Catholic Church believes that the death penalty is an unnecessary and systemically flawed form of punishment. The Catholic Bishops of Ohio sought mercy for Mr. Phillips because of the belief that spiritual conversion is possible and that all life – even that of the worst offender – has value and dignity. 

May his soul, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Statement by Sister Helen Prejean

Take the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty

Catholic Mobilizing Network encourages signers to educate, advocate, and pray for the end of the death penalty

"All Christians and people of good will are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom” - Pope Francis

The belief in the dignity of the human person is a pillar of our Catholic faith. The death penalty represents a failure of our society to fulfill the demands of human dignity.



Prayer for an End to Human Trafficking

Oh God, we didn't see them.

But you did-

The hundreds and thousands of human beings trafficked each year to join the millions who are trapped in modern-day slavery.

Under terrible conditions, they work in factories, plow fields, harvest crops, work quarries, fill brothels, clean homes, and haul water.

Many are children with tiny fingers for weaving rugs and small shoulders for bearing rifles.

Their labor is forced, their bodies beaten, their faces hidden from those who don't really want to see them.

But you see them all, God of the poor.

You hear their cry and you answer by opening our eyes, and breaking our hearts and loosening our tongues to insist:

No mas. No more.