Catholic Conference of Ohio
Thursday, February 21, 2019

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 was updated in 2018: 

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.
[1] FRANCIS, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017, 5.

Pope Francis on the Death Penalty

February 8, 2018 Letter to the Bishops regarding the new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty

Other Statements by Pope Francis

 “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

 

Governor DeWine Announces a Halt on State Executions

Calls for a new lethal injection protocol that that will overcome any court challenges

Gov. Mike DeWine announced that he is halting executions until the state devises a new lethal injection protocol that overcomes any court challenges. He did not issue a formal stay of all executions but said “As long as the status quo remains, where we don’t have a protocol that has been found to be OK, we certainly cannot have any executions in Ohio. That would not be right, at least in my opinion.”

He directed prison officials to come up with a new protocol, which will likely face legal challenge in federal court.

Dayton Daily News Report
Cleveland.com News Report

Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty

 

U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Condemn Decision Preventing Muslim Man from Receiving Appropriate Spiritual Care at Execution

On February 7, 2019, the State of Alabama executed Domineque Ray, a Muslim man whose request to have an imam present at his execution was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 5-4. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, have issued a statement, which reads:

“The execution of Domineque Ray deeply troubles us. The death penalty itself is an affront to human dignity, and the Church has long called for its abolition in the United States and around the world. Mr. Ray bore the further indignity of being refused spiritual care in his last moments of life, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Alabama law. This unjust treatment is disturbing to people of all faiths, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or otherwise. People deserve to be accompanied in death by someone who shares their faith. It is especially important that we respect this right for religious minorities. As Pope Francis said during his recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, ‘What we are called to do as believers is to commit ourselves to the equal dignity of all.’ Let us make this commitment today.”

Governor DeWine Delays Execution Due to Concerns Over Execution Drugs

Warren "Keith" Henness' February Date Moved to September 12, 2019

Governor DeWine has delayed the scheduled February 13, 2019 execution of Keith Henness. He has directed the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to assess Ohio’s current options for execution drugs and examine possible alternative drugs.

Federal Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz last week deemed Ohio’s three-drug execution protocol akin to fatal “waterboarding.” But the judge did not rule Ohio's method of execution unconstitutional because of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The majority in the 5-4 ruling declared if Death Row inmates claim that the government’s methods of killing them are cruel, they must propose an alternative for their own execution that is “available, feasible and can be readily implemented.”

The Catholic Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.” Catechism of the Catholic Church #2267

Ohio's 132nd General Assembly Winding Down

Possible vetoes will determine the fate of several life-related legislation

The Ohio Legislature is expected to return on December 19 and December 27 to wrap up the 132nd General Assembly.  Legislation not passed by January 1, 2019, must be reintroduced in the next Assembly. Much will depend upon whether the House and Senate will attempt to override any Governor vetoes (including vetoes made in the 2017 budget bill).  The Governor has indicated that he may veto the Heartbeat bill (HB 258), the gun bill (HB 228) and the pay raise bill (SB 296).  The Senate needs 20 votes to override; the House needs 60. 

 

Pope Francis calls for the abolition of the death penalty

Changes made to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Pope Francis calls the death penalty "inadmissible"..." an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”. 

He makes the following change to Catholic teaching:

The death penalty

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

[1] FRANCIS, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017, 5.

Letter to the Bishops regarding the new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty

Revised text to the Catechism

USCCB response to new changes

Governor Kasich Grants Reprieve to Cleveland Jackson and Commutes Sentence of Raymond Tibbetts to Life-Without-Parole

Catholic Conference Commends Governor

The Catholic Conference of Ohio commends Governor Kasich for his leadership, courage, and pursuit of justice in commuting the death sentence of Raymond Tibbetts, as well as granting a reprieve for Cleveland Jackson.  Each case presented strong evidence that corrective actions were needed by the Governor. Thank you, Governor Kasich.

The Catholic Church believes that the death penalty is an unnecessary and systemically flawed form of punishment. We seek mercy for those on death row because we believe that spiritual conversion is possible and that all life – even that of the worst offender – has value and dignity.

Additional Information

Catholic teaching on the death penalty

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

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.

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.

 

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