Catholic Conference of Ohio
Saturday, June 15, 2024

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

 

CCO Supports SB 101 & HB 259 to Abolish the Death Penalty

Take Action Today

The Catholic Conference of Ohio supports Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 259 to abolish the death penalty. The Ohio House and Senate bills to end the death penalty have now received proponent testimony and await opposition testimony. The Catholic Church, in Ohio and around the world, vehemently rejects the use of capital punishment, which disregards mercy, rejects redemption, and ignores the dignity of human life. Rather, the Catholic Church calls for a social order where the work of justice embraces tender acts of mercy, where our response to crime leads to renewal and redemption, and where every human life – no matter its circumstance, race, class, or stage of development – is cherished as an icon of our Creator.   

Make your voice heard and urge your state legislators to support Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 259 to abolish the death penalty in Ohio. Use the following action alerts to easily send a message:

Catholic Bishops of Ohio Urge Action to End Death Penalty

Action Alerts: SB 101 & HB 259

The Catholic bishops of Ohio issued a letter to all Ohio Senators and Representatives asking them to support legislation to end Ohio's death penalty. The Catholic Church worldwide continuously seeks the full protection of the law for human life from conception to natural death. Read the letter here.

Make your voice heard and urge your state legislators to support Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 259 to abolish the death penalty in Ohio. Use the following action alerts to easily send a message:

Catholic opposition to the death penalty is rooted in our teaching that every human being bears the image of God, regardless of the stage of life or circumstance. From the preborn, to the indigent, to the man on death row, the Catholic Church insists that every single human life deserves justice, respect, and mercy. It is the unequivocal teaching of the Catholic faith that the death penalty is “inadmissible.”  

Mass for Life - October 6 at 9am

Followed by Ohio March for Life

Join the Catholic Conference of Ohio for the Mass for Life:
Friday, October 6 at 9:00am
St. Joseph Cathedral, Downtown Columbus
Celebrated by Bishop Earl Fernandes

The Ohio March for Life starts at 11am right down the street at the Ohio Statehouse. Damascus Worship will kick off with a pre-rally concert at 10am. Speakers include: Bishop Earl Fernandes, Senator Kristina Roegner, Representative Melanie Miller, and more. 

Governor DeWine Delays Three Executions Scheduled for Summer 2022

The Catholic Conference of Ohio appreciates Governor DeWine’s recent decision to delay the executions of three death row inmates scheduled for this summer. 

In promoting a culture of life and following the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Conference continues advocacy for SB 103 and HB 183, both of which would abolish the death penalty in Ohio. Since 1977, and reiterated six more times in statements since then, the bishops of Ohio have stated that capital punishment does not enhance respect for the sacredness of human life. 

Take action here to contact your state legislators and express your opposition to the death penalty. The Catholic Conference of Ohio looks forward to when the death penalty is only remembered as part of Ohio’s history.

Conference Testifies on Bill to End Death Penalty

There is a better way to carry out justice and mercy

The Cathoic Conference of Ohio testified in support of HB 183  legislation to end Ohio's death penalty. The message to the House Criminal Justice Committee:  "It is time for the State of Ohio to abolish the death penalty."  Conference testimony also highlighted that "the Catholic opposition to the death penalty is ultimately rooted in mercy and is eminently pro-life."  

Take Action:  Contact your Ohio Representative.  A companion bill, SB 103 is expected to have more hearings in the fall.  Read Cinciannati Archbishop Schnurr's letter to the faithful in support of SB 103.

Governor DeWine Issues Death Penalty Reprieves

Governor DeWine issues four more execution reprieves for a lack of available drugs to carry out Ohio's lethal injection procedure.  The governor's orders announced September 10, 2021, rescheduled executions for between December 2024 and May 2025.  The Conference commends this action.

Conference Testifies on Bill to End Death Penalty

Death penalty is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person

The Cathoic Conference of Ohio testified in support of SB 103: legislation to end Ohio's death penalty. The Conference highlighted the various church statements issued over the years calling for an end to the death penalty. 

"...[In 1977] the bishops of Ohio issued a statement stating that more destruction of human life through capital punishment would not enhance people’s respect for the sacredness of the life of every person. Since then, our Conference has issued six more statements. Over the years our opposition has grown stronger and clearer.

We now unequivocally state that the death penalty should no longer be used - that it is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person – and that we should work with determination for its abolition worldwide..."

A companion bill, HB 183, is expected to have proponent testimony later in June, 2021.

 Letter to the Faithful in support of Ohio State Bill 103
 Archbishop Schnurr, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Chairman of the Board, Catholic Conference of Ohio

Governor DeWine Continues to Issue Death Penalty Reprieves

Governor DeWine issued three more execution reprieves.  He stated in his order that this was due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC).  The Governor has issued a total of 24 death penalty reprieves.

The Conference commends this action.

The Ohio Attorney General’s 2020 Ohio Capital Crimes Annual Report, released on April 1, 2021, criticized the state’s death-penalty system as “increasingly time-consuming, costly, and lethargic.” (Read the Analysis by the Death Penalty Information Center)

DeWine Continues Reprieving Pending Executions

On December 18, 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine issued the following three reprieves of execution, citing the lack of drugs for the lethal injections:

- Elwood Hubert Jones, who was scheduled to be executed on April 21, 2021, is now due to be executed on Dec. 6, 2023.
- Gregory Lott, who was scheduled to be executed on May 27, 2021, is now to be executed Feb. 15, 2024
- Archie Dixon, who was scheduled to be executed on June 23, 2021, is now to be executed on April 17, 2024.

Ohio Legislature Eliminates Death Penalty for Persons with Severe Mental Illness

HB 136 Goes To Governor For Signature

The Catholic Conference of Ohio has been a long-time advocate for this legislation.  In testimony the Conference stated:

 "HB 136 is an important and achievable reform of Ohio’s death penalty system. Regardless of your position on the death penalty, we hope each of you will agree that our State ought not be executing persons with clearly defined mental illness. HB 136 offers a narrow path for such a determination. Conducting a pretrial hearing to determine if an individual meets the bill’s limited “conditions” of serious mental illness is a reasonable response. HB 136 will hold guilty individuals with serious mental illness accountable through a life sentence."

"We thank Representative Hillyer for sponsoring this legislation. We also thank Chairman Eklund and Senator Williams for carrying the companion bill, SB 54. We commend the work of the Ohio Supreme Court Task Force on the Death Penalty, and the leadership of former Justice Evelyn Stratton. We are pleased to join with the many mental health groups that support this legislation." 

The legislation passed the Senate 27-3 and the House 67-12.