Catholic Conference of Ohio
Thursday, October 29, 2020

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


Stop the Federal Executions

The federal government has resumed federal executions for the first time in 17 years

The federal government has resumed federal executions for the first time in 17 years.  As Pope Francis has made clear, the death penalty is inadmissible as an affront to the Gospel and the dignity of human life. 
The Catholic bishops have expressed their opposition to the death penalty for decades. 

Please join in raising your voice against these executions.  Tell Attorney General Barr to stop the executions because they undermine human dignity!

U.S. Supreme Court Announces Rulings Related To Abortion Clinics and Federal Death Penalty

USCCB Chair Calls Clinic Ruling "Cruel Precedent"

The U. S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 to strike down the Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Pro-Life Activities wrote: “...The Court’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of laws prioritizing women’s health and safety over abortion business interests continues a cruel precedent..."

In another ruling the U. S. Supreme Court refused to block the execution of four federal prison inmates who are scheduled to be put to death in July and August. The executions would mark the first use of the death penalty on the federal level since 2003. The court's action leaves no obstacles standing in the way of the executions, the first of which is scheduled for July 13. 

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Administration to reverse course on presiding over federal executions for the first time in 17 years.


Governor DeWine Continues to Issue Death Penalty Reprieves

Pending Executions in 2020 Rescheduled

Governor DeWine continues to grant execution reprieves (eighteen to date).  Kareem Jackson, Stanley Fitzpatrick, and David Sneed had their execution dates rescheduled for 2022 and 2023. The governor cited ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC).

The Catholic Conference of Ohio commends Governor DeWine for this action. The Conference continues to promote an end to the death penalty.

Ohio Senate Committee Passes Death Penalty Limitation Bill

HB 136 Bans Executions of Seriously Mentally Ill Persons

On June 3, 2020 the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee passed HB 136 that prohibits the death penalty for persons with severe mental illness.  The bill now goes before the full Senate.

The Catholic Conference of Ohio strongly supports passage of this legislation.

Persons are encouraged to contact their Senator asking for their support.


Governor DeWine Issues Three More Death Row Reprieves

Ongoing Problems Remain Over Execution Protocols

 Governor Mike DeWine issued the following three reprieves of execution:

  • Gregory Lott, who was scheduled to be executed on March 12, 2020.  The new date of execution has been moved to May 27, 2021. 
  • John Stumpf, who was scheduled to be executed on April 16, 2020.  The new date of execution has been moved to September 15, 2021. 
  • Warren "Keith" Henness, who was scheduled to be executed on May 14, 2020.  The new date of execution has been moved to January 12, 2022. 

Governor DeWine is issuing these reprieves due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pursuant to DRC protocol, without endangering other Ohioans. The Governor has now issued twelve reprieves.

Amicus Brief Presents Arguments on The Catholic Church's Opposition to the Death Penalty

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops File Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court Regarding Florida Case

On January 17, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of James M. Dailey, an inmate on Florida’s death row, urging a new trial in his case due to persuasive evidence of actual innocence. The amicus brief explains the Catholic Church’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty. The Church teaches that capital punishment violates respect for life and human dignity. The injustice is especially acute in the instance of an innocent person sentenced to death. The amicus brief also argues that the execution of an innocent person violates the Constitution of the United States.  

U. S. Bishops Approve Additions to Teaching Document on Political Responsibility

A short introductory letter and five short video scripts approved to supplement "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship"

An introductory letter  addressing current issues of the day and references to the teachings of Pope Francis was approved by USCCB to supplement  the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' existing document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The letter affirms the "richness" that our faith brings to the public square, and addresses challenges that have become more pronounced:

"Pope Francis has continued to draw attention to important issues such as migration, xenophobia, racism, abortion, global conflict, and care for creation. In the United States and around the world, many challenges demand our attention.

The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty."

Introductory Letter

Introductory Letter References to Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Rejoice and Be Glad #25, #101

Governor DeWine Delays Two More Scheduled Executions

Says Death Penalty "At A Standstill"

On October 30, 2019, Governor DeWine granted reprieves for death-row inmates James Galen Hanna and Kareem Jackson because of ongoing issues with finding execution drugs. He stated:

“The reality is that we are pretty much at a standstill in this area. I felt it was important to reprieve two simply because it’s important for the Department of [Rehabilitation and] Correction and the people who work there not to have to go through all the lead up to an execution. There’s a real protocol that they have to follow, they have to start so many days out and practice, and this is very tough on them. This is a tough, tough thing for the people who work at the department of corrections.”

The Catholic Conference of Ohio commends Governor DeWine for this action. The Conference continues to promote an end to the death penalty.

Federal Court Weighs in on Ohio's Death Penalty Protocol

Rules that drugs used in Ohio executions do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment

The Catholic Conference of Ohio is disappointed that the Federal Sixth U.S. Court ruled that Ohio’s lethal injection protocol does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

The Conference supports Governor DeWine’s cautious approach to resuming executions.  Questions remain regarding aspects of Ohio’s death penalty such as drug availability, drug manufacturers opposition to using their drugs, alternative methods to lethal injection, the high costs associated with the death penalty, the absolute need for continuing executions, and moral and ethical concerns over continued use of the death penalty. 

The Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty should no longer be used. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. 


Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Says He Is "Less and Less" Supportive of the Death Penalty

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr sends letter of "encouragement" on behalf of the Ohio Bishops

Dear Speaker Householder, 

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Ohio, I write to support your willingness to reconsider Ohio’s use of the death penalty. The Cincinnati Enquirer recently reported that you are “less and less supportive of the death penalty.” The paper reported that you cited the high cost of executing death row inmates and the inability to find execution drugs as two reasons for your shifting support. We urge you to use your excellent leadership skills to pursue ways to end the use of the death penalty in Ohio...


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