Standing together to bring an end to the death penalty

by Caitlin Hendel

President / CEO

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The United States is one of nine nations Amnesty International lists as "persistent executioners." The others? China, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Bangladesh and North Korea. The European Union bans the death penalty among its member nations. A Lebanese justice minister has been quoted as saying that "the right to life precedes everything" in explaining his opposition to the practice.

The U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to remove our nation from any list of governments that punish by execution. The justices are expected to decide this year whether the current protocol of injectable lethal drugs used by most states to kill their death row inmates is constitutionally allowable. A ruling against the protocol easily could amount to an abolition of the death penalty in the United States.

In a remarkable display of unity, National Catholic Reporter joins three distinctly different Catholic media organizations -- America magazine, National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor -- in publishing one written editorial that carries one message: It's time to stop the death penalty in the United States.

All four publications will run the editorial simultaneously on their websites today. Each will carry the piece in its individual print issue. You can read the editorial in the National Catholic Reporter in our March 13 edition.

Each of us looks at the church we cover through different perspectives. National Catholic Register and National Catholic Reporter arguably represent the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Our Sunday Visitor leans toward the traditional, and America identifies with all sides. But on some issues, a united opinion is the only path to take.

This is one of those issues. As the editorial so eloquently shows, Catholic leaders take only one side when it comes to matters of life. From St. Pope John Paul II to Pope Francis, from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput to Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the message is clear: End the death penalty. "We cannot teach killing is wrong by killing," Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said when the justices decided in January to take up the case, Glossip v. Gross.

As a pro-life issue, the death penalty rarely shares the same spotlight afforded to the anti-abortion movement. There is no special day for marches in Washington to support convicted criminals or white crosses on church lawns representing the numbers who have died (eight in 2015 alone). The upcoming Supreme Court decision puts this issue front and center, and we hope and pray that it will end the death penalty in this country.

[Caitlin Hendel is NCR CEO and publisher. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter: @chendel.]

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