US priests join bishops' opposition to the death penalty

Voicing their nearly universal opposition to the death penalty, Catholic priests in the U.S. are supporting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' call to end capital punishment.

"As the largest association of Catholic priests in the United States, we endorse the bishops' stance," said Fr. Bernard Bonnot, chair of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests' leadership team, in a press release. "As priests and pastors, we support the bishops in our prayers, in our preaching and in our public witness."

The endorsement comes as the USCCB calls for a recommitment to its 2005 campaignA Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death. "We urged a prudential examination of the use of the death penalty, with the aim of helping to build 'a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill. This cycle of violence diminishes all of us,'" wrote Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami in a July 16 joint statement. The two prelates are the chairmen of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, respectively.

AUSCP's April 2015 survey showed that 99 percent of its members who responded agreed that the organization should "support the call of Pope Francis to abolish capital punishment by endorsing the stance of USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development."

In a March 20 statement, Francis condemned capital punishment, calling the practice "inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed."

"It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person," Francis said, adding that the death penalty "does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance."

O'Malley and Wenski's statement encourages "all people of good will" to learn about the church's stance on this issue, as well as to pray for victims of crime, those on death row, and workers in the criminal justice system, and to "advocate for better public policies to protect society and end the use of the death penalty."

[Soli Salgado is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is]

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