Death penalty back in pro-life program


WASHINGTON -- After a three-year hiatus, Catholic teaching against the use of the death penalty in modern society has again found a place in the national resource materials for the U.S. bishops’ annual Respect Life Program.

A reflection titled “Divine Mercy and the Death Penalty,” by Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., is one of seven featured articles in this year’s materials.

It is the first time since 2006 that church teaching against use of the death penalty has been one of the featured issues in the program. In the seven years before 2007, it was the topic of theme articles in 2006, 2005, 2003, 2001 and 2000.

In this year’s article, Finn cites Pope John Paul II’s dramatic pleas against the use of capital punishment, including his 1997 revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to say that in most modern societies -- where the state has the capability of preventing dangerous criminals from doing further harm once it has captured and convicted them -- the cases where execution of the offender is absolutely necessary “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

Finn goes on to argue that the papal teaching is a minimum of justice; the Christian perspective of divine mercy adds an entirely new dimension to Christian opposition to use of the death penalty.

The Respect Life Program was inaugurated by the bishops in the spring of 1972. In the earliest years it focused on October as Respect Life Month and on the first Sunday of October as Respect Life Sunday in parishes across the country.

Christmas-NCR-gifts-half_0.jpgGive a subscription to our award-winning newspaper and save $10.

While keeping those October focuses, it has evolved into a yearlong program, so that the national program materials offered late each summer serve as principal liturgical, educational and action resources from that October to the next in parishes, schools and other Catholic settings.

In its August newsletter, Catholics Against Capital Punishment pointed out that the three-year hiatus of materials on Catholic teaching on the death penalty was broken this year after Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston became chairman last November of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The committee coordinates the Respect Life Program.

For the previous three years, the committee was chaired by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.

Catholics Against Capital Punishment said it was encouraged by DiNardo’s election to chairmanship of the committee because he has personally spoken out against the death penalty in the past. The group wrote to him asking him to restore that issue to its former prominence among issues addressed by the yearly resource materials of the Respect Life Program.

The typical yearly program offers six to eight new reflections on respect for life. Issues relating to abortion always constitute one or two of the areas of focus.

Among others over the years (some often repeated) have been euthanasia, assisted suicide, universal health care, war, torture, poverty, embryonic research involving destruction of human embryos, healthy sex relations, artificial birth control, the dignity of those with disabilities, forgiveness of sins against life, and capital punishment.

On the Web
2010-2011 Respect Life Program life/programs/rlp/2010

Catholics Against Capital Punishment

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg


NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.



NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017