Published on: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

As the United States government continues carrying out federal executions after a 17-year hiatus, five executions so far this summer, Archbishop Paul Coakley expresses the Catholic Church's dedication to opposing the death penalty, additional information available here. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has expressed the Church's opposition to the death penalty in no uncertain terms.

"We've obviously been opposed to it and have been working ardently for years to combat not only the federal government's but also state government's use of the death penalty," he said. The Church's teaching on the issue has developed over the past 20 years, noted Archbishop Coakley, "making it ever clearer that the death penalty, as Pope Francis says, is inadmissible in today's time." This position lies in the "inviolable dignity of the human person, which [capital punishment] does not protect or preserve in any way."

Archbishop Coakley pointed out that the Church also advocates for the rights of victims and seeks to console them. "We are very committed to the rights of crime victims," he said. "The Church doesn’t believe that executing a criminal is a way of bringing about the healing, reconciliation, and peace that the victims have suffered and are in need of." According to the Law of Moses, the woman should have been stoned to death. But Jesus replied: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

"Jesus does not mitigate the seriousness of the offense of the woman," said the Archbishop. "But He appeals for mercy." Archbishop Coakley said he offers this response to those who are struggling to understand the Church's teaching on the death penalty. "We don’t deny the evil done," he said, "but we appeal to God's mercy. We hope to receive God’s mercy."