Faith


Catholic

Catholic teaching on human life begins with the belief that life is a gift from God that is not for us to take away. As it is applied to the death penalty, this teaching is both complicated and clear. The Church has long acknowledged the right of the state to use the death penalty in order to protect society. However, the Church has more clearly insisted the state forego this right if it has other means to protect society. Pope Francis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and statements from U.S. Bishops are all clear and consistent that the use of the death penalty ought to be abandoned in our nation because we have alternative means to protect society.

In his encyclical “The Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II challenged followers of Christ to be “unconditionally pro-life,” willing to “proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of life in every situation.” He reminds us that “the dignity of the human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.” The cases in which society could not defend itself, according to the Pope, “are very rare if not practically non-existent.”

Abolition sends a message that we can break the cycle of violence, that we need not take life for life, that we can envisage more humane and more hopeful and effective responses to the growth of violent crime. - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

GROUPS AND RESOURCES

Methodist

THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH ON THE DEATH PENALTY

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.

The United Methodist Church cannot accept retribution or social vengeance as a reason for taking human life. It violates our deepest belief in God as the Creator and Redeemer of humankind. - The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 2004

2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the call by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church for an end to capital punishment in the United States. Since its initial stance, the church has not wavered in its opposition to the death penalty. In opposing executions, the United Methodist Church has repeatedly recognized that the death penalty has no demonstrated deterrent effect and that it is, therefore, in place only for retribution. The church recognizes that such vengeance is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ and feels that “When another life is taken through capital punishment, the life of the victim is further devalued.” (Book of Resolutions) The Church calls on its members to take overt action to bring an end to capital punishment and guarantees the Church’s support for such efforts.

GROUPS AND RESOURCES

Presbyterian

Presbyterians, guided by Scripture, believe that God has deep concern for those who are held captive or imprisoned. Throughout the Hebrew texts and New Testament, the prophets, and later, Jesus, call attention to those who are languishing in prisons and jails—encouraging followers to visit them, to advocate for them, and to share in their suffering. Presbyterian General Assemblies have demonstrated concern for the imprisoned and those who have been sentenced to death by enacting policy statements over the past forty years, beginning in 1959 and continuing in 1977, 1978, and 1985.

In 1985, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reaffirmed these earlier positions, declaring, “its continuing opposition to capital punishment.” The 212th General Assembly (2000) also reaffirmed the position of the prior assemblies; called for an immediate moratorium on all executions in all jurisdictions that impose capital punishment; and directed the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to communicate the call for an immediate moratorium and continuing opposition to the death penalty to the President of the United States, representatives in Congress, as well as to governors and legislators of the 37 states with persons awaiting execution.

GROUPS AND RESOURCES

Evangelicals

Evangelicals are a diverse body of believers, domestically and globally, with many opinions on on capital punishment. For example, the largest body of evangelicals – Southern Baptists – support capital punishment according to a resolution passed during the 2000 SBC Convention.

However, Southern Baptists are increasingly becoming outliers on this issue, as evangelicals are shifting rapidly on capital punishment, evidenced by:

GROUPS AND RESOURCES

JOIN OUR

MAILING LIST