Catholic Social Action
100 East 8th Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Phone: (513) 421-3131 ext. 2660
Fax: (513) 421-1582
Pam Long – Regional Director
Catholic Social Action
1436 Needmore Road
Dayton, OH 45414
Phone: (937) 224-3026
Fax: (937) 341-5036
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Catholic Teaching on Capital Punishment
Our Holy Father and bishops have consistently taught that the sanction of death when it is not necessary to protect society undermines respect for human life and dignity. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) asserted that, regarding situations justifying the use of capital punishment in today’s world, “as a result of steady improvements of our penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent” (no.56). The U.S. Catholic Church has committed itself to ending the use of the death penalty in our land.
To learn more about the Church’s teaching on this subject, visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty, which includes their 2005 statement, The Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.
Defending Life against the Penalty of Death
In celebration of Respect Life Month, the Archdiocesan Offices of Catholic Social Action, Family and Respect Life, and African-American Catholic Ministries, along with the Advocates for Justice Death Penalty Task Force and Ohioans to Stop Executions, hosted a well attended conference on the Church’s teaching on capital punishment on October 29 at Good Shepherd Church in Cincinnati. Bishop Joseph Binzer gave the invocation, and a number of talented presenters offered unique insights into this issue, including an innocent man released from Ohio’s death row, murder victim family members, an Ohio Common Pleas judge, and pastors and religious who have walked beside death row inmates. The conference aims to further mobilize efforts in the Archdiocese to end the use of the death penalty in our state.
If you would like to send Governor Kasich a letter, requesting that he establish a moratorium on executions in Ohio while it’s under review by a study commission, you can download a sample letter here.
Abolishing the Death Penalty in Ohio
There is an execution scheduled almost every month in Ohio in 2011, setting our state on track to have one of the highest execution rates in the nation. In 2010, Ohio put to death 8 people, the second highest number of people in the country, just behind Texas.
In February 2011, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr along with all the Ohio bishops issued a statement calling for the abolition of the death penalty in Ohio. The Ohio bishops stated:
The Catholic Bishops of Ohio agree with recent comments made by both Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer and former Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Terry Collins that Ohio’s elected legislative leaders ought to debate and ultimately abolish the death penalty…
Today, given the means available to the State for dealing with crime, cases where it is absolutely necessary to use the death penalty are practically nonexistent… Life imprisonment respects the moral view that all life, even that of the worst offender, has value and dignity.
We concur with Judge Pfeifer that today is an “opportune time in Ohio to seriously debate and discuss whether or not we have the death penalty”. We urge Governor Kasich, Attorney General DeWine, and our elected legislative leaders to pursue such debate. Fair and effective punishment is possible without the death penalty.
To learn more about the Church’s work in Ohio as well as upcoming executions, please visit the Catholic Conference of Ohio’s Death Penalty page.
The Catholic Conference was also a founding member of Ohioans to Stop Executions in 1987. OTSE’s purpose is to end the use of capital punishment in the state of Ohio through education. The views of the members that underlie that purpose are many but can be summarized in two broad categories of opposition, 1) a moral commitment to life that precludes the purposeful killing of any human being and\or, 2) recognition that the death penalty, as it is being implemented in Ohio, is not fair, fails to serve its legal purposes, and is overwhelmingly imposed on indigent, minority, underprivileged and disadvantaged members of society. Local contacts for OTSE are:
- Cincinnati area: Renee Berlon at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sr. Alice Gerdeman, CDP of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center at 513-579-8547 or email@example.com
- Dayton area: Bob Stoughton, 937-229-5599, firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition the Advocates for Justice Greater Cincinnati Collaborative voted to make ending the death penalty in Ohio one of their three priority issues for 2011. Please contact us if you are interested in being a part of the task force which will help involve parishes throughout Greater Cincinnati in public events, advocacy and awareness on this issue.
Some Facts about the Death Penalty in Ohio
- Ohio is one of 34 states that still have the death penalty, following the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois in March 2011.
- There are 156 people on Ohio’s death row, as of February 2011.
- There have been 42 executions in Ohio since the death penalty was reinstated in 1981, with the first one being in 1999.
- Five innocent people have been exonerated and freed from death row in Ohio.
- Ohio has had nine inmates scheduled for execution in 2011.
To learn much more, download Ohioans to Stop Executions’ “History of the Death Penalty in Ohio” and “An In-Depth Look at the Death Penalty in Ohio” as well as the Ohio Department of Corrections’ Capital Punishment in Ohio pages.