As a former Catholic I am pleased to discover the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. On March 21, the Campaign was formally launched at a press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The site provides a link to state-by-state information including “Capital Punishment in Wisconsin: A Statement from the State’s Roman Catholic Bishops,” June 1995 which contains the following:
In March of 1995, Pope John Paul II further proscribed the use of the death penalty in his encyclical letter on The Gospel of Life. The Holy Father acknowledged that references to capital punishment can be found in selected passages of the Old Testament. However, as the Pope clarifies, these references must be read in the context of the New Testament: “But the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person. It culminates in the positive commandment which obliges us to be responsible for our neighbor as for ouuselves: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Lev 19:18).”
In applying this overall message to the situation facing us today, the Pope dealt with — and rejected — the argument that the death penalty may be appropriate to protect society from those who commit heinous crimes.
“Today,” the Pope concluded, “as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.