The Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference, in a statement released today, are speaking out in opposition to the death penalty in light of the pending May 22 scheduled execution of Robert Charles Comer.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, and Bishop Donald E. Pelotte of Gallup, NM, state that life in prison without parole is a means to punish criminals and protect society without resorting to capital punishment. “State-sanctioned killing, whether by unnecessary use of the death penalty or by the intrinsically evil actions of abortion and euthanasia, violates human life and dignity,” the Bishops said.
“There is no doubt that the state has an obligation to promote the common good by
punishing criminals and preventing the recurrence of crime. Furthermore, those who
commit brutal crimes such as murder are certainly deserving of a punishment proportionate to the gravity of their offense. However, we believe that the state should not respond to the violence of brutal crimes with the violence of capital punishment.”
The bishops also invoked the teaching of Pope John Paul II on the death penalty. “When there are means available to punish criminals and protect society from the recurrence
of crime (e.g., life in prison without parole), the use of capital punishment is both
unnecessary and undesirable. “Because these means exist, the use of capital punishment should be limited only to extremely rare situations where it is necessary to defend society (Evangelium Vitate, #56).”
Also of great concern, is the potential for the wrongful conviction of an innocent person. “Over the past two decades more than 200 people have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in our country, only to be later released after DNA evidence proved their innocence.”
The full text of the statement from the Arizona Catholic Conference Bishops is available at www.azcatholicconference.org.