The death penalty does not contribute in creating justice, but only feeds a culture of violence and revenge, said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver in his most recent column, published in the Denver Catholic Register.
The column comes on the heels of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last week, which rejected the appeals of more than 100 Americans who were sentenced to death and are awaiting execution.
The archbishop acknowledged that most Americans and American Catholics support the death penalty. He also pointed out that President George Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry support capital punishment.
“America’s on-going addiction to the death penalty is one of the great signs of our nation’s divided heart about the sanctity of the human person,” wrote the archbishop.
The archbishop underlined the Church’s repeated message to nations worldwide to stop the death penalty as a response to crime.
“While Scripture and Catholic tradition both support the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances, Pope John Paul II has stressed again and again that those circumstances almost never exist in today’s developed countries,” he wrote. “We’re called to serve justice through a higher moral road of mercy and restraint.
The archbishop argued that the death penalty does not deter crime or bring back the victims. He also pointed out that innocent people “have almost certainly” been executed for crimes they did not commit.
“Americans are a free people with public institutions founded in human dignity. We don’t need to kill people to vindicate our laws and punish crime,” wrote the archbishop. “All we accomplish with the death penalty is adding to a growing culture of violence, modeling revenge to our children and demeaning our own humanity.
“God made us better than this,” he said.
In the United States, 38 states have the death penalty. About 3,400 men and women are awaiting execution.