.- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a campaign today to end the use of the death penalty in the United States. Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, told the Washington Post that the goal of the campaign is to " try to persuade our Catholic people and everybody of good will that the death penalty in America at this time is not necessary, it's not useful and it's not good."
The cardinal says the time is right for this campaign. The bishops sense that public opinion is shifting against capital punishment, partly because genetic testing has proven that dozens of death-row inmates were wrongfully convicted, said the cardinal, who played a leading role in developing the new campaign.
The campaign strategy will include filing briefs in court cases, talking with the people who publish textbooks in Catholic schools, using church bulletins, encouraging homilies and addressing legislation through state Catholic conferences.
While some Catholics appreciate the consistent right-to-life message of this campaign, others see it as a threat to the good relationship between Catholics and evangelical Protestants in the pro-life movement. According to the polls, the majority of evangelical Protestants support capital punishment.
"I think a campaign to stop capital punishment is comparable to a campaign to stop war," said Scott Hahn, theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. There are some exceptions.
Article 2267 of the Catechism says the Church "does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives" against a criminal. But the catechism also quotes John Paul II as saying that today, cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."