As Biden presidency passes 100 days, Catholics push him to end federal death penalty

Federal death penalty felipe caparros/Shutterstock

Catholics are calling on President Joe Biden to honor his campaign promises to halt use of the federal death penalty, as his presidency surpasses 100 days. 

“When President Biden took office 100 days ago, our country was in the aftermath of a horrific spree of federal executions ordered by the Trump administration,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, in a statement provided to CNA. 

“Having seen the grave harm possible at the hands of an administration bent on taking lives, many Catholics were hopeful that President Biden would prioritize taking the steps within his power to dismantle the federal death penalty,” she said. “But this has not yet been the case.”

In 2019, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department announced it would resume executions of federal death row inmates after a nearly two-decade pause on the federal death penalty. The administration put 13 inmates to death beginning in July 2020; it conducted six of the executions after the presidential election in November. 

Biden, who is only the second Catholic U.S. president, is opposed to the death penalty. According to Catholic Mobilizing Network, he is the first president to have run on a platform opposed to capital punishment. 

As a senator, Biden sponsored a 1994 criminal justice bill that expanded the number of federal offenses eligible for the death penalty. While campaigning for president in 2020, however, he promised to end the use of the federal death penalty. 

While the White House in January stated that Biden is “opposed” to the federal death penalty, spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not say what actions he would take to end it.

Biden has yet to address the death penalty directly since becoming president, said Catholic Mobilizing Network. The group launched a petition in January, prior to Inauguration Day, requesting that he stop the use of the federal death penalty. 

“History has shown us that for an administration to ignore or passively distance itself from the federal death penalty is tantamount to leaving the door open to future government killing sprees,” said Vaillancourt Murphy.

Biden, she said, should declare a halt to the use of the death penalty and commute the sentences of all federal death row inmates.

“As a Catholic called to uphold the Church’s teaching against capital punishment and as a president with promises to keep, President Biden should declare an official moratorium on federal executions, commute the sentences of those on federal death row, and urge Congress and the states to remove death penalty from law.”

More than 7,500 people have signed the CMN petition.

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