Speaking to CNA after the discussion, Coakley developed his point.
"Revenge is not the same as justice," said Coakley. "And as even William Shakespeare said, 'mercy seasons justice,' I think just as many people who maybe see the perpetrator of a violent crime executed, would acknowledge that it did not bring them the release and the relief and the peace that they expected that it might."
During the roundtable, DeWane also questioned the common assertion that executions bring any sense of relief to the families of victims. Instead, he said, the act of taking a life in an execution hurts society as a whole, while observing that there is little evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent against crimes.
Gregory also highlighted the many cases in which a person is released from death row having been exonerated by either new evidence or modern DNA testing.
"With the death penalty, there are no re-tries. It concludes and ends a life that may have been wrongly [convicted]," Gregory said. The Washington archbishop went on to point out the significant racial disparity in the application of the death penalty in the United States.
At the same time, Gregory said that favoring the abolition of the death penalty does not mean any lessening of the requirement to keep society safe. The choice, he said was not between killing or releasing the most violent offenders. Instead, "our society has the capacity to take violent personalities and put them away so they don't harm others," he said.
"The Gospel calls us to mercy. Mercy is never cruel," said Gregory.
"I think our Church has to be a voice that is faithful to the call of the Gospel, which calls us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us," Coakley told CNA after the livestream.
"I think that's incumbent upon us -- because we have to affirm the dignity of human life, that every person has been created in the image and likeness of God--even for the person who was guilty of heinous crimes. They don't forfeit their human dignity as a result of their criminal activity."
The World Day Against the Death Penalty was first observed in 2003. This year, the theme is "Children, Unseen Victims," which is focused on increasing awareness of the children whose parents were executed or have been sentenced to death.