Statement by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone on Praying for the Abolition of the Death Penalty
Pope Francis is inviting us throughout the month of September to pray especially for the abolition of the death penalty. I wish to personally encourage the faithful to add this intention to their prayers.
As I wrote in 2016 when I joined fellow California bishops in unanimously supporting voter initiatives to abolish the death penalty, the answer to a violent crime “is certainly not by inflicting more violence.”
It is well past time that the death penalty be stricken from the books.
As Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship: “Today we state clearly that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible’ and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.” (Fratelli Tutti, 263)
In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on the death penalty and in January of this year ordered the dismantling of Death Row. Yet, the death penalty remains a penalty in the federal judicial system and in our state. In California, voters have twice rejected efforts to repeal the death penalty.
Therefore, our prayers must turn to changing minds and hearts so that all of our fellow citizens will come to believe in the importance of preserving and nurturing all human life.
“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation,” Pope St. John Paul said, (speaking during a 1999 visit to St. Louis), noting “…the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.” (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 27).
As we, the Catholic bishops of California, said in our statement reaffirming opposition to the death penalty in 2016: “Our support to end the use of the death penalty is also rooted in our unshakable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime…. As we pray with them and mourn with them, we must also stress that the current use of the death penalty does not promote healing. It only brings more violence to a world that has too much violence already.”
Our Archdiocese of San Francisco restorative justice ministries support crime victims and their families, men and women in prison and jail, and the formerly incarcerated. Thank you to those who carry out these ministries. Please pray for them and those they assist, for the abolition of the death penalty, and respect for all human life.
To learn more about the work of the Archdiocesan Restorative Justice Ministry, visit: https://www.sfarch.org/rjministry/.