Affirm the Culture of Life:
End the Use of the Death Penalty in Louisiana
It is with much hope that the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops seeks to provide continued guidance to affirm the culture of life and end the use of the death penalty. The Life and Dignity of the Human Person is the foundation of Jesus’s teaching, and of scripture, our tradition, and Catholic social teaching.
This is a hopeful teaching of the church and upholds our consistent life ethic that life is sacred from conception to natural death. At the same time, we continue to pray for the victims and their families and for their healing and for an end to violence in our communities.
As a Church we accompany our brothers and sisters, children, parents and loved ones as we see them suffer from the heinous and violent actions of others. Only God can console them, yet we offer what comfort we can with our presence and prayer. The healing that comes from forgiveness has been a powerful force in the lives of many families who have experienced violence. Through our varied ministries, we offer counseling, personal support, and the grace of the sacraments to assist in the healing process. Our ministry of healing and forgiveness is rooted in Jesus’ command to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Prior statements by the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops include Let Justice and Mercy Meet in 2002 and in April 2017 It’s Time to Affirm Life without Exception: The Death Penalty is not Acceptable. Since then, there continues to be work by faithful Catholic laity and church leadership to affirm the culture of life.
St. John Paul II made it clear that 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.
In 2018, Pope Francis officially updated the Catechism of the Catholic Church, calling capital punishment “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and deeming it “inadmissible” in all cases. We must always keep the Catholic principles of restorative justice in mind: supporting and restoring the victim’s family; making the offender accountable for his crime; and protecting the wider community.
The death penalty is a pro-life issue, and the church has been consistent in advocating for its abolition. There are ways to protect society without resorting to capital punishment as St. John Paul II has called us to this understanding. As Catholics, we are aware of the deeper reality of the depth of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and that mercy is the ultimate fulfillment of justice.
Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops
PO Box 66791 Baton Rouge, La 70808