The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently and resolutely provided pastoral teaching on the sacredness of life from conception to natural death. This statement provides an update in light of the current 2022 Louisiana Legislative Session.
We remain deeply aware of the pain and grief that victims suffer, especially those who have lost a loved one through the crime of murder or crimes of violence. We pledge to deepen our commitment to persons who have suffered such violence, anguish, and pain. Our opposition to the death penalty is not intended in any way to diminish what victims and their families have suffered. It is a statement which affirms the lives of those lost and the ultimate value of life in general.
Pope Saint John Paul II proclaims "that not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, as God himself pledges to guarantee this. For this reason, whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself" (Evangelium Vitae, #9). Strong statements of Pope Francis echo the foundational principles laid out by Pope Saint John Paul II’s Gospel of Life. In keeping with this teaching Pope Francis, in 2018, approved a revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2267 as follows:
Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.
No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. While the Old Testament includes some passages about taking the life of one who kills, the Old Testament and the teaching of Christ in the New Testament call us to protect life, practice mercy, and reject vengeance. The death penalty is also riddled with practical failings. For example, Louisiana leads the nation per capita in wrongful death sentences. Therefore, the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops unequivocally supports both Senator Katrina Jackson’s SB 294 and Representative Kyle Green, Jr.’s HB 106 to end the use of the death penalty.
The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops asks all women and men of good faith, especially those members of the Louisiana legislature, to search their heart in an effort to seek mercy and love to support the repeal of the death penalty and aid in building a culture of life.
March 28, 2022