Missouri bishops urge opposition to death penalty

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The state of Missouri has executed five individuals in the last five months. This represents a dramatic escalation of executions taking place in our state.

As Catholic Bishops we have consistently opposed the use of the death penalty. This ultimate penalty promotes a culture of death and undermines respect for human life, the dignity of the human person, the conditions for the common good, and definitively removes from the offender the possibility of redeeming himself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2267).

At the same time we reiterate and affirm our support for, and solidarity with, the families and loved ones of murder victims. As we bear witness to the Gospel message of Christ, we call for a new response to violence that upholds the sacredness of all human life.

The canonization of John Paul II on April 27th, Divine Mercy Sunday, provides an opportunity for reflection on the death penalty and the need to take action to oppose it. Saint John Paul II, himself a victim of a serious shooting, was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. In his historic visit to St. Louis in 1999, he called for “a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”

We urge you to let your lawmakers know of your opposition to the death penalty and to ask them to find other ways to impose punishment on offenders that does not resort to taking another’s life and add to the use of violence as a solution to society’s problems.

We invite you to be a visible witness against executions by participating in local vigils and prayer services. Follow the lead of Saint John Paul II by asking the governor to show mercy and spare the lives of those on death row. Contact the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the bishops of Missouri, for assistance in getting involved in these actions.

In this holy season of the year, let us acknowledge the sacredness of all human life and work to end the executions in our state.



  1. April 19, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    “and definitively removes from the offender the possibility of redeeming himself.”

    This seems to contradict the facts surrounding the death penalty.

    The process of capital punishment takes years. The convicted criminal has plenty of time to focus his or her attention on repentance.

    Moreover, unlike most victims of criminal killers, the accused “knows the day and the hour.” Prisons have chaplains. The accused can throw himself on the Divine Mercy of the Redeemer.

    Like Pope John Paul II, the Catechism does not forbid Capital Punishment. Catholics can have differing views on the subject, after prayer and reflection. But in the U.S., and in Missouri, the offender has plenty of time to seek redemption. And what the Catechism means by ‘redeeming himself” (a phrase which the bishops do not expound upon) is. to put it charitably, vague.

  2. April 19, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    This is an ignorant statement. Souls are more likely to be redeemed when they are not compelled to spend a lifetime in the prison’s immoral atmosphere. Violence, drugs and sexual impurity are the norm in prison life. One is much more likely to learn the
    trade of evil than of virtue. Prisoners on death row are afforded the grace of segregation and time for prayer and meditation on the consequences of their evil acts. With proper spiritual direction they can become saints in the making.

    The bishops appear to believe that all prisoners are alike. That is not the case. The same people who murder, rape and execute all manner of sadistic perversion and violence on the outside do the same in prison, but with impunity. They are just as bad an influence on the inside as they were on the outside. Their presence pollutes the souls of others.

    The bishops reject capital punishment as reparation, Christ did not. If a man will not repent in the face of his looming death, it is unlikely he will repent in the prison’s poisonous atmosphere.

    The bishops formed their opposition to capital punishment without addressing the facts and now engage in backing their decision using faulty logic. What they suggest is harmful to souls.

  3. April 19, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    You cannot argue the sanctity of life as your premise against abortion while advocating, in any circumstance, the death penalty.

    • April 19, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      Of course we can. It’s been done quite convincingly for the history of the Catholic Church. The novel opposition to capital punishment is a recent invention. The phrase “sanctity of life” is very often misused. It refers to the state before the deformation caused by sin. The unborn are innocent and thus worthy of protection by the very precepts of God. Justice enters when innocence ends. We sinners are bound to acts of reparation for our own sins and acts of punishment to those who cannot or will not reform their own lives. It is a mistake to treat guilt and innocence as the same. It is clear from Scripture that God punishes the guilty on behalf of the innocence.

      • April 19, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

        Yea, we sure can. We called those days, “The Inquisition” and the Church was quite proficient at our own brand of BBQ back in the day; though we won’t win many contests in this age. (and yes, I know it was the ‘State’ that actually did the execution; we just drove the patient to the abortion clinic, that’s all)

        I believe it was Jesus himself who said, ‘he who is without sin, cast the first stone.’ I imagine it must be quite tiresome to carry all that granite upon your back waiting for the next sinner.

        Lastly, we have no authority to adjudicate the taking of any life. Period.

        • April 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

          I’m sure your opinions are of interest to you, but they follow neither the Catholic Church nor the the scriptural teachings of Jesus Christ. Perhaps if you read the Bible and studied the history and doctrines of the Catholic Church you would be better prepared to offer an opinion.

          • April 19, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

            I’m no less prepared than you, Precious. Please cite your ‘doctrine’ endorsing the use of capital punishment. Please cite where Jesus endorsed the use of capital punishment. Please cite a pope, within the last 200 years, to endorse capital punishment.

          • April 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

            You can find all you ask for with a google search.

      • April 21, 2014 at 8:04 am #

        Allan, good clarification – helpful.

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October 21, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph