The U.S. Catholic Bishops, in their 2005 pastoral letter A Culture of Life and the Death Penalty, reaffirm the teaching of Pope John Paul II, of the Roman Catholic magisterium, and of U.S. Catholic Bishops since 1979, that “the death penalty is unnecessary and unjustified in our time and circumstances.” Four fundamental points inform their judgment:

  1. The death penalty violates human dignity especially when—in our contemporary context—it is unnecessary to protect society.
  2. State-sanctioned death penalty “in our name” diminishes all of us.
  3. The application of the death penalty is deeply flawed, is irreversibly wrong, highly prone to errors, and biased by race, the quality of legal representation, and location of the crime.
  4. We know alternatives both to punish criminals and protect society.
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