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160 Catholic academics call for abolition of the death penalty in the U.S.

160 Catholic academics call for abolition of the death penalty in the U.S.

The Catholic Moral Theology has published an appeal for the abolition of the death penalty in the USA. At least, 160 leading Catholic academics have signed the appeal.

The appeal noted the recent execution, in the United States, of Troy Anthony Davis, an African-American,  on accusation of murder, in 1989, of a Savannah police officer, Mark MacPhail, in Texas. The appeal also referred to execution of  Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist, for involvement in the gruesome hate motivated murder of James Byrd, an African-American, in 1998.

The appeal by the Catholic academics said,

As theologians, scholars, and social justice advocates who participate in the public discussion of Catholic theology, we protest the state-sanctioned killings of both of these men, and we call for the abolition of the death penalty in the US.

The catholic academics described as "particularly troubling" the execution of Troy Davis. They said that while they sympathized with the family of Mark MacPhail for their loss they could not but note that,

a grave miscarriage of justice took place with Davis’ execution. As many legal experts have pointed out, including former FBI Director and federal judge and prosecutor William S Sessions, serious doubt remains about Davis’ guilt. Until his last breath he maintained his innocence. The failure of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, a Federal Appeals Judge, the Georgia Supreme Court, and the US Supreme Court to grant Davis a new trial reveals a deeply flawed justice system. We therefore call upon lawmakers and President Obama to immediately repeal the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which created the legal conditions for executing a man whose guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt.

The academics dug into the historical background to the death penalty in the United States linking it with the "horrific legacy of lynching" which "casts its evil shadow over current application of the death penalty." The appeal claimed that,

Studies have shown that black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty. In many states with capital punishment, defendants are from three to five times more likely to be executed if their victim was white. In states that retain the death penalty, 98 percent of district attorneys are white and only one percent are black. Execution is also irrevocable, and innocent people have likely been victims of it. Since 1973, 138 persons have been exonerated from death row, most of whom were people of color and economically poor.

The appeal quoted the USA conference of Catholic Bishops:

the sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human life and dignity…Its application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed. We have other ways to punish criminals and protect society.

The scholars frankly admitted that the church had, in the past, advocated the death penalty for certain categories of offenses, but noted that, in recent times, with more secure prison facilities, the church has shifted its position to an unconditionally "pro-life" stance.

The scholars,  from a theological perspective of assessment, wondered why some Christians insist on the death penalty on biblical grounds. They quoted the theologian Karl Barth, who said:

Now that Jesus Christ has been nailed to the cross for the sins of the world, how can we still use the thought of expiation to establish the death penalty?

The scholars decried the death sentences of more than 3,200 inmates on death row and the 1,268 executions since the the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, and urged the nation to abolish the capital punishment, which they say, is a threat to the "human life and dignity."

About JohnThomas Didymus

Transmodernist writer and thinker. Author of "Confessions of God: The Gospel According to St. JohnThomas Didymus"
  • http://usedhondacivic.us/feed Julie Hayes

    I hope that death penalty will be removed not only in America but the whole world. Fro my opinion nobody has the right to end a life of a person, only God can do that.

  • http://finance.taaza.com Shailja

    I agreed with Julie. Our life is given by God; he is the owner of it. Only he has the authority to end it.

  • http://spatialorientation.com SpatialOrientation

    Kudos to those Catholic academics! We need to kill capital punishment! The death penalty is never justice. More coverage at http://spatialorientation.com/tag/death-penalty/

  • Dudley Sharp

    Mr. Winwright is in error on his points and/or his claims have clear challenges which he fails to present.

    NOTE Confirmable fact checking upon request. sharpjfa@aol.com

    1) Mr. Winwright could not have read the factual record of Troy Davis’ case. Instead, he seems to have depended upon the claims of the anti death penalty campaign, which was dominated by error. There is solid evidence that Davis’ many claims were just “smoke and mirrors”, as detailed, witness by witness, by the federal judge, in the 2010 decision, concluding Davis was not innocent.

    2) The Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act DOES NOT and CANNOT create “the legal conditions for executing a man whose guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt.”. Mr. Winwright, that is a legal impossibility.

    3) There are many studies that find that there is no disparity by race of either the victim or defendant in death penalty cases. In addition, white murderers are twice as likely to be executed as are black murderers, with whites being executed more quickly.

    4) It is untrue that “Since 1973, 138 persons have been exonerated from death row. . ..”. This well know fraud as been exposed for years. Several reviews, inclusive of one by the NY Times, find that from 25-40 actual innocents have been “identified and released” from death row during that time, or 0.4% of those sent to death row. The evidence supports that innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

    5) For nearly 2000 years the Catholic Church has well known teachings that the death penalty honors respect for human life and dignity and is a just, appropriate and, sometimes, mandatory sanction for the crime of murder. The Church’s recent change is based upon an inaccurate and secular prudential judgement, finding prison security a sufficient “defense of society” that use of the death penalty is all but unnecessary. Both forgiveness and love incorporate justice, inclusive of the death penalty, as detailed by Church teaching and reason.

    NOTE: I have sent corrections and commentary to contributors at Catholic Moral Theology and to Mr. Winwright, which they have, thus far, sadly, refused to publish.

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