Ninety percent of the executions worldwide are carried out by six countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the United States. The United States is the only western nation that still uses the death penalty as a form of punishment.
The death penalty is in violation of our most fundamental human rights. Capital punishment devalues all human life, eliminating the possibility for transformation of the spirit that is intrinsic to humanity. It is fallible and irrevocable.
Recent polls have shown that a majority in the U.S. support a moratorium on the death penalty due to increasing evidence of wrongful convictions. When asked if they are in favor of the death penalty, most Americans say yes. However, when asked to choose between the death penalty and life in prison without parole, most choose the latter. In addition, the death penalty continues to be overwhelmingly a punishment reserved for the poor and for racial minorities.
For close to 1,500 years, the Catholic Church taught that the state had a right to punish criminals “by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.”
Then, in 1997, Pope John Paul II removed the reference to the catechism and, in his visit to the United States two years later, denounced the death penalty as “cruel and unnecessary.” Referencing moves by countries around the world to ban capital punishment, the Pope declared that, “A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken way, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.”