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Death Penalty Is Not Justice

Coadjutor Bishop Cirilo Flores of the Diocese of San Diego published a statement in the San Diego Union Tribune Today. His op-ed, entitled, “Death Penalty Is Not Justice,” explains that Catholic bishops oppose the death penalty because it is inconsistent with the belief that human life is sacred, it is too expensive, it does not provide closure to victims’ families, and there is the possibility of irreversible error.

Reflecting on his own experience, Flores writes:

Growing up in a barrio neighborhood in Riverside County, I saw firsthand how violence destroyed lives and families. I knew perpetrators and victims of violent crime, yet I came to the conclusion that the death penalty serves no one–not society, not victim’s families, not those seeking personal safety. We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. We cannot bring healing to families without forgiveness. We cannot sufficiently fund desperately needed law enforcement and social services when we waste hundreds of millions per year on the death penalty.

The California Catholic Conference has endorsed the SAFE CAlifornia Act to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Flores writes:

I pray that this coming November all Californians will find the use of the death penalty unnecessary, wasteful, and unjust.


Some readers will recall that our Catholic Call to Abolish the Death Penalty was signed by 395 theologians and social justice advocates. I am very pleased to see that our work aligns with the California Catholic Conference and their support for SAFE California. I hope that many more Catholics will continue to try to raise awareness, among Catholics especially but also for the wider public, of the injustice of capital punishment and of the need for Catholics to continue to be involved in advocacy for reform of the criminal justice system in the U.S.  A growing number of Americans have begun to recognize the death penalty for what it is: an unjust violation of human rights and affront to human dignity.

You can read more on the website of the California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty or here.



  1. Thanks, Emily! In addition, and in connection with Connecticut’s recent repeal of the death penalty, “As Catholics we are dedicated to promoting a consistent ethic of life, which values all human life as full of dignity and inherent worth – even those convicted of the worst crimes,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “We welcome the courageous decision by the governor and the legislature to abolish the use of the death penalty in Connecticut. We stand in solidarity with all those who work for a just and safe society that protects its citizens and upholds the sanctity and dignity of all human life.” See

  2. Surely I am not the only one who has difficulty with Bishop Flores’ comment that the death penalty is unjust. Is he claiming that the Church has supported unjust punishments for 2000 years? If the punishment is unjust now then it must have been unjust in the past since the justness of any punishment is related to the nature of the crime and the nature of the crime of murder surely has not changed. On the other hand, if executions were just punishments in the past then they are equally just today for exactly the same reason. Justice is satisfied by retribution, not protection.

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