Washington D.C., May 14, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA).- A Catholic pledge against the death penalty cites Pope Francis’ stand as a motive to increase Catholic action against capital punishment. “Catholics and all like-minded individuals need to sign it; it is a pledge that will go about urging people to educate, advocate, and pray for an end to capital punishment,” Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida said.
The bishop, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, told a press call May 11 that he had signed the anti-death penalty pledge from the Catholic Mobilizing Network. Bishop Dewane said the pledge will encourage parish priests to talk more about the death penalty. “It is a matter of life, so they need to be talking about it,” he said.
Pope Francis’ comments on the death penalty feature prominently in the pledge. “All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to fight…for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms,” the Pope said in Oct. 23, 2014 remarks to the International Association of Penal Law.
The pledge commits the signer to educate himself or herself and the community about the death penalty’s injustices, “including the ways it risks innocent life, fails victims’ families, and contradicts the Catholic Church’s pro-life teaching.” The signer pledges to advocate for the dignity of all life and to be “actively working to end the death penalty in my state and in my country.” The signer also pledges to pray “for mercy and healing for all who are involved in the criminal justice system.”
Among the other backers of the pledge is Marietta Jaeger-Lane, whose daughter was murdered in 1973. She rejected claims that the death penalty brings closure to victims’ families. “I spend a lot of time thinking about God’s idea of justice. When I see Jesus’ life in Scripture, I see someone who came to heal us, to restore the life that has been lost to us,” she said. “I have signed this pledge, and I believe that the Catholic community can be the one to end the death penalty.”
Karen Clifton, the Catholic Mobilizing Network’s executive director, said the network launched the pledge “to amplify the Church’s work to end the death penalty.” She said there is growing opposition to the death penalty, especially following the April executions in Arkansas, where the governor tried to execute eight men in 11 days, and ended up executing four of them.
Clifton said the effort amplifies Pope Francis’ call while continuing the work of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.
The Catholic Mobilizing Network is a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph. The pledge is located at http://catholicsmobilizing.org/pledge.