As accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stands trial, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts are asking that he not receive the death penalty if he is convicted. “The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm,” the bishops stated. “Because of this, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty.” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. of Fall River, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, and Bishop Robert J. MacManus of Worcester all signed on to an April 7 statement voicing opposition to the use of the death penalty in this case. Twenty-one year old Tsarnaev is standing trial in federal court and could face either life in prison or the death penalty if he is found guilty of participating in the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon. He has been charged with acting along with his brother, Tamerlan, in setting off two pressure cooker bombs timed and placed to go off near the marathon’s finish line. The blasts killed two and injured over 260 people. According to news reports, the brothers later shot to death a security officer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tamerlan was shot by police during the ensuing pursuit and was killed after he was struck by Dzhokhar in an SUV, trying to escape the scene, police said. Dzhokhar faces up to 30 charges including terrorism. Jury deliberations in his trial began on Tuesday. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the U.S. Bishops have made clear that the death penalty is traditionally reserved for use only when a criminal is a direct threat to society and no other means can prevent this threat. With the ability of modern societies to neutralize the threat of further violence, the death penalty should be “practically nonexistent,” the Catechism teaches. The four bishops quoted a 2005 statement by the U.S. Bishops’ Conference on the death penalty that “no matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.” “We believe these words remain true today in the face of this most terrible crime,” the bishops continued.
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