Statement on the Defeat of Prop 34 in the California General Election

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wilkersonBishop Gerald Wilkerson, President of the California Catholic Conference, issued the following statement in regards to the vote on Proposition 34 to end the use of the death penalty in California:

"The California Catholic Conference (CCC) is disappointed that the voters of California narrowly rejected Proposition 34 thereby maintaining the use of the death penalty in our state. The pain and anguish of all victims of crimes remains of significant concern to the Church and to all good people of California. The California bishops continue to pray for true healing for these victims.

"Rejecting Proposition 34 represents a missed opportunity for us as a people. The penalty of death is not necessary to protect ourselves, punish the offenders or bring legal finality for victims. The alternate—the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole—would have respected the dignity of each human life, no matter how flawed.

"We will continue to look for opportunities to end the use of the death penalty and work with others to be a voice for inviting society to respect human life. The Bishops of the CCC are so very appreciative of the thousands of Catholics who worked tirelessly on this campaign, the many donors, and volunteers who joined us in appealing to our sisters and brothers in California."


CA Bishops Support Prop 34 to End the Use of the Death Penalty

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ab-cordileone(En Español) We, the Catholic bishops of California, strongly support Proposition 34, the Death Penalty Repeal Initiative, which will be on the November ballot.  California voters have the opportunity to replace death with life by making a change in the law replacing the death penalty with a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.  

California originally instituted the death penalty for capital crimes in 1872.  It remained the practice for 100 years, until the California Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1972.  Five years later the Legislature reinstated capital punishment—a decision affirmed by California voters in 1978.  Now is the time for voters to revisit that decision.

In 2005, the U.S. Catholic bishops, in their statement, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, outlined our public policy objections to the use of capital punishment:

En Español

•    The original intent of the death penalty was the protection of society from those who had killed a fellow human being.  However, in modern times the state can incarcerate those convicted of a capital crime for the rest of their lives—with no chance they will ever rejoin society.
•    The application of the penalty of death can be irreversibly wrong—as has been demonstrated by many condemned individuals who were later exonerated with DNA testing.

ab-gomez-prop-34We Catholic bishops advocate for Proposition 34 for more than public policy reasons.

As teachers of the Catholic faith, we consistently proclaim the intrinsic worth and the God-given dignity of all human life, whether innocent or guilty.  We are all created in God’s image.  As ministers to the victims of crime, we recognize the profound anguish of those who have lost a loved one to violence. We offer them our prayers and the hope of a fuller sense of justice. Nothing can undo the terrifying memories of violence that have been inflicted, not even taking the life of the convicted killer.  Justice demands that those who have committed these worst crimes against us should be punished and society should be protected.  A restorative justice should also provide the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation.  


Catholic Latino Group Urges Californians to Lead National Trend to Abolish Death Penalty

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SAN ANTONIO (October 29, 2012) –The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL), a national organization of Hispanic business and professional people with chapters in Los Angeles and Orange County, today publicly endorsed Proposition 34--the Death Penalty Repeal Initiative. “With this endorsement,” stated CALL president and CEO Robert Aguirre, “CALL issues an urgent appeal to all Californians of good will to lead the growing number of states moving toward a restorative justice model that helps transform a culture of death into a culture of life.” The organization urges all California voters to vote “Yes” to the proposition which will appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot as “Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.” If passed, Proposition 34 will replace the death penalty in California with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Death Penalty is Not Justice

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by Bishop Cirilo Flores, coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Diego. Reposted from U.T. San Diego.

(En Español) This year, in the Easter season, San Diego reels from two recent murders – a young Iraqi mother of five and a 14-year-old boy visiting friends with his brother. Our community comes together in grief and to comfort the families who have lost loved ones. We recognize their profound pain.

During this difficult period, Easter’s promise of rebirth can seem like an illusion. The cycle of violence seems endless, with justice an impossible ideal. Some have even called for the death penalty for those responsible for these crimes.

So it is fitting that San Diegans should pause and think deeply about executions as many of us are celebrating new life. After all, Easter reminds us that before the Resurrection, an innocent man, Jesus of Nazareth, was executed by his government more than 2,000 years ago.

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Reflections on Abolishing the Death Penalty

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ca-propThe following, prepared by Andrew Rivas, Director of the Office of the Vicar for Clergy in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, are some reflections on the death penalty and its history that might be useful in talks, homilies and presentations:

Since 1980 the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States have called for an end to the use of the death penalty in our country. Because of their loving and persistent pastoral guidance on this important life issue, states such as New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Illinois have abolished its practice. In April of 2012, Connecticut abolished its practice for any future crimes bringing the total to 17 states that have removed capital punishment from local statutes. Other states such as Nebraska, Kansas and California are poised to take the final step away from fighting violence with violence. Our Bishops understand that such a social strategy does not achieve a common good, nor does it allow us to foster a respect of life that moves beyond vengeance.