(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:
• 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.
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.
We appeal to Californians to end a failed system of justice and choose life. Violence does not end violence. Killing in the name of the state will not end killing. The death penalty will not give us justice worthy of a good society.
Respectfully, we call upon all Californians of good will to move toward a restorative justice that helps transforms a culture of death into a culture of life.
Prayers of the Faithful - Both English and Spanish