BOSTON - Sr. Helen Prejean, the death penalty abolition advocate, told a jury May 11 that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev expressed remorse for his victims in discussions with her.

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BOSTON - The parents of Martin Richard, the youngest victim killed in the Boston Marathon bombings two years ago, are asking that the death penalty be taken "off the table" for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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BOSTON - As the trial of Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to the jury April 6, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts released a statement reiterating the church's teaching on the death penalty.

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WASHINGTON - Hundreds of Christian religious leaders of various churches signed onto a Holy Week call to end the death penalty in the United States.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis came out squarely against the death penalty once again, calling it "unacceptable" regardless of the seriousness of the crime of the condemned.

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I have been staunchly against the death penalty since I started visiting the now-defunct Kingston Penitentiary as an undergraduate, meeting weekly with a group of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment.

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VATICAN CITY - The Catholic Church firmly opposes the death penalty and urges all states to move toward its abolition, said the Vatican's permanent observer to United Nations agencies in Geneva.

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November 6, 2014

Have mercy

There is nothing novel in a Pope rejecting the death penalty, but in typical style Pope Francis went a step further recently by also denouncing life sentences. 

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis called for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a "penal populism" that promises to solve society's problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.

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WASHINGTON - Massachusetts voters narrowly defeated a "death with dignity" measure, rejecting attempts to legalize assisted suicide, while in California, an initiative to end the use of the death penalty was defeated as well in another close vote.

The Massachusetts initiative, known as Question 2, was defeated by fewer than 39,000 votes — 1,395,227 to 1,356,899 — with the largest opposition rising in counties in the centre of the state and those north and south of Boston.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston was pleased with the outcome, saying the common good was served in the measure's defeat.

"The campaign against physician-assisted suicide brought together a diverse coalition from medical, disability rights and interfaith communities, all dedicated to ensuring that our residents were well informed on the issue," he said in an e-mailed statement.

The cardinal called upon wider society to work with hospice organizations and palliative care providers "to improve the care provided to the terminally ill."

"It is my hope and prayer that the defeat of Question 2 will help all people to understand that for our brothers and sisters confronted with terminal illness we can do better than offering them the means to end their lives."

The measure may have generated the widest debate of any statewide ballot issue in the country. The initiative would have allowed terminally ill adults to commit physician-assisted suicide under certain conditions.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference, Massachusetts Medical Society and disability rights groups opposed it.

Under the proposal, patients estimated to have six months or fewer to live and judged medically capable to make a medical decision could decide to end their lives after submitting such a request twice orally and once in writing.

In video and written messages on the Massachusetts Catholic Conference web site, O'Malley urged voters to reject the measure, saying it would place vulnerable people at risk and that it promotes suicide.

California voters rejected Proposition 34, which would have repealed the death penalty clause in the state constitution, by 52.6 per cent to 47.4 per cent. Inmates already facing a death sentence would have been resentenced to life in prison without parole under the measure.

With 95 per cent of the vote counted early Nov. 7, the tally stood at about 4.7 million opposed to the death penalty ban and nearly 4.2 million in favour of it.

Proponents of the measure said banning capital punishment would have ended the possibility of an innocent person being put to death for a crime. They also projected that California would have saved $130 million annually by ending capital punishment. The measure called for a one-time expenditure of $100 million for solving major crimes.

Opponents, including law enforcement officers and three former governors, maintained that the savings estimates were overblown and that the state's onerous death penalty system is in need of repair and should not be replaced.

The California Catholic Conference backed Proposition 34, saying that the inherent dignity of each person must be upheld and that even people convicted of any serious crime must not be put to death. The church also called for wide-scale restorative justice efforts to afford the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation among the affected individuals.

In Florida, voters defeated an amendment to the state constitution that would have prohibited public funding of abortion services or insurance coverage that covered abortions and also would have allowed legislation to restore parental consent for a minor less than the age of 16 to have an abortion.

Amendment 6 failed, by a 55 to 45 per cent margin.

A second constitutional amendment that would have lifted a ban on public funds going directly or indirectly to any church or religious denomination for the delivery of social services also was defeated by a similar margin, 55.5 per cent to 44.5 per cent.

In Montana, voters approved by more than 2-1 a referendum that would require parental approval of a minor child's abortion.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Catholic bishops of California are backing proposed ballot measures to require parental notification before a minor's abortion and to end use of the death penalty in the state.

The endorsement, contained in a statement posted Jan. 10 on the website of the California Catholic Conference, marks a departure from the bishops' long-standing policy of not taking a stand on potential initiatives until they have qualified for the state ballot.

But the "convergence" of the two proposed initiatives presents "a unique teaching moment on life and family," the bishops said.

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