Continue to oppose the death penalty Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Tuesday, Oct. 07, 2008 -- 1:31 AM

October is a month set aside by the Catholic Church to focus on issues of respect for all human life. Perhaps one of the most difficult issues for many Catholics is opposing the death penalty. 

Editor's View
Mary C. Uhler

Many people still seem to have the “eye for an eye” mentality when it comes to crime and punishment. They want to see criminals punished by death, especially for heinous crimes. They believe that society is better off without these hardened criminals in our midst.

No death penalty in Wisconsin

Fortunately, the citizens of our state have continued to oppose the use of the death penalty. Wisconsin abolished capital punishment in 1853. In nearly every legislative session, supporters of the death penalty have tried to break this tradition. But so far lawmakers have succeeded in stopping efforts to reinstate the death penalty.  

We all know about the cases around the country of innocent people sentenced to death. The Innocence Project has found numerous cases where new evidence clears someone convicted of a crime.

Racial disparities in criminal justice system

The possible death of an innocent person is just one reason to oppose the use of capital punishment. We can be thankful we don’t have the death penalty in our state, because a report released this year by a state commission found racial disparities within the criminal justice system in Wisconsin. The report released in February of 2008 found that racial disparities within the criminal justice system in our state “are a serious problem that should be addressed regardless of whether they arise by chance or from intentional discrimination.”

Statistics reveal that a disproportionately high number of African-Americans are incarcerated in Wisconsin. They comprise only six percent of the overall population of Wisconsin, yet they represent 45 percent of the population in adult prison facilities. We can just imagine what might happen if the death penalty were legal in our state. 

Support a national moratorium

While continuing to oppose any efforts to reinstate the death penalty in Wisconsin, state citizens can also influence our senators and congressional representatives on the federal level to support a moratorium on capital punishment — if not an outright ban — in our country.  

Recently, a Vatican official, in a Catholic News Service article, reiterated the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty and support of a United Nations call for a moratorium on the death penalty worldwide issued on December 18, 2007.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, said the United Nations’ 2007 resolution was the “first necessary step” to abolishing capital punishment completely. “Despite everything, the church has always and will always defend the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death as a universal value,” the archbishop said. 

He added, “As Christians, how can we accept that someone be denied the hope of redemption? A man or a woman who made a mistake, who committed a crime, no matter how brutal, must have the possibility of being forgiven — while serving a tough sentence — and of living in hope.”

We should continue to oppose capital punishment in our country. To learn more about this issue, go to the Web site of Catholics Against Capital Punishment at