A Catholic community has launched a new campaign to abolish the “inhuman and arbitrary” death penalty worldwide.

– A new website to work for a world without capital punishment

On the occasion last October 10 of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the Community of Sant’Egidio reaffirmed its commitment “to campaign for the abolition of this inhuman and arbitrary measure” that is capital punishment and “to defend [the] life of every condemned person”.

As an expression of that commitment, the Community launched a new website from which to work for a world with no judicial executions.

“In this time marked by the pandemic, the conditions of those already living in extreme isolation in maximum security prisons and often awaiting execution have become even more dramatic all over the world”, the Community denounced in a press release announcing its new website.

“The Community has therefore intensified its effort to humanise prisoners’ life”, it continued.

“It is notable that right when humanity had to cope with a crisis and was particularly vulnerable, the number of people engaging in defence of human life has increased. More people have signed appeals to have death sentences commuted and offered to correspond with prisoners”, the Community recalled.

– “No statistic proves that capital punishment is a deterrent to major crimes”

On its new website, the Community of Sant’Egidio sets out a multitude of reasons as to why capital punishment should be abolished, including that death sentences “bend[] down the State and the society to the level of the killer” and that “no statistic proves that capital punishment is a deterrent to major crimes”.

On a section of the new page with actions Catholics and other people of good will can get involved in to stop executions, the Community decries that the death penalty represents a veritable catalogue of “human rights’ violations”, “a form of torture” and “contradicts the rehabilitation vision of justice”, as it also denounces the reality that capital punishment legitimates violence and perpetuates it.

On another page of its new campaign, Sant’Egidio uses the Catechism and a number of real-world case studies to show that “with the death penalty there is a risk of killing an innocent person and that in abolitionist countries there is a reduction in the number of crimes”.

– Restart of US federal death penalty “a deplorable affront to the dignity of human life”

On the appeals section of its new website, the Community of Sant’Egidio has included a petition to US President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr to “stop the executions!” which the men were responsible for restarting on a federal level this past July after a 17-year hiatus.

With the “shockingly rapid executions of seven human beings from July to September of this year… there now have been more federal executions carried out in 2020 than in the past 57 years combined”, Sant’Egidio deplores.

It adds that the fact of those recent executions is “a deplorable affront to the dignity of human life which flies in the face of the global movement to end the death penalty and the majority of Americans who now believe the death penalty is not applied fairly and is disproportionally applied to racial minorities”.

The Community continues by explaining the Church’s doctrine on the death penalty and the punishment, rehabilitation and social reinsertion of criminals:

“As members of the Church and people of goodwill, we must give concrete help to victims of violence, and we must encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence. Accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process.

“Responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society, but executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all articulated.

“The Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” and works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

“Recognizing this emerging worldwide consensus, Pope Francis revised the very catechism of the Catholic Church to declare the death penalty “inadmissible,” reiterating this firmly again in his most recent encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’“.

More on Novena on the Church’s opposition to the death penalty:

Holy See representative to UN in Geneva says capital punishment “the biggest sin a human being can commit in the name of justice”

US Bishops remind Trump, AG Barr: “Executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable”

US: Opposition grows to Catholic award for Attorney General William Barr, who directed restart of federal executions

US Bishops reaffirm opposition to death penalty: “Even a person who has sinned terribly does not forfeit their human dignity”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.