From the time of the publication of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope St. John Paul II urged Catholics to re-examine the use of the death penalty — teaching that its use today should be “very rare if not practically nonexistent.” His successors Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis consistently have taught the same.  

We’ve taken that teaching to heart. We’ve prayerfully pondered it, and we accept it. Our reporting over the years has reflected this teaching. And, while we recognize that the Church has allowed for the legitimate use of the death penalty for society’s self-defense, we find that it’s harder and harder to argue that a particular act of capital punishment is circumstantially necessary today in contemporary America. We believe the right path is to seek its abolition, and we’ve taken the opportunity, along with other members of the Catholic press, to encourage our readers to consider this stance as a part of comprehensively embracing the gospel of life. 

Today, we face ever-increasing assaults on the sanctity of human life. Unity among Catholics in defense of life can send a powerful message. Euthanasia, abortion, war and capital punishment differ in moral weight, but they all threaten human dignity, and we must work to end them. While we look forward to the day we can stand in unity with the other Catholic publications on each of these life issues, we stand today on the death penalty, strengthened by the teaching of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, and say, “Capital punishment must end.”

Jeanette De Melo is the Register's editor in chief.

On March 5, the Register published a joint editorial with America,

the National Catholic Reporter and Our Sunday Visitor on the death penalty.