WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops’ conference officially launched a campaign to end the use of the death penalty, but insisted the cause is not new.
<br> “We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington. “We cannot defend life by taking life.”
Speaking today at the National Press Club on behalf of the bishops’ conference, Cardinal McCarrick said, “The Catholic campaign will work to change the debate and decisions on the use of the death penalty: building a constituency for life, not death; calling on our lawmakers to lead, not follow; to defend life, not take it away.”
“This cause is not new,” he said. “Our bishops’ conference has opposed the death penalty for 25 years. But this campaign is new. It brings greater urgency and unity, increased energy and advocacy, and a renewed call to our people and to our leaders to end the use of the death penalty in our nation.”
At the press conference, pollster John Zogby reported on a survey of Catholic attitudes on the death penalty.
“We found that support for the use of the death penalty among American Catholics has plunged in the past few years,” Zogby said. “The intensity of support has declined as well.”
“In past surveys, Catholic support for the death penalty was as high as 68%,” he said. “In our November survey, we found that less than half of the Catholic adults in our poll, 48%, now support the use of the death penalty, while 47% oppose it. The percentage of Catholics who are intensely supportive of the death penalty has been halved, from a high of 40% to 20% in this survey.”
Among the major reasons Catholics gave for opposing the use of the death penalty was “respect for life.”
Two of three — 63% — Catholics are deeply concerned about what the use of the death penalty “does to us as a people and a country,” according to the surveys.
Cardinal McCarrick emphasized the Church’s commitment to victims of violence and their families as a central part of the campaign.
Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie Marie was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, made a plea: “My conviction is simple: More violence is not what Julie would have wanted. More violence will not bring Julie back. More violence only makes our society more violent. The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty is another way for the Church to say no to more violence and no to our culture of death.”
The Catholic Campaign, according to the cardinal, will “educate — in our parishes and schools, universities and seminaries. We need to share Catholic teaching with courage and clarity, reaching out to those who teach our children, write our textbooks, form our priests, and preach in our pulpits. This is a work of formation and persuasion, not simply proclamation.”
The campaign has a Web site: www.ccedp.org.