The Catechism of the Catholic Church holds that if non-lethal methods are sufficient for preventing a criminal from doing further harm, then those methods should be preferred over lethal punishment. It isn’t difficult to imagine why: The Catholic Church values a consistent respect for human life, the kind of approach Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernadin called “a seamless garment”—that a person’s guilt or innocence is irrelevant to the inherent value of their life. That's why the Church has long opposed capital punishment. Pope John Paul II was an especially eloquent and dedicated advocate for life. Pope Francis, too, has called for the abolition of the death penalty, saying, “It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples' lives from an unjust aggressor.”
With overwhelming papal consensus and such sound theological reasoning on the Church’s side, one might presume American Catholics are generally united in opposing the use of capital punishment. But that isn’t the case, and a 2014 Pew report found that a significant racial gap divides American Catholics on the subject of capital punishment.
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