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February 12, 2001



Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia and the 16 other Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania have issued a document that restates their opposition to the use of the death penalty in Pennsylvania and clarifies their reasons for that opposition. "The Catholic Church remains steadfast in its defense of life. While punishment for convicted criminals is just, vengeance is never a Christian or human rationale for inflicting the death penalty," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "The Church believes that even the worst offenders possess the potential to reform their lives and make a positive contribution to society."

In an introductory letter, the Pennsylvania Bishops state, "The threshold of the third Christian millennium is an appropriate time to reexamine our culture and how our values can help to create a culture of life and love. There is a diminished respect for life, a hardening of the human heart, that must be eradicated if we are to build a civilization of love that upholds the beauty and dignity of life."

Cardinal Bevilacqua said, "I join with my brother bishops in asking those who are struggling with this complex issue to read this document carefully. The Church recognizes that the death penalty is an option open to the state; however, in our present society, government has many alternate means available to protect society and punish criminals. The growing movement of those opposed to the death penalty is encouraging, but I recognize that more hearts need to be opened to the Church's position on this matter and her commitment to upholding the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death."

The Bishops of Pennsylvania also issued statements calling for an end to the death penalty in 1987 and 1995. In February 2000, Cardinal Bevilacqua testified before the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee exploring a moratorium on the death penalty. In 1999, the Administrative Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a Good Friday appeal for an end to the death penalty.


Editor's Note: The Death Penalty: Choose Life will be available in Spanish and English on the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference web site at (under "documents") or in booklet form by calling the PCC at 717-238-9613. You may also contact the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office for Communications at 215-587-3747 to request a copy.

Donna Farrell
Broadcast and Media Specialist

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