The following comes from a September Angelus article written by Archbishop Jose Gomez:
On the ballot this Nov. 8 in California is Proposition 62.
This proposition would repeal the death penalty in our state and would make life in prison without parole the maximum punishment that could be imposed for crimes of murder.
My brother bishops and I in the California Catholic Conference are supporting this effort.
It is time for us to end the death penalty — not only in California but throughout the United States and throughout the world.
On his final visit to our country in 1999, St. John Paul called the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary.” And it is true.
The Church has always opposed abortion and euthanasia because it involves the direct and voluntary killing of innocent human beings. Obviously, the death penalty is different. Those guilty of violent crime are not innocent.
Rather than condemn criminals to death, as Christians, we should pray for their conversion and encourage their rehabilitation and ultimate restoration to society.
For some criminals, this will never be possible. Their hearts are too damaged, too cruel and hardened. But we know that conversion and repentance is God’s work, not ours.
The Church is not changing her teaching. Governments will always have the justification to use the death penalty if it is necessary to carry out its task of ensuring social order. What the Church is urging now is that governments exercise their discretion to show mercy instead of executing the condemned. Such a gesture would be powerful testimony to the sanctity of human life and to the possibility that every person can find redemption and rehabilitation.
In this, we are following some of the great doctors of the ancient Church, such as St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. In their times, they also urged government authorities to show mercy in capital cases.
And, of course, we have the witness of Jesus Christ, who pardoned the woman caught in adultery — a crime at the time that carried a mandatory death sentence.
I urge all of you to continue to pray and reflect on this complicated issue. We have established a website with resources to help in your reflection — killingisntjustice.org.