Pope Francis’ Views on the Death Penalty

Hannah Collins, '18, Staff Writer

Pope Francis dispenses incense while celebrating Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Canonization Mass for Friar Junipero Serra in Washington on September 23, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SAINT-SCENE, originally transmitted on Sept. 23, 2015.
Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

“Thou shalt not kill” and the concept of the death penalty clearly contradict, right? Well that’s exactly what Pope Francis thinks. In accordance with this Jubilee Year of Mercy, which started December 8, 2015, Pope Francis is voicing his opinions that the death penalty should be abolished worldwide, or at least during this year of mercy.

On Sunday, February 14, 2016, Pope Francis implored to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square that the death penalty goes against our beliefs as Catholics. He said, “I make an appeal to the conscience of all rulers, so that we can achieve an international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty…And I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: that no sentence is executed in this Holy Year of Mercy.”

Here are some basic facts about the death penalty:
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 1,429 death penalty executions since 1976 in the United States alone.
As of January 1, 2016, there were 2,943 death row inmates in the U.S., with 180 being in Pennsylvania.
Out of the 1,429 deaths since 1976, 1,254 were killed from a lethal injection, while others were killed by methods such as electrocution, gas chambers, hangings, and firing squads.
One study in California claims that using the death penalty has cost the state over 4 billion dollars since 1978, and a statistic from the Dallas Morning News (March 8, 1992) states, “In Texas, a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years.”
For murders specifically, a 2010 Lake Research Partners poll shows that 61% of people would choose a punishment other than the death penalty.

But is Pope Francis’ goal attainable? Although the death penalty is used in 31 states, only 7 of those states used the death penalty in 2014. Yet, according to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans still support the death penalty. Plus, other countries in the world have been using this system devotedly for years. From the looks of it, though the death penalty is unlikely to end soon or even for this year of mercy, Pope Francis will relentlessly do his best to put a stop to it.