by John Holden
The papal intention for the month of September is: “That the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country.” To see a two-minute video of the Pope’s prayer message about this, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpv3zCBJzSc.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states clearly that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.” 
Executions continue in some states in the U.S., such as Oklahoma (see
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/07/oklahoma-death-penalty-executions-torture/), and remains available at the federal level. However, ending the U.S. federal death penalty is possible. President Joe Biden, a Catholic, is the first-ever sitting U.S. president to have campaigned on an anti- death penalty platform. In January 2021, Congressional lawmakers introduced the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act (H.R. 262 / S. 582). Members of Congress need to become cosponsors of the legislation, and to pass it during this session, so that a federal killing spree such as happened from July 2020 to January 2021 (under the last administration) cannot happen again. To learn more and to take action, go to:
The following prayer by Molly Cahill (Assistant Editor, America Media) was originally published in America following Missouri’s execution of Ernest Johnston on October 5, 2021. It was also used during the Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore Council meeting on July 2, the anniversary of the 1976 Gregg v. Georgia decision that allowed executions to resume in the U.S.
A Prayer for the End of the Death Penalty
God who forgives,
We will never comprehend the depth of your mercy,
which brings saints and sinners alike into your embrace.
May we still trust in your ways.
God who became human,
You, too, died at the hands of the state.
As you suffered on the Cross, many taunted and jeered, believing justice was being done.
Others wept for you, stood by your side and knew the truth of your message.
Let us be like them, close to those whose death the world sometimes watches, sometimes ignores.
You are close to them in their final moments, and we should be, too, in whatever way we can.
God who is justice,
Let the systems of justice we build on earth reflect your love for all creation.
Let them value redemption over punishment, future over past, life over death.
Let us realize that your justice is your mercy.
God who understands,
Be with us in our devastation.
Give us time to feel our sorrow, to acknowledge the profound injustice that happens when our government kills in our name.
But after that moment, be the strength that urges us on: to be advocates, caretakers, brothers and sisters to those who suffer at the hands of the prison system and state-sanctioned execution.
Let our lamenting be meaningful, and let it become the action that will change hearts and minds.
May our righteous anger be the reason this never happens again.
Remind us of the lives our prayer and advocacy still can save.
Lord, have mercy,
on the victims of violent crimes, of all crimes.
And have mercy on those who commit crimes and on those who so wrongly decide that a wrongdoer’s death amounts to justice.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
May we all live our lives much more closely to the love and compassion that is your very being.
God who is faithful,
Your justice will bring an end to all evil systems and structures.
For an end to the death penalty, we pray.