Archbishop Alexander Sample on the day before Thanksgiving issued a statement on behalf of the Archdiocese of Portland supporting Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to continue a moratorium on executions in Oregon.
“Governor Brown has answered the call issued by Pope Francis earlier this year to leaders around the world to mark the church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy by ending the use of the death penalty.”
Archbishop Sample said the church once taught that the death penalty would be permissible in certain limited circumstances, but was not to be used when other means of protecting the community are available and sufficient.
“It is therefore clear that there can be no place for the death penalty in a developed society such as ours because it is not necessary for us to use capital punishment to protect ourselves from harm,” the archbishop said, echoing statements from St. John Paul II.
“We have matured in our respect for life and human dignity,” said the archbishop, who frequently visits prison inmates, including on death row.
The archbishop cited the 156 overturned death sentences in the United States and the high cost that takes funds from “services that are life-sustaining, not life-ending.”
He also said that evidence shows capital punishment is not imposed fairly when it comes to race, class, location and other factors.
“The decision to reject death in favor of life does not reflect a lessening of sympathy with the families of those who have been victims of murder,” the archbishop said. “They continue to bear the burden of their grief and loss. Their right to see justice done on behalf of their loved ones is not diminished. But no peace can result from the violence of the death penalty.”
The nation’s bishops are united in the need to end the death penalty.
“The punishments imposed by our criminal justice system should reflect the inherent dignity of every human person,” the archbishop said.