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  • Apr
  • 6

Bishops oppose death penalty for convicted Boston Marathon bomber

Posted By April 6, 2015 | 5:13 pm | Lead Story #3

Massachusetts’ Catholic bishops said this week that they oppose the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Catholic groups against the death penalty were pleased they made the statement.
The bishops issued their statement Monday, as lawyers presented closing arguments. Wednesday Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted on all 30 counts he faced in connection with the bombing. The jury will now hear evidence on whether he should get life in prison or a death sentence.
“The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty,” reads a statement signed by Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley; Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus, Fall River Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, and Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski.
“I’m really glad that the bishops came out with the statement,” said Suzanne Belote Shanley, co-founder of the Agape Community of lay Catholics in Hardwick. “We feel like we might have had something to do with it.”
She said Agape and Pax Christi Massachusetts had asked all the bishops to speak out against the death penalty in this case.
In February, the groups sought signatures on letters to all Massachusetts Christians and to Cardinal O’Malley. They lamented the crime and suffering, thanked the cardinal for speaking against the death penalty in the past and asked him to speak against it in this case. They also asked for prayers and dialogue with peacemakers about how to enable Massachusetts Catholics to oppose executions. They did not get a personal response.
They delivered a second letter to the cardinal on Good Friday that had more than 300 signatures, Ms. Shanley said. Signees included clergy, religious and laity.
James Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the bishops’ public policy arm, said the bishops wanted to issue this statement and felt it important to do so before the trial’s penalty phase began.
“As the Bishops of the United States said in their 2005 statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, ‘no matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.’ We believe these words remain true today in the face of this most terrible crime,” the bishops concluded.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were accused of planting two homemade pressure-cooker bombs by the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April 2013 that killed three and injured some 260 people. A fourth person was shot to death days later as the brothers, who had been identified as suspects, were trying to evade capture. Tamerlan died in a police shootout April 19. Dzhokhar, who was severely injured, was captured hours later.
Defense attorney Judy Clarke said Dzhokhar participated in the attack, but was under his older brother’s influence.
“The Boston Marathon Bombing trial is a painful reminder of the harm that impacts many people even beyond those who are killed or maimed by violent criminal acts. Given that the defendant, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is being tried in federal court with the possibility of capital punishment, and that the Bishops have testified against capital punishment in the past, we feel it is fitting to clarify the Church’s teaching regarding the use of the death penalty,” the bishops said.
Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, they said, “The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent.’
“The Church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God. As Pope Francis has recently stated, ‘[The death penalty] is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of oppression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized – they are already deprived of their liberty.’” Pope Francis made those remarks to the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, March 20 this year.
“It would have been nice to have some sense of the restorative justice element” in the bishops’ statement, Ms. Shanley said. She feels that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can be redeemed and be a force for good.
Killed in the marathon bombing blast were 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester; Lu Lingzi, 23, a native of China and a graduate student at Boston University; and Krystle Marie Campbell, 29, from Medford.
On April 18, a few hours after the brothers’ photos were broadcast, MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier, 26, was shot dead in his cruiser after being ambushed by them.

 

A Statement of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts on the Death Penalty

The Boston Marathon Bombing trial is a painful reminder of the harm that impacts many people even beyond those who are killed or maimed by violent criminal acts. Given that the defendant, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is being tried in federal court with the possibility of capital punishment, and that the Bishops have testified against capital punishment in the past, we feel it is fitting to clarify the Church’s teaching regarding the use of the death penalty.
The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are “rare, if not practically nonexistent.”(Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) § 2267)
The Church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God.As Pope Francis has recently stated, “[The death penalty] is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of oppression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not
current, as it has been neutralized – they are already deprived of their liberty.” (His Holiness Pope Francis, Remarks to the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, March 20, 2015.)
The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty. As the Bishops of the United States said in their 2005 statement “A Culture of Life and the
Penalty of Death,”  “no matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.” We believe these words remain true
today in the face of this most terrible crime.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap.
Archbishop
Archdiocese of Boston
Most Reverend Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.
Bishop
Diocese of Fall River
Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski
Bishop
Diocese of Springfield
Most Reverend Robert J. McManus
Bishop
Diocese of Worcester