On the same day closing arguments were heard in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial for the Boston Marathon bombings, Massachusetts Catholic leaders reaffirmed their opposition to the death penalty.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference released a statement Monday afternoon, signed by local bishops, including Cardinal Seán O’Malley.
“We, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty,’’ wrote the bishops. “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.’’’
The statement also invoked recent remarks by Pope Francis that the death penalty “is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person.’’
Tsarnaev is facing 30 federal charges, 17 of which include the possibility of a capital punishment sentence.
“The time to reiterate the stance now is important as the marathon bombing trial moves into the next phase,’’ said James Driscoll, the executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference. “The bishops’ statement speaks to the value of every human life.’’
Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha of Fall River, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, and Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester also co-signed the letter. Since 1994, the Bishops of Massachusetts have released statements consistently opposing the death penalty.
A recent WBUR poll found that only 27 percent of Bostonians said Tsarnaev should recieve the death penalty if convicted. Sixty-two percent said he should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.