Massachusetts Episcopal Church bishops speak against death penalty

April 23, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts press release] As the jury convenes this week in the sentencing phase of the trial of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the bishops of the Episcopal Church’s two Massachusetts dioceses April 23 issued the following statement against the death penalty.

As bishops of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts, we join with others in the Commonwealth and across the nation in offering our continued prayers for all those affected by the traumatic legacy of the Boston Marathon bombing, and for those administering justice in the Tsarnaev trial.

We take this opportunity to affirm our church’s opposition to the death penalty, a position which has been articulated by the Episcopal Church since 1958, and reaffirmed repeatedly by resolution of the wider church and by our two dioceses in Massachusetts.

The wanton disregard for life displayed by the Marathon bombing is repugnant and morally inexcusable. Evidence offered in the trial has served only to deepen our awareness of the calculated mercilessness of this act.

Moral reasoning, however, often requires us to transcend our emotional and visceral responses. The church’s teaching insists that institutionalized violence neither answers nor prevents other forms of violence, and that execution is an unjustified violation of the prohibition against taking a human life.

As the family of bombing victim Martin Richard has movingly asserted, justice will be fully served by a life sentence without parole.

The laws of Massachusetts have rejected state-sponsored execution.  We affirm that position and reaffirm our opposition to the death penalty in this and every case.

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

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