In 2014, 51 million Americans were Catholic (Masci). These Americans practiced a religion where the death penalty and abortion would be permissible in such rare and extreme cases that they practically didn’t exist. They also lived in a country where both capital punishment and abortion were federally protected. Although the dynamics between these two conflicting ideas have changed in the past 10 years, the sentiments and clashes remain timeless. Any country with a separation between church and state will have laws that go against religious practices for some. For Catholics in the United States, faith and law clashes like the death penalty and abortion force them to choose whether they will side with their religion or their country’s legal system.
“Abortion and Catholic Thought. The Little-Known History.” Conscience (Washington, D.C.), vol. 17, no. 3, 1996, pp. 2–5, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12178868/.
Andone, Dakin. “Biden Campaigned on Abolishing the Federal Death Penalty. But 2 Years In, Advocates See an “Inconsistent” Message | CNN Politics.” CNN, 22 Jan. 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/01/22/politics/joe-biden-federal-death-penalty-abolition/index.html.
Boorstein, Michelle and Chico Harlan and Seung Min Kim. “Biden says Pope Francis called him a good Catholic and said he should keep receiving Communion.” The Washington Post, 29 Oct. 2021.
Bruenig, Elizabeth. "The Catholic Church Opposes the Death Penalty. Why Don’t White Catholics?" Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2022. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/VRLHKK353869256/OVIC?u=lac57609&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=8c0c626c. Accessed 3 Nov. 2022. Originally published as "The Catholic Church Opposes the Death Penalty. Why Don’t White Catholics?" New Republic, 6 Mar. 2015.
“The Catholic Church, Pope Francis, and the Penalty of Death.” Harvard Divinity School, 2 Aug. 2018, https://hds.harvard.edu/news/2018/08/02/catholic-church-pope-francis-and-penalty-death Accessed 19. Jan. 2023CNA. “Here’s What Pope Francis Said about President Joe Biden’s Abortion Stance.” Catholic News Agency, 12 July 2022, www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/251772/pope-francis-incoherence-biden-supports-abortion-rights. Accessed 2 May 2023.
Cramer, Ruby. “'A Private Matter': Joe Biden's Very Public Clash with His Own Church.” POLITICO, 5 Sep. 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/05/joe-biden-catholic-church-509396.
Death Penalty Information Center. “Constitutionality of the Death Penalty in America.” Death Penalty Information Center, 2010, deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/history-of-the-death-penalty/constitutionality-of-the-death-penalty-in-america.
“Early History of the Death Penalty.” Death Penalty Information Center, https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/history-of-the-death-penalty/early-history-of-the-death-penalty.
“Excerpts from the Supreme Court’s Landmark Abortion Decision.” AP NEWS, 24 June 2022, apnews.com/article/abortion-us-supreme-court-health-samuel-alito-66c301d223759e842ad95e89f597d587.
Graham, Ruth. “Catholic Bishops Avoid Confrontation with Biden over Communion.” The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/11/17/us/catholic-bishops-biden-communion.html. Accessed 2 May 2023.
Hill, Christopher. “Italy’s Complete Abolition of Death Penalty Is Evidence of Growing International Trend | ACLU.” American Civil Liberties Union, 10 Mar. 2009, www.aclu.org/news/smart-justice/italys-complete-abolition-death-penalty-evidence-growing. Accessed 2 May 2023.
“The History of the Death Penalty: A Timeline.” Death Penalty Information Center, 2009, deathpenaltyinfo.org/stories/history-of-the-death-penalty-timeline.
King, Ava. “What about the Life and Dignity of the Woman?” Journal of Student Academic Research, vol. 3, no. 1, 4 Nov. 2022, jsar.fsha.org/index.php/jsar/article/view/27/21. Accessed 9 Mar. 2023.
Leppert, R., & Fahmy, D. (2022, November 9). 10 facts about religion and government in the United States. Pew Research Center. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/07/05/10-facts-about-religion-and-government-in-the-united-states/
Lipka, Michael. “A Closer Look at Catholic America.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 14 Sept. 2015, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/09/14/a-closer-look-at-catholic-america/.
Lipka, Michael. “Some major U.S. religious groups differ from their members on the death penalty.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 13 Jul. 2015, https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2015/07/13/some-major-u-s-religious-groups-differ-from-their-members-on-the-death-penalty/
Masci, David, and Gregory A Smith. “7 Facts about American Catholics.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 10 Oct. 2018, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/10/7-facts-about-american-catholics/.
McKeown, John. “Where Is Mass Attendance Highest? One Country Is the Clear Leader.” Catholic News Agency, 29 Jan. 2023, www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253488/where-is-mass-attendance-highest-one-country-is-the-clear-leader. Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.
Murphy, Alyssa. “6 of the 9 Supreme Court Justices Are Catholic — Here’s a Closer Look.” National Catholic Register, 28 Oct. 2020, www.ncregister.com/blog/supreme-court-catholics.
Nadeem, Reem. “Faith on the Hill.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, 3 Jan. 2023, www.pewresearch.org/religion/2023/01/03/faith-on-the-hill-2023/.
Newport, Frank. “Democrats Racially Diverse; Republicans Mostly White.” Gallup.com, Gallup, 8 Feb. 2013, news.gallup.com/poll/160373/democrats-racially-diverse-republicans-mostly-white.aspx.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta. (2022, February 16). Receiving holy communion in the catholic church - roman catholic archdiocese of Atlanta: Atlanta, GA. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta | Atlanta, GA. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://archatl.com/offices/divine-worship/guides-to-catholic-ceremonies/receiving-holy-communion-in-the-catholic-church/
Smith, Gregory A. “8 Facts about Catholics and Politics in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, 15 Sept. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/15/8-facts-about-catholics-and-politics-in-the-u-s/.
“Opinion Polls: Death Penalty Support and Religion.” Death Penalty Information Center, deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/religious-statements/opinion-polls-death-penalty-support-and-religion.
Parenthood, Planned. “Abortion in U.S. History.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/abortion/abortion-central-history-reproductive-health-care-america.
“Political Affiliation and the Death Penalty.” Death Penalty Information Center, 2015, deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/public-opinion-polls/political-affiliation-and-the-death-penalty.
Smith, Gregory A. “Like Americans Overall, Catholics Vary in Their Abortion Views, with Regular Mass Attenders Most Opposed.” Pew Research Center, 23 May 2022, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/05/23/like-americans-overall-catholics-vary-in-their-abortion-views-with-regular-mass-attenders-most-opposed/.
Wormald, Benjamin. “Chapter 2: Participation in Catholic Rites and Observances.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, 2 Sept. 2015, www.pewresearch.org/religion/2015/09/02/chapter-2-participation-in-catholic-rites-and-observances/.
Zalot, Jozef D, and Benedict Guevin. Catholic Ethics in Today’s World. Winona, Mn, Anselm Academic, 2011.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2023 Claudia Lee