Death Penalty

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Iowa Fact Sheet updated 2019

Our Faith and the Death Penalty

Iowa bishops’ statement on death penalty


The state of Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1966. The Iowa Catholic Conference opposes its reinstatement.

We challenge the people of Iowa to examine the issue of capital punishment in the light of basic moral and religious values. We are committed to a consistent ethic of life, by which we wish to give unambiguous witness to the sacredness of every human life from conception through natural death. We proclaim the good news that no person is beyond the redemptive mercy of God.

Marking the 25thanniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2017, Pope Francis said the death penalty is, in itself, “contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor.”

The recently updated and definitive edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, released September 9, 1997, includes stronger language against the death penalty to reflect the teachings of Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). The new language in the Catechism states that recourse to the death penalty is not excluded “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” The Catechism then affirms strongly that “today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime…the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically non-existent'” (paragraph 2267).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has for many decades opposed the use of capital punishment.

As the Iowa bishops said in 2018, “We oppose reinstatement of the death penalty in order to send the message that the cycle of violence can be broken without taking life. We ask the people of Iowa, and especially members of the Catholic Church, to join us in opposing capital punishment out of respect for our common human dignity and in light of the teachings of Jesus about vengeance.”

1903, 2018

Death penalty bills fail

Bills to bring back the death penalty in Iowa have failed to advance.  Keep an eye on our Action Center at for any action alerts if proposals "come back to life". Click here to download [...]

602, 2018

Iowa bishops oppose death penalty – Feb. 6, 2018

2018 statement on death penalty final We speak in opposition to the use of the death penalty in any form and to its possible reinstatement in Iowa. Marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of [...]

2001, 2018

Bills introduced to bring back the death penalty

While the House’s bill to bring back the death penalty, House Study Bill 569, passed out of a subcommittee, it looks like there aren’t enough votes to bring it out of the full House Public Safety [...]