Last week, I wrote about Cardinal O’Malley’s statement just days after the Boston Marathon bombing that he, as both a Catholic and Bostonian, is against seeking the death penalty against the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Today, a new poll suggests that his view is in the minority. From the Washington Post:

Overall, 70 percent of those surveyed say they support the death penalty for 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. While most Democrats and Republicans alike say they would support the death penalty for Tsarnaev, there are deep racial divisions on the matter, reflecting a common gap in public views of the death penalty itself.

An overwhelming majority, 74 percent, also supports trying suspect two in a civilian court, rebuffing suggestions from some, including at least one US Senator, that the suspect be stripped of his citizenship (is that even a thing?) and tried in a military tribunal.

With most denominations officially opposing the use of capital punishment, how will faith leaders approach this sensitive topic? Is the pain from Boston still too raw for a balanced conversation? And with the bombs exploding in Massachusetts, which outlawed the death penalty in 1984, will local preference have any standing in a federal case?

Categories: Beliefs

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Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.


  1. Garson Abuita

    Yes, citizenship can be removed from naturalized citizens. It has been done in the past in terrorism cases, although more frequently for Nazi war criminals.
    No, local preference has no standing to block a federal death penalty case. There are federal capital cases proceeding right now in states like NY that do not have the death penalty.
    My sense is that in denominations that oppose the death penalty for legal reasons, like actual innocence of the defendant, mental issues, or racial disparity, will have little to say here. But those like the Catholic Church that always oppose it will also oppose it here and that is what the cardinal was expressing.

  2. Are we supposed to accept this as news about religious people and their behavior? A good study of the history of religion will show it is very consistent, but it always leaves one wondering how such vengeance and other evil can coexist with the claimed good of the human endeavor we call religion.

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