State allows death penalty,

last execution was …

Less than five years ago

Less than 10 years ago

More than 10 years ago

Does not allow death penalty

Catholic share of county population, 2010

0%

100%

State allows death penalty, last execution was …

More than

10 years ago

Less than

five years ago

Less than

10 years ago

Does not allow death penalty

Catholic share of county population, 2010

100%

0%

Maine

Wash.

Vt.

N.D.

N.H.

Mont.

Minn.

Mass.

Mich.

N.Y.

Ore.

Wis.

S.D.

Idaho

New York

Wyo.

Penn.

N.J.

Iowa

Neb.

San

Francisco

D.C.

Ill.

Ind.

Nev.

W.Va.

Utah

Colo.

Ky.

Kan.

N.C.

Tenn.

Santa Fe

Calif.

S.C.

N.M.

Miss.

La.

New Orleans

In Dimmit County, Texas, 91% of the population is Catholic

Alaska

Hawaii

State allows death penalty, last execution was …

More than 10 years ago

Less than five years ago

Less than 10 years ago

Does not allow death penalty

Catholic share of county population, 2010

100%

0%

Maine

Wash.

Vt.

N.D.

N.H.

Mont.

Minn.

Mass.

Mich.

N.Y.

Ore.

—R.I.

Conn.

Wis.

S.D.

Idaho

Milwaukee

New York

Wyo.

Penn.

N.J.

Iowa

Omaha

Neb.

Md.

Del.

D.C.

Nev.

Ill.

Ind.

W.Va.

San

Francisco

Utah

Colo.

Ky.

Kan.

N.C.

Tenn.

Santa Fe

Calif.

S.C.

N.M.

Miss.

La.

New Orleans

In Dimmit County, Texas, 91% of the population is Catholic

Alaska

Hawaii

The pope’s official opposition to the death penalty in all cases, which was announced August 2, pits the Catholic Church’s stance against the laws and practices of several dozen countries, including the United States.

It also differs from the views of more than half of U.S. Catholics — and Americans in general — according to a recent survey.

Catholics account for about 21 percent of the U.S. population, according to Pew Research Center. Some areas with the largest Catholic populations are in the 31 states that have the death penalty, most notably Texas, which has carried out more than a third of U.S. executions since 1976.

Of those 31 states, only 10 have executed anyone in the past five years.

So far this year, 14 people have been executed in Texas (8), Georgia and Alabama (2 each), and Ohio and Florida (1 each).

A split in public opinion

Despite a long-term downward trend in support for the death penalty, the United States may be on a different philosophical wavelength from the pope at the moment.

Support for capital punishment rose a bit this year after decades of decline, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring. And it went up among U.S. Catholics more than among the nation in general, from 43 percent in 2016 to 53 percent this year.

Catholics’ support of the death penalty in the U.S.

70%

Favor

United States

53%

50%

42%

Oppose

30%

2005

2011

2018

Catholics’ support of the death penalty in the U.S.

70%

63%

Favor

54%

United States

53%

50%

42%

Oppose

39%

31%

30%

2005

2011

2018

But those upticks could turn out to be blips in a downward trend. Just 22 years ago, more than three-quarters of the country favored capital punishment.

And as public distaste for executions grew, total annual U.S. executions declined. They have numbered in the 20s and 30s since 2012, down from a 1999 high of 98.

Total executions in the U.S.

98

100

60

20

14

2018*

1976

1999

*As of July 2018

Total executions in the U.S.

98

100

60

20

14

1976

1999

2018*

*As of July 2018

A settled issue in many places

Of course, U.S. Catholics are not the only ones who will face a disconnect between their country’s death penalty laws and their church’s doctrine, but most of the world’s non-U.S. Catholics are concentrated in Europe and the Americas, where few executions take place.

Last year, 23 countries executed people, according to Amnesty International, and 53 countries sentenced people to death. The group documented 993 executions but said thousands more occurred, particularly in countries that don’t report executions, such as China, North Korea and Vietnam.

Countries where executions

took place in 2017

Belarus

China

The majority of the executions in Iran are for murder and drug-related offenses.

It is estimated that China executed more than 1,000 prisoners in 2017.

Countries where executions took place in 2017

Belarus

The majority of the executions in Iran are for murder and drug-related offenses.

China

It is estimated that China executed more than 1,000 prisoners in 2017.

Countries where executions took place in 2017

Belarus

The majority of the executions in Iran are for murder and drug-related offenses.

China

Iran

It is estimated that China executed more than 1,000 prisoners in 2017.

But far more countries — 142 — had abolished the death penalty either by law or in practice by the end of 2017.

About this story

Sources: Association of Religion Data Archives, Pew Research Center, Amnesty International, Death Penalty Information Center, Georgetown University Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). 2018 executions as of July 18.

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