Fy 2021 Impact report

From the executive director

"A Year Like No Other"

Dear CMN friends,

I am hard-pressed to think of a more aberrant and tumultuous year than the one that just came to a close. In the thick of the pandemic, Fiscal Year 2021 began with the onset of the deadliest federal execution spree in modern U.S. history. It ended with a new presidential administration advancing the country's first official moratorium on federal executions — an encouraging first step toward abolition, though not an irreversible one.

Mobilizing a strong, unified Catholic opposition to the federal killings — and to do so virtually, no less — consumed much of Catholic Mobilizing Network's (CMN's) focus this year. Yet even while playing execution "defense," CMN was able to launch several impressive new restorative justice programming initiatives. Indeed, as the federal government resuscitated the most vengeful and punitive practice in our criminal legal system, CMN consistently illuminated alternative approaches to justice that uphold human dignity, promote accountability, and enable transformation and healing.

I am simply amazed by the unwavering response of countless faithful CMN allies who stepped up this year to support our efforts with their time, talent, and treasure.

In a special way, I want to express my gratitude to the loyal supporters who have invested in CMN's mission for the past three or more consecutive years. With this Impact Report, CMN is proud to launch our new Saint Maximilian Kolbe Giving Society as a way to recognize and celebrate the incredible generosity of these individuals who have enabled CMN's continued growth and success. Thank you.

If nothing else, the challenges and triumphs of this unpredictable year have underscored the need for CMN's unshakable voice in our church and the national movements to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice. Thank you for being an integral part of CMN’s mission and ministry to usher in a justice that values life and restoration for all.

Combatting a Federal Execution Spree

Two weeks after the start of Fiscal Year 2021, the U.S. saw its first federally-ordered execution in almost two decades. The six months that followed marked the country’s deadliest spate of federal executions since 1896. Twelve men and one woman were put to death under the Trump administration.

Amplifying the Catholic Outcry

From July through January, CMN loudly and consistently condemned the federal government's bloodlust and mobilized thousands of Catholics in the U.S. to do the same. More than 17,000 people ultimately took action with CMN to urge President Trump and Attorney General William Barr to halt the killing spree. Thousands more advocated against executions and in favor of death penalty repeal at the state level.

CMN also maintained a steady drumbeat of Catholic opposition in news media, published resources, and high-visibility public events. As a result, CMN’s message proclaiming the horror and needlessness of federal executions galvanized a movement of hundreds of thousands of Catholics, rooted deeply in the belief in the sanctity of all life.

In Fiscal Year 2021, CMN was featured in more than 160 unique media articles, film interviews, and radio broadcasts (an 82% increase over last fiscal year), including in the outlets shown below.

Digital media platforms also offered key spaces for broad-based education and mobilization. Join the thousands of Catholics who are following along with CMN on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and email.

Praying as a Catholic Community

Faced with the federal government's repeated attacks on human dignity, CMN organized 13 virtual prayer vigils throughout the wave of executions — one vigil for every life taken. The events provided a crucial outlet for more than 2,500 Catholics and people of goodwill to lament together and draw strength for the work ahead.

I sent [CMN's prayer vigil] to a couple of colleagues who have clients at Terre Haute, and two of us joined. We agreed these are not experiences we often have as lawyers — the executions happen during busy days. We are aware an execution is pending and of the flurry of activity surrounding it. But we don’t often stand vigil or rest to mark the moment. When it’s over, we text each other our pain, and that’s it. It felt good to find some space." (Donna, Defense Attorney)

Dozens of Catholic lay leaders, bishops, and religious participated in CMN’s vigils, which have since become a standing event on the First Friday of every month. These special guests continue to offer their monthly prayers, petitions, and Scripture reflections in an effort to amplify the Church’s call for an end to capital punishment.

Pictured: Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore leads prayer at a CMN vigil for Dustin Higgs, who was executed by the federal government on Jan. 16, 2021.


The presidential transition was significant for the national abolition movement, with President Biden being the first president in U.S. history to have campaigned on an explicitly anti-death penalty platform.

Recognizing the importance of delivering a clear, Catholic call for abolition early in the new administration, CMN launched a national petition in January 2021, urging President Biden to take the steps within his power to dismantle the federal death penalty.

By the close of Fiscal Year 2021, the petition had garnered nearly 10,000 signatures, including those of: Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ; Most Rev. Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston; Most Rev. Ramon Bejarano, Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego; Most Rev. William Medley, Bishop of Owensboro; Most Rev. Richard Pates, Apostolic Administrator of Crookston; and Most Rev. Oscar Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City.

Mr. President… I urge you to use the fullness of the power invested in you to commute every federal death sentence... Be bold, President Biden! Truly, what would Jesus do?” (Comment from Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ on CMN's petition to President Biden)

Keeping Up the Pressure in the States

Virginia’s Repeal Win

On Mar. 24, 2021, Virginia officially became the 23rd U.S. state to abolish capital punishment, and the first southern state to ever do so. From the pews to the pulpit, CMN mobilized hundreds of Virginia Catholics to advocate in favor of the bipartisan repeal legislation, helping pave the way for the abolition win.

Virginia’s successful repeal effort was significant considering its former standing as one of the nation’s most active death penalty states. CMN is hopeful that the death penalty’s demise in the former “home of the confederacy” will signal to other southern states that capital punishment is an immoral and racist relic in need of total eradication.

READ: Virginia’s lawmakers vote to abolish the death penalty. Catholic activists helped make it happen. (America Magazine)

READ: Death Penalty Abolition Gains Momentum After Virginia (National Catholic Register)

Virginia governor Ralph Northam holds up the signed death penalty abolition bill.

Energizing Abolition and Combatting Regressive Movements

In the last year, CMN mobilized Catholic action in states with growing death penalty repeal momentum, including Wyoming and Nevada which both introduced strong abolition bills during their most recent legislative sessions. Though neither bill ultimately passed in full, the advocacy of Catholics in both states helped bring the pieces of legislation to historic milestones.

In other states, CMN helped advance death penalty-limiting legislation, like a new Ohio law prohibiting death sentences for individuals severe mental illness and Tennessee’s new law prohibiting executions for those with intellectual disability.

Even as several states took historic strides toward abolishing capital punishment this year, regressive movements in other states required urgent action responses by CMN and its network of Catholic advocates. In separate efforts to restart executions after multi-year breaks, South Carolina and Arizona have begun modifying their execution protocols as lethal injection drugs become increasingly inaccessible. Methods such as electrocution, firing squad, and the gas chamber have been proposed.

READ: South Carolina death penalty now includes electric chair, firing squad (Catholic News Service)


CMN’s restorative justice programming surged exponentially in Fiscal Year 2021, even amid the pandemic.

Virtual platforms paved the way for creative, wide-reaching CMN initiatives, including a national Catholic conference on restorative justice, an expansive new implementation resource, and multiple capacity-building trainings and intensives.

The Harm, Healing, and Human Dignity Conference

In October 2020, more than 700 ministry leaders and advocates gathered online for CMN’s all-virtual Catholic conference on restorative justice. The historic convening was organized in collaboration with the University of San Diego Center for Restorative Justice and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.

I came in feeling I knew just about nothing about the topic. After two full days of speakers and topics on K-12 education, racial justice, a look at incarceration, and the discussion on the death penalty, I think I am beginning to see applications all around me. (Jane, Conference Attendee)

Over the course of three days and more than 20 dynamic sessions, conference participants learned, networked, and explored vital ways of enlivening Catholic engagement with restorative justice in the U.S. Featured speakers included Bishop Robert McElroy, Father David Kelly, C.PP.S, sujatha baliga, and more.

I have done restorative justice work for the past ten years and have attended many trainings and workshops. This was the most powerful and informative yet. The information as well as the presenters were incredible. This work can sometimes feel very isolating. During those three days I felt very connected to so many people involved in this great mission. (Ulli, Conference Attendee)

Recordings from conference keynotes, workshops, and side events are currently available for discounted purchase on CMN's website.

New! Paths of Renewed Encounter: A Restorative Justice Engagement Guide for Catholic Communities

Throughout the national conference and in the months that followed, CMN heard from Catholic collaborators a resounding desire to start putting restorative justice into practice in their communities. Yet there was a problem: few knew where to start.

At that point in time, there lacked any form of consolidated, practical guidance on ways to integrate restorative approaches within the unique context of Catholic ministry. CMN soon set out to fill the void.

The result was Paths of Renewed Encounter: A Restorative Justice Engagement Guide for Catholic Communities, which launched on Jun. 30, 2021. This expansive new CMN resource draws from the wisdom of Catholic ministry leaders, the experience of restorative justice practitioners, and the prophetic messages of Pope Francis' “Fratelli Tutti” to share many of the foundational concepts of restorative justice.

It goes on to utilize the familiar pastoral cycle for social action to lead readers on a process of discernment and practical consideration of ways to integrate restorative practices within their communities.

The engagement guide offers a critical entry point for Catholics and ministry groups looking to put restorative justice into action. CMN looks forward to accompanying these groups along the process of becoming a restorative ministries and communities in the coming year.

Virtual Restorative Circle Intensives

CMN developed its “Restorative Circle Intensive” model in 2019 as a one-day, introductory workshop. Having administered several in-person intensives at the time of the pandemic’s onset, CMN was prepared to transition the concept to a virtual format.

Throughout the course of Fiscal Year 2021, CMN ran five virtual Restorative Circle Intensives which together drew the participation of more than 100 Catholic ministry leaders nationwide. A diverse group of restorative justice experts offered their wisdom as co-facilitators, yielding uniquely rich experiences from one intensive to the next.

I found other people! Knowing the size and strength of this community is a huge help in doing the work. Also the idea of where I might be able to practice keeping a circle and the confidence to do so. (Raechel, Intensive Participant)

Broad-Based Education

As CMN mobilizes Catholics to transform the broken criminal legal system, we are committed to creating timely, innovative resources. Below are a few of the educational tools we've created in the past year.

1. Racial Justice Resources

CMN released the companion handouts, "Restorative Justice in a Time of Racial Reckoning" and "Racism and the Death Penalty: Compounding Systems of Dehumanization," to highlight the intersections between the movements for racial justice, restorative justice, and death penalty abolition. Access here >>

2. Top 5 Myths About Forgiveness: A Catholic Perspective

Even among Catholics, there are many misunderstandings surrounding the concept of forgiveness. This resource aims to dispel common forgiveness myths and open up new possibilities for reconciliation and healing. Access here >>

3. Small-Group Resource: "Dignity and the Death Penalty: Evolution of Catholic Teaching"

In the span of seven sessions, this small-group resource from CMN and Renew International examines Catholic teaching on the death penalty and is based on the insights of Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ.

Dignity and the Death Penalty helps readers and small group participants reflect on the brokenness of the criminal legal system and explore life-affirming alternatives to capital punishment. Learn more >>

4. Restorative Justice Video Series

The following two CMN videos seek to answer the questions, “What is restorative justice?” and “What does restorative justice mean to us as Catholics?”

5. Restorative Justice in Light of the Lenten Gospels: A Five-Week Exploration

CMN's weekly Lenten series helps illuminate ways of cultivating restorative responses to harm. Access here >>

6. Killing in Our Name: Federal Executions and Pro-life Witness

More than 2,500 people tuned in live for this virtual public dialogue, making it CMN's largest webinar to date. The event was co-sponsored by CMN and Georgetown University’s Initiative for Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, and featured CMN Executive Director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, Most Rev. Daniel E. Flores, and Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr.


CMN's mission is made possible through a diverse array of revenue streams: a widening base of support, a faithful and growing Monthly Steward Circle, income generated from events, generous major donors, loyal support from men and women religious, diocesan gifts, and an increasing number of family foundations.

Thank you for being a part of this unforgettable year.