Let’s end the death penalty, now: NCR: March 11, 2009
Capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion and war: All these issues raise profound questions for Catholics as we reflect on the sanctity of human life. But while they all touch on human dignity, they don’t all have the same moral content.
Euthanasia and abortion are always, intrinsically wrong because they always involve an intentional killing of innocent human life. War and capital punishment, in contrast, can sometimes be morally acceptable as an expression of society’s right to self-defense.
Both Scripture and a long tradition of Catholic thought support the legitimacy of the death penalty under certain limited circumstances. But as Pope John Paul II argued so eloquently, the conditions that require the death penalty for society’s self-defense and the discharge of justice in modern, developed nations almost never exist. As a result, the right road for a civilized society is to abolish the death penalty altogether.
Readers of this column know that I’ve written and spoken many times, for many years, against the death penalty. But I’m hardly alone in that view; bishops and many lay Catholics around the world and across the
As the Catholic bishops of
We believe that all people have a natural right to life, because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, who alone is Lord of life from its beginning until its end (cf. Gn 1: 26-28).
Obviously, behavior that threatens or takes lives cannot be tolerated. Those whose actions harm others must be held accountable. Society has a right to establish laws that protect all people and promote the common good. But the need to punish violent criminals does not logically lead, in our day, to the conclusion that capital punishment should be employed.
We grieve for the victims of murder and the terrible suffering of their families. In capital murder cases, we recognize that grave punishment is needed both to serve justice and to ensure the safety of the community. But we also believe, as Pope John Paul II once observed, that improvements in the penal system of developed countries like our own make the death penalty unnecessary to protect the community.
The state of
All human life, from conception to natural death, including the life of a convicted murderer, has intrinsic value. For the sake of our own humanity, we need to turn away from a mistaken idea of justice based—in practice—on further and unneeded violence.
The Colorado General Assembly currently has before it an important and hopeful piece of legislation—House Bill (HB) 1274—that would end the death penalty in our state. Support for capital punishment has steadily eroded around the country in recent years as more people come to see the inadequacy of the death penalty as a deterrent, the racially and ethnically biased manner in which it’s often applied, and the number of innocent persons wrongly condemned to death who have been exonerated by new DNA techniques.
I ask Catholics around the archdiocese to please contact their elected state lawmakers. Please ask our legislators to support HB 1274. We need to end the death penalty now; it’s the right course for a humane society.
For information on who your legislator is and how to contact that person, visit cocatholicconference.org online or call the
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The Colorado House yesterday voted 33-32 to repeal the state's death penalty. The measure now goes to the Senate. An interesting bit of drama occurred on the floor during the vote and only the Durango Herald has picked up on it, my emphases:
Debate lasted only a few minutes Tuesday, apparently because most of the 65 representatives had made up their minds. All except Ed Vigil.