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Colorado abolishes death penalty, draws praise from Catholic leaders


Jason Connolly | AFP

J-P Mauro - published on 03/26/20

The new law comes at a time when support for the death penalty is on a downward trend.

Governor Jared Polis has made Colorado the 22nd U.S. state to do away with the death penalty when he signed bill SB 20-100, on Monday. In the same action, Polis went on to commute the sentences of three death-row inmates to life without the possibility of parole, which has become the state’s most severe punishment.

The move has Catholic leaders applauding the action. Colorado is the third state to abolish the death penalty since Pope Francis revised the Catholic Catechism in August 2018. The revisions state in no uncertain terms that the practice of the death penalty is “inadmissible” in all cases. The Catholic Church is opposed to the death penalty on the grounds that it disregards the human dignity that all people should be afforded, no matter their transgression, and because it prevents the condemned from making penance for their crimes.

Crux reports that Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, hailed the action as, “a critical step toward respecting the dignity of human life.” Vaillancourt went on to state:

“Catholic Mobilizing Network believes that no matter the harm one has caused or suffered, each person ought to be treated with dignity and have the opportunity for redemption and healing,” she continued. “Today, Colorado makes that possible.”

Similarly, the Colorado Catholic Conference released a statement commending the state’s lawmakers:

“We thank Gov. Jared Polis for signing this historic piece of legislation, and we commend the many state senators and representatives who worked hard to make this important change to our state law.”

Ignatian Solidarity Network reports that during the debate, Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez of Denver testified before both the State House and Senate, where he commented on behalf of The Catholic Bishops of Colorado:

“The Catholic Church has long taught that every person, whether they are unborn, sick, or sinful, has a God-given dignity that cannot be erased or taken away. Yes, it can be marred, but it cannot be blotted out in the eyes of God.”

The new law comes at a time when support for the death penalty is on a downward trend. Although there are still technically 28 states that can deliver a death sentence, 10 of these states have not delivered such a sentence in over a decade. Pew Research Center notes:

California’s last execution took place in 2006. The other states that have capital punishment but haven’t used it more than a decade are New Hampshire (last execution in 1939); Kansas (1965); Wyoming (1992); Colorado and Oregon (both 1997); Pennsylvania (1999); Montana, Nevada and North Carolina (all 2006); and Kentucky (2008).
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