It is Done. Let the Light Shine!
Maryland Repeals the Death Penalty
Catholic Conference Urges Against Signing Repeal Petition
The Catholic Church in Maryland celebrated the signing of Maryland's death penalty repeal bill by illuminating the Baltimore Basilica on Thursday, even as repeal opponents scheduled an announcement regarding plans to petition the bill to referendum the next day. Read full release here.
Since May 2, the light of life shines brightly in the state of Maryland. The darkness of state-sponsored executions has ended with the death penalty repeal legislation’s signing into law.
“This is a historic moment for Maryland as we become the 18th state to eliminate the death penalty,” said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “In honor of this joyful moment and long-sought victory to end the death penalty in our state, the Basilica in Baltimore will be lit at dusk and will shine overnight for Maryland.”
The Catholic Church in Maryland has long sought an end to capital punishment in our state, and played a critical role in passing legislation to end the executions of juveniles (1987) and those with mental disabilities (1989). We believe the sentence of life without the possibility of parole is a just and sufficient means of protecting citizens while also respecting human life.
In 2008, the blue ribbon Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment recommended that the state repeal the death penalty. The 23-member commission found in its months-long review that there is a “real possibility” of executing innocent people and that the application of the death penalty in our state is racially and geographically biased. While lawmakers did not end executions in our state, they did make progress in ensuring that innocent individuals are not sentenced to death. In 2009, the General Assembly approved, and the governor signed, a law that allowed the death penalty to be pursued only in cases where there is DNA evidence, a videotape of the crime in progress, or a voluntary, video-taped confession.
Baltimore Basilica illuminated in honor of Maryland death penalty repeal
The interior and exterior lights of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore were lit at dusk on May 2, 2013 and remained illuminated overnight in honor of the Thursday signing of legislation repealing Maryland’s death penalty.
Archbishop William E. Lori testified in support of the legislation to repeal the death penalty at hearings in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates. Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden served on the 2008 Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment.
The Basilica, whose cornerstone was laid in 1806, opened in 1821 as the first Catholic cathedral in the United States. It served as the lone Cathedral church of the Diocese of Baltimore from 1821 to 1959, the year the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen opened and the two were designated co-cathedrals.
Community of Sant’Egidio, Rome, Italy
Maryland abolishes the death penalty
From the Baltimore cathedral to Rome: A victory for the worldwide movement for a justice that respects life. The Community of Sant’Egidio joins the celebration for the signing of the law abolishing the death penalty, which will take place in Baltimore at 18.30 Rome time. Maryland is the sixth U.S. state in six years to abolish capital punishment.
2 May 2013. Today is a special Thursday for Maryland, for the United States and for the world. Today at 10:30 a.m. local time (18.30 in Italy), Governor O’Malley will sign into law SB276, which abolishes the death penalty in Maryland.
Maryland becomes the sixth U.S. state since 2007 to exclude the death penalty from its laws, following similar measures in New Jersey, New Mexico, New York state, Illinois, and Connecticut. This movement brings to 18 the number of U.S. states that have opted for a system of justice that respects life in every circumstance.
For years, the Community of Sant’Egidio has worked alongside American abolitionists and, with the City of Rome, will celebrate this great victory by lighting up the Colosseum in a special way.
This is a great victory that has progressively won the support of a significant majority of Maryland citizens. Several attempts to pass a law abolishing capital punishment failed by just a few votes. Following the approval by the Senate and the House last March -- with a final vote in the House of 82 to 56 -- the official signing of the law is part of an important season for efforts to abolish the death penalty throughout the United States. Gov. O’Malley has long been a supporter of the proposal and has said the resources saved thanks to the abolition of capital punishment will be used to help the families of murder victims. This is unlike what was contemplated in the proposal for a referendum in California to ban capital punishment; the measure would have devoted the justice system’s savings to police and other public safety measures.
The Maryland law was supported by several associations of victims’ families and by the entire Catholic Church. Baltimore Archbishop William Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Denis J.Madden testified in hearings against capital punishment and were part of the special commission set up before the legislature began working to dialogue with the public and lawmakers. Many political and religious leaders joined them in the work.
Kirk Bloodsworth and Shuja Graham, who were freed from death row after their innocence was recognized, and Vicki Schieber, a Maryland citizen whose daughter was brutally murdered in Philadelphia in 1988, all gave moving testimonies about their opposition to capital punishment so as not to increase the number of innocent victims and to move away from an erroneous sense of justice as vengeance and compensation for the victims’ families. “Do not kill again in our name,” “The death penalty is a failure; it only adds death to death and should be abolished,” they said.
On the occasion of the governor’s signing the new law, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has announced it will illuminate in a special way the outside and the inside of the Baltimore cathedral, the Basilica of the Shrine of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has served as the cathedral since 1821 and is the oldest cathedral in the United States. The signing of the law is a victory for life, strongly supported by the U.S. Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which will symbolically become a member of the Cities for Life movement.
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If non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.