Statement in Support of Senate Bill 872 Regarding Death-Penalty Repeal

Statement in Support of Senate Bill 872 Regarding Death-Penalty Repeal

Presented to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

By Fr. Ty Hullinger

This statement, offered in support of Senate Bill 872, is presented on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops who serve Maryland in the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington.

Other commitments prevent the attendance today of Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden, who served as a member of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment. He has submitted a written statement to you, and asked me to convey on his behalf a personal plea to support the recommendation of his fellow Commission members to end the practice of capital punishment in Maryland.

The Catholic Church’s long-standing advocacy for death penalty repeal in Maryland reflects our consistent advocacy for laws that respect all human life – even that of the convicted criminal. It is an honor today to join our voice with the urgings of so many other faith communities, citizens groups, and even victims’ families, to urge you to finally take action this year to abolish Maryland’s death penalty.

Through my work as an inner city pastor, I feel keenly the harm that a culture of violence has wrought on our community, and recognize daily the dire need for a change in culture that can only be brought about through a genuine respect for all human life. As our U.S. Bishops have said, “We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes but for what it does to all of us as a society. … We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.” [A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty, 1999]

The teachings of our Church tell us that when other punishment options that are sufficient to protect the public’s safety are available to government, we should not resort to the death penalty, not even in the case of one who takes the life of another human being. If non-lethal means are sufficient to protect people’s safety from an aggressor, we believe that public authority should limit itself to such means, because they are more consistent with the concrete conditions of the common good, and with the dignity of the human person.

We come before you today to urge you to act not simply out of political, practical, and legal considerations. We urge you, as women and men charged with the duty of enshrining in our laws the principles of justice and the common good, to listen truthfully to the voice of your moral conscience, informed by the light of reason, and by the foundational beliefs that each of our faith communities contributes to the public square.

It is our prayer that the unprecedented agreement that unites our communities on this issue will inspire your support for Senate Bill 872, and for an end to state-sanctioned executions in Maryland.