By Maria Wiering
ANNAPOLIS – Archbishop William E. Lori testified to support repeal of Maryland’s death penalty Feb. 14 in back-to-back committee hearings in the state’s Senate and House of Delegates.
“At the core of all of (the Catholic Church’s) public witness is an evident consistency that reflects our reasoned belief that every human life is sacred and to be protected, because every life comes from God, and is destined to return to God as our final judge,” he said.
Archbishop Lori said that view motivates the church’s laws protecting life from conception to natural death, and compels him to advocate against Maryland’s death penalty.
Archbishop Lori’s testimony followed that of Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, who also spoke in support of the repeal bill he introduced. Other Maryland officials also testified as part of the governor’s panel.
The death penalty hearings were the first time Archbishop Lori has personally testified before the Maryland legislature. He spoke before members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary committees.
The archbishop told lawmakers there are many “worthy arguments” for death penalty repeal, but that the faith community’s perspective “goes beyond these issues.”
“While those who have done terrible harm to others deserve punishment, we urge a response that meets evil with a justice worthy of our best nature as human beings, enlightened by faith in the possibility of redemption and forgiveness,” he said.
Archbishop Lori told the Catholic Review that the issue affects him personally, as the wife of a now-deceased cousin was murdered “years ago.”
His family did not seek capital punishment because they did not expect it to bring them closure, he said.
The incident has been in his mind as he has pushed for death penalty repeal in the state, he said.
“Once it touches your family, it gives (the issue) a little more impetus,” he said. “It’s closer to home.”
In his testimony, Archbishop Lori expressed “respect and compassion” for victims’ families, and urged lawmakers to devote more resources to helping them.
“I hope my presence today conveys to you a sense of how important this issue is to the Catholic Church,” he said.
Archbishop Lori is aware that not all Catholics agree that the death penalty should be repealed, and he told the Catholic Review that he urges those who disagree “to look at the reasonable position that the church is offering.”
“We also have the example of Blessed John Paul II, who many times intervened before the execution of someone on death row. I think that should also speak powerfully to us,” he said.
Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden also attended the hearings, although he did not testify. He said he hoped his presence also signified his support for repeal.
In 2008, Bishop Madden sat on the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, which ultimately recommended death penalty repeal. He said that many of the questions asked by legislators during the hearing were addressed by the panel and included in their final report.
Archbishop Lori was to testify with a panel of religious leaders, but his testimony was moved ahead in the schedule in both hearings to accommodate his afternoon flight to Arizona, where he will be meeting with the Knights of Columbus. Archbishop Lori serves as the fraternal organization’s supreme chaplain.
Copyright (c) Feb. 14, 2013 CatholicReview.org