Annapolis, Md. — Catholics in Maryland are welcoming the repeal of the death penalty in the state as a step towards a culture of life that respects the dignity of all human persons, from conception to natural death.
“As Catholics we recognize the intrinsic dignity of every human life, said Linda Brenegan, respect life program director for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“Repealing the death penalty acknowledges in law that value (of every human life) — even of those who have degraded themselves by committing serious crimes,” she told CNA.
“Could Maryland now begin to move toward acknowledging the obvious dignity of the most innocent among us — the child in the womb? We hope, pray and work for that day,” she continued.
On March 15, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a measure to repeal the death penalty, following the state Senate’s passage of the same bill. Gov. Martin O’Malley, who introduced the bill in January, has strongly supported it and promised to sign it into law.
When the legislation takes effect, Maryland will become the 18th state to end the practice of the death penalty, replacing capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Opponents of the measure have not stated whether they will continue to oppose the repeal, but they do have the option of bringing it to a referendum for the state’s citizens to vote on it before it goes into effect.
Pro-life advocates are applauding the measure as an important part of fostering a coherent defense of all of human life.
“We are grateful to the many members of the General Assembly who considered this issue with great deliberation over the last two weeks, and who followed their conscience in supporting repeal and the value of all human life,” said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference in a statement.
The conference emphasized that the “Catholic Church teaches that a consistent ethic of life demands respect for the dignity of every human life, including those of criminals on death row.”
“The test of whether the death penalty can be used is not the gravity of the offense, but whether it is absolutely necessary to protect society,” the statement said.
Sylvia “Cookie” Harris of Maryland Right to Life told CNA that “as a Catholic I feel that the repeal of the death penalty is a good thing.”
Harris now hopes that the renewed respect for the lives of prisoners will lead to a culture that respects the unborn.
She explained that going forward, she is hopeful that “all of the effort, and time and resources focused on ending the death penalty will now be refocused on ending abortion in Maryland.”