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US State of Colorado moves towards abolishing death penalty

The Bishops of Colorado have voiced their support for a bill abolishing the death penalty, as the proposal makes its way through the state legislature.

By Francesca Merlo

The US State of Colorado is making moves towards to abolition of the death penalty. After five previously failed attempts, a bill set to repeal the death penalty appears to be moving closer to becoming law. It started on January 31st when 19 lawmakers voted in favour, and 13 against, bill SB20-100 – which, if ratified definitively, could put an end to the death penalty for crimes committed in the State as of 1 July.

The local Bishops were amongst the first to show their support for this move, and in a statement, thanked the senators who "supported this important legislation".

"The Catholic Church has long taught that every person, whether unborn, sick or sinful, has a dignity, given by God, that cannot be erased or torn away. It can be defaced, of course, but never erased in the eyes of God", said the auxiliary Bishop of Denver, Jorge Rodrigues.  “If we, as a society accept the idea that it is possible for someone to lose their dignity and be executed, then it will be a short step to affirm that certain types of people belong to groups with a lower level of humanity. And history has shown that this is not outside the realm of possibility,” he added.

Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo backed him, saying "The death penalty seems to offer a sense of justice in the short term, but in reality it does nothing more than add further violence and eliminate any possibility of conversion", not only for the guilty, but also "the victims and their families". Keeping hatred alive against those who hurt us deeply "is tempting," he explained, but in reality, this attitude "consumes the lives of those who let hatred linger in their hearts.

Bill SB20-100 is now due to be examined by the House of Representatives, with a democratic majority; if approved here too, it will then have to be signed by the governor, Jared Polis, who is also a Democrat. Legal since 1859, the date of the first execution, the death penalty in Colorado is currently imposed by lethal injection. There are now three prisoners on death row; however, in recent years, state judges have always chosen to impose life imprisonment without possibility of parole instead of capital punishment.

In August 2018, Pope Francis approved an amendment to the text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church relating precisely to the death penalty. "The Church teaches in the light of the Gospel," reads the document, “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

06 February 2020, 15:12