August 16, 2012
The Roman Catholic Bishops of both Montana dioceses (George Leo Thomas of the Helena Diocese and Michael W. Warfel of the Great Falls Billings Diocese) are very supportive of the Montana Abolition Coalition’s efforts to abolish Montana’s death penalty. They have directed the Montana Catholic Conference to play a leading role in the abolition effort and have testified multiple times before the judiciary committees. Bishop Thomas wrote an article recently in which he acknowledged the fact that the death penalty has recently become a vital issue to the Catholic Church and that some Catholics wonder about the Church’s commitment to ending the death penalty:
“The thoughtful Catholic struggles with the seeming shift in Catholic teaching, and must ask the question: Why, in recent years, has the abolition movement gained so much momentum? Why has the Catholic magisterium become increasingly vocal in opposing the practice of capital punishment? Why has the Universal Church, in its revision of the Catechism, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while not ruling out capital punishment altogether, radically shifted the Church’s approach to this highly charged topic?”
He then goes on to explain why the Montana Catholic Conference’s abolition efforts are so vital and in line with Catholic teaching by referencing the teachings of Cardinal Avery Dulles: “In our day,” Cardinal Dulles wrote, “a new recognition of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human person has dawned.” Bishop Thomas then lists several of Dulles’ arguments against the death penalty and shares the result:
“Placing all of his arguments in the balance, Cardinal Dulles came to his conclusion: ‘The pope and the bishops, using their prudential judgment, have concluded that in contemporary society, at least in countries like our own, the death penalty ought not to be invoked because, on balance, it does more harm than good. I personally support this position as a responsible prudential judgment in the current situation.’”
Bishop Thomas then concludes with the following charge: “As citizens and their legislators in the State of Montana struggle to understand the grave moral dimensions of death penalty legislation, I hope they find Cardinal Dulles’ prayerful and scholarly analysis and authoritative Church teaching informative and, more importantly, transformative.”
Here in Montana, we are grateful for the vital support, leadership, and strong direction from our Bishops as we work to end Montana’s death penalty.
To read Bishop Thomas’ statement in its entirety, click here.
This article first appeared in CMN’s August 2012 newsletter.