Death Penalty Repeal Among Catholic Conference’s Priorities in Maryland

February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013 — Maryland stands ready to become the sixth state in six years to repeal the death penalty. As Maryland’s General Assembly convened in January, the Catholic Church in Maryland continues to stand for the vulnerable members of our society and to advocate for the human dignity of all:

“This session, hope is high that Maryland will finally repeal the death penalty,” said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “We believe the sentence of life without the possibility of parole, which is already available in Maryland, is a just and sufficient means of protecting citizens while also respecting human life. Our bishops have been very vocal and active and believe that this is the year the governor and legislators will join together and ban capital punishment.”

The Maryland Catholic Conference is buoyed by media coverage highlighting Archbishop William E. Lori visiting the state capital urging repeal of the death penalty as a matter of human dignity. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun before his appearance before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee’s hearing, Archbishop Lori said that essential dignity extend even to “human persons who do terrible things.”

“Our position is there’s a better way—that life without parole is more reasonable if there’s any possibility of reform and rehabilitation,” he continued. “Unfortunately, we do not create a more just and humane society by taking life at any stage. Regarding abortion, we believe the child in the womb is completely innocent and completely defenseless. We’re not equating the two but we’re saying that even on death row a human life retains its value.”

Archibishop Lori went on to explain, “The death penalty just isn’t the way. Killing does not beget peace. Killing does not beget kindness in our society.”

CMN’s Vicki Scheiber, whose daughter Shannon was brutally murdered in 1998, is working hard to call attention to the victims’ families in the Maryland repeal effort. Vicki has spoken with many legislators and testified at numerous hearings about her story and pushing for passage of Maryland’s repeal bill, titled “The Death Penalty Repeal and Appropriation of Savings to Aid Survivors of Homicide Victims.”

Speaking about her daughter’s murderer, she told The Washington Post, “We didn’t want him put to death. This wasn’t the way we were going to find peace and closure.”

If you are a Maryland resident, send a message for the state legislature to pass the bill with no amendments. And help send a big thanks to all legislators who sponsored it.

For more information, visit CMN’s Maryland page or the Maryland Catholic Conference website. You can also view a recent interfaith Religious Unity Day to End the Death Penalty held in Annapolis in which CMN participated.

This item first appeared in CMN’s February 2013 newsletter.