Bishops Laud Illinois Abolishment of Death Penalty

Note Advocacy of Respect for Human Life

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops are commending all those who worked for the successful abolishment of the death penalty in Illinois.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the law on Wednesday banning the death penalty in his state.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) congratulated the Illinois bishops, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty, and all other advocates who supported this effort.

Kathy Saile, director of USCCB Domestic Social Development, stated, "These advocates have worked tirelessly to ensure that Illinois joins the growing momentum to turn away from the use of the death penalty in our country."

Illinois is the 16th state to ban the death penalty, and the fourth since 2007. It is also banned in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote Quinn on March 3: "Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have called for the end to the use of the death penalty as a sign of greater respect for all human life."

Referencing the U.S. bishops' document "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death," the prelate added, "Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts."

He affirmed, "Punishment should be consistent with the demands of justice and with respect for human life and dignity."

Culture of life

The bishop noted that passing this law would contribute to "building a culture of life in our country."

In response to this move by the governor, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the public policy arm of the Church in that state, noted that this law will also "direct funding to services for victims' families and for law enforcement training."

It continued: "As we begin the Lenten season on this Ash Wednesday, and we reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus and the mystery of his death and resurrection, there is no better time for this landmark law to be approved."

"The end of the use of the death penalty advances the development of a culture of life in our state," the communiqué affirmed.

It added, "Furthermore, society will continue to be protected and those who commit crimes will still be held accountable through alternatives to the death penalty, including life without parole."