Bishops Urge Illinois to Abolish Death Penalty

Would Join Growing Number of States With Ban

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 4, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops' conference is joining its voice to that of local prelates urging Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to sign legislation banning the death penalty in his state.



Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote Quinn on Thursday.

Quinn has until March 18 to sign the legislation, which was passed almost two months ago. It will become law automatically if he declines to sign it. Quinn has stated in the past that he supports the death penalty, but there has been a moratorium on the punishment in Illinois since 2000, which he has allowed to remain in effect.

In his note, Bishop Blaire recalled, "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."

The prelate also cited the U.S. bishops' document "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death": "Even when people deny the dignity of others, we must still recognize that their dignity is a gift from God and is not something that is earned or lost through their behavior. Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts. Punishment should be consistent with the demands of justice and with respect for human life and dignity."

Thus, Bishop Blaire told Quinn that the "legislation before you would help to begin building a culture of life in our country."

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