February 3, 2007
With death penalty at a crossroads, legislature should enact moratorium
On Tuesday the Council of State is scheduled to consider North Carolina's
execution protocol. As the Catholic bishop of Raleigh I urge the council to
defer this matter to the General Assembly and for the General Assembly to
declare a moratorium on the death penalty in this current session. This
critical issue needs a careful and thorough investigation.
At issue are two points. First, should capital punishment be permitted in
North Carolina? Second, what safeguards must be in place should the state
decide to execute someone.
In answer to the first point, I note that since 1980 the Catholic bishops of
the United States have taken a strong and principled position against the
use of the death penalty. We oppose the use of the death penalty not just
for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but also for how it
negatively affects society. Executions fail to reconstruct justice and to
bring forth reconciliation. Instead, the use of the death penalty fosters
revenge and plants seeds of further violence.
Our late beloved Pope John Paul II, viewed as a beacon of morality across
the religious spectrum, clarified the moral imperative for contemporary
society when he said "Today, given the means at the State's disposal to deal
with crime and control those who commit it, without abandoning all hope of
their redemption, the cases where it is absolutely necessary to do away with
an offender are now very rare, even non-existent practically.
I grieve for the victims of heinous crimes and for the suffering these
crimes inflict on the victims' families. As a Catholic, I am also compelled
by the gospel of Jesus Christ to work for the redemption of the criminal,
forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
This leads me to my second point. Since North Carolina continues to allow
executions as a form of punishment, I urge the General Assembly to declare a
moratorium on capital punishment.
This would in effect, at least, install better safeguards to prevent those
innocent of a capital crime from being falsely convicted. A moratorium would
further assist us in considering the rights of those who have not been
justly prosecuted because of racial or class bias, mental illness or other
There is too much killing in our world. We must commit ourselves, not to a
culture of death, but to the defense of a culture of life. The increasing
reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us, increases disrespect for
human life and offers the tragic illusion that we can teach that killing is
wrong as we continue to kill others. It is time to "choose life then, that
you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Most Rev. Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Raleigh
Source : The News & Observer