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Viewpoint: Deny Dover’s death-dealing bills

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Spring, nature’s season of rebirth and growth, has taken on a deadly aspect in Dover’s Legislative Hall with the introduction of three bills this session that focus on ending lives in Delaware.

One bill, Senate Bill 5, would officially make the Federal legalization of abortion part of the Delaware code of laws. The move might seem redundant, but the bill is intended to create back-up law for the First State to invoke, should the Supreme Court ever reverse its 44 years of rulings regarding Roe v. Wade.

Bishop Malooly, in a statement on SB5, has reiterated in his opposition to the measure. He stated on May 1 that the right to life is the first and most fundamental human right, that abortion denies God’s gift of life and dignity to the most vulnerable, and that “the life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and every condition. This applies to the unborn as well as the sick, the elderly and those on death row.” Read more »

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Pope: Spirit helps church see wrongs in death penalty, slavery

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Faith is a journey guided by the Holy Spirit, who helps the church grow in understanding the sinful nature of once-accepted practices like slavery and the death penalty, Pope Francis said.

While people once even used religious reasons to justify practices such as slavery, the death penalty and “wars of religion,” over time the Holy Spirit has deepened the church’s understanding of the Gospel, the pope said May 11 in his homily during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Slavery “is a mortal sin; today we say this. Back then, some would say that this could be done because these people did not have a soul,” he said. The number of people enslaved today is “even more, but at least we know that it is a mortal sin. The same goes for the death penalty; for a time, it was normal. Today, we say that the death penalty is inadmissible.”

Reflecting on the day’s first reading in which St. Paul recounts God’s works throughout history, Pope Francis said the Lord “guides his people in good times and in bad times, through freedom and slavery.”

Like the people of Israel, he said, God also guides the church along the path toward the fullness of time “with many saints and many sinners; between grace and sin.”

It is those saints, some well-known and others who are “hidden,” who “clarify faith and clarify morals,” the pope said.

However, Christians who choose to stop along the path “become a prisoner in a stable, like a donkey,” and end up not deepening their faith and understanding God’s love in their own lives, he said.

Individually, he said, each person also is moving toward the fullness of their own time, the point when they die and come face to face with the Lord.

When Catholics go to confession, he said, they should consider not only the shame they feel for their sins, but they should recognize that confession as another step they need to make in preparation for meeting the Lord.

“Asking God’s forgiveness is not automatic,” he said.

By understanding their sins and asking God for forgiveness, Christians will discover that they are part of “a people on the way and that one day, perhaps today, tomorrow or in 30 years, I will find myself face to face with that Lord who never leaves us alone, who accompanies us on the way.”

“This is the great work of God’s mercy,” he said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Bishop Malooly’s letter to priests decries anti-life bills in Dover

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On May 3, Bishop Malooly wrote a letter to priests of the Diocese of Wilmington regarding three bills introduced this legislative session in Dover that would: codify in state law legalized abortion; amend the state’s death penalty statute in order to restore capital punishment; and legalized physician-assisted suicide.

The following is the text of the bishop’s letter to priests on Wednesday: Read more »

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Voters reject nearly all measures on issues of Catholic concern

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In this year’s election, voters went against nearly all of the ballot initiatives backed by Catholic leaders and advocates, except the referendums on minimum wage increases and gun control measures.

Voters passed an assisted suicide measure in Colorado and voted in favor of the death penalty in three states and in favor of legalized recreational marijuana in four states and against it in one. They also voted for minimum wage increases and gun control measures in four states. Read more »

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Florida Supreme Court: Juries must be unanimous in death penalty verdicts

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) — In an Oct. 14 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court said the death penalty cannot be imposed unless the jury is unanimous in supporting such a sentence.
The 5-2 ruling puts Florida in line with most other states that require unanimous jury support for the death sentence. It also struck down a newly enacted state law that allowed a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 of 12 jurors recommended it. Read more »

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Candidates’ faith draws attention at vice presidential debate

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In opening remarks during the vice presidential candidates’ debate Oct. 4, each candidate alluded to faith, but they didn’t return to how their beliefs influenced their political views until the last 10 minutes of the night. Read more »

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New Mexico bishops oppose plan to reinstate death penalty there

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Catholic bishops of New Mexico in an Aug. 18 statement said they oppose Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s plan to reinstate the death penalty and called on the Legislature to reject it.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is seen in Los Alamos, N.M., in this 2011 file photo. New Mexico's Catholic bishops renounce her call to reinstate the death penalty. (CNS photo/Larry W. Smith, EPA)

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is seen in Los Alamos, N.M., in this 2011 file photo. New Mexico’s Catholic bishops renounce her call to reinstate the death penalty. (CNS photo/Larry W. Smith, EPA)

The bishops recalled that when the Legislature in March 2009 repealed “the morally untenable practice of the death penalty,” they applauded the move, calling it a milestone that was “moving New Mexico from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, justice and love.”

“The state created life in prison without the possibility of parole. This renders a perpetrator harmless to society,” they said.

“In one voice, (we) once again echo the teaching of the church that life is sacred,” the New Mexico bishops said. “There is one seamless teaching on God’s gift of life that must be protected from conception in the womb to natural death. It is always tragic and sad when a member of the community is murdered.

“These senseless acts must be prevented by calling for systemic change in society beginning with our youngest children. Crime can be prevented, and this is done by an investment in social capital,” they said.

On Aug. 17, Martinez said she will push for reinstating the death penalty during the 2017 legislative session. She was prompted to call for resuming capital punishment after the recent shooting of a Hatch police officer. She said she supports the death penalty at least for convicted child killers and those convicted of murdering law enforcement officers.

She supported a measure to reinstate the death penalty shortly after she was elected governor in 2011, but the bill died in Democratic-majority Legislature.

The New Mexico bishops quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. John Paul II in saying that cases where it is “an absolute necessity” for the state to employ the death penalty to ensure the safety of the community “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

We join Pope Francis in his continued call to end the practice of the death penalty,” the bishops said. “Pope Benedict and St. Pope John Paul II both worked diligently to end the death penalty throughout the world. The trend in the United States has now been to abandon the use of the death penalty. In the last five years, five states have passed legislation to repeal their death penalty law.”

The statement was signed by Archbishop John C. Wester and retired Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe; Bishop Oscar Cantu and retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces; and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup.

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Death penalty fosters revenge, not justice, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Use of the death penalty is an unacceptable practice that sows vengeance and does not bring justice to the victims of crime, Pope Francis said. Read more »

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Delaware high court debates death penalty, but I.H.M. parishioner has already decided

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For The Dialog

 

LEWES – While Delaware’s judicial system studies the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty statute and the legislature haggles over whether the state should even have such a law, Kristin Froehlich views the issue from a personal perspective.

Twenty-one years ago, her 22-year-old brother, David, and four of his friends were shot to death in a dispute with a landlord over a bounced rent check in Redding, Conn. The landlord, Geoffrey Ferguson, set the apartment afire in an attempt to cover the crime. Read more »

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Supreme Court rules Florida’s death penalty system unconstitutional

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 12 said the state of Florida’s death penalty system is unconstitutional because it allows judges, rather than juries, to determine whether a convicted criminal should get a death sentence.

The U.S. flag flies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington in this file photo from May 18, 2015. (CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

The U.S. flag flies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington in this file photo from May 18, 2015. (CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

Michael B. Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops in Tallahassee, said the conference was “pleased this decision was issued so promptly” on what was the first day of Florida’s 2016 legislative session.

“This should compel the Legislature to address the issue immediately,” he said in a statement emailed to Catholic News Service.

Ruling 8-1 in Hurst v. Florida, the high court said that the state’s “capital sentencing scheme” violates the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Writing for the majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the amendment, which guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, “requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.”

The case is named for Timothy Lee Hurst, convicted of the 1998 murder of his manager at a Pensacola, Florida, fast-food restaurant. In Florida, the jury plays an advisory role, deciding if the defendant is eligible for the death penalty, then a judge determines whether that sentence should be imposed.

In Hurst’s case, a jury in 2000 decided 7-5 in favor of putting him to death. He was granted a new sentencing hearing on appeal, and the jury again recommended a death sentence. A judge again found the facts necessary to sentence Hurst to death, and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed that decision.

Hurs’s lawyers in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court argued his sentence violated the Sixth Amendment.

According to an AP story, the Supreme Court returned the case to the Florida Supreme Court, which now must review Hurst’s sentence and determine if he should get a new sentencing hearing.

Justice Sam Alito was the lone dissenter in the ruling. He said that Florida judges are simply reviewing what juries in such cases have already decided.

According to Sheedy, Florida’s Catholic conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, “has long identified the need to address Florida’s flawed death sentencing scheme despite our position that life imprisonment without parole is an alternative that keeps society safe and renders the death penalty unnecessary.”

“Florida currently requires unanimous verdicts in every case in which juries are summoned, with the exception of sentencing someone to death,” he continued in his statement to CNS. “We urge the Florida Legislature to respond to this decision by passing legislation which requires juries, as a collective body and conscience of the community, to be unanimous in the finding of aggravating circumstances and in recommending death over life imprisonment.”

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