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Bishop Rodriguez testifies in debate to repeal death penalty in Colorado

The Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee voted Jan. 27 to advance a bill to repeal the death penalty in Colorado in a 3-2 decision.

Among the many who testified in the six-hour debate was Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez, who reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s teachings on the dignity of life and Christ’s mercy.

“The Catholic Church has long taught that every person, whether they are unborn, sick, or sinful, has a God-given dignity that cannot be erased or taken away,” Bishop Rodriguez told the committee. “Yes, it can be marred, but it cannot be blotted out in the eyes of God.

“…even those who committed horrible crimes and are in prison are not outside of Christ’s mercy. In fact, he counts them as his ‘least brothers.'”

The bishop noted that while the families of victims may feel that justice is being served in the act of capital punishment, “the reality is that only God can offer true justice in eternity,” he said.

Bishop Rodriguez argued that the use of the death penalty speaks to a deeper problem of the rejection of human dignity, one that can open the floodgates to dangerous implications.

“Besides the fact that it cannot offer healing to victims and their loved ones, the use of the death penalty only adds to the cycle of violence,” he said. “What are we teaching our children? If we as a society accept the idea that it’s possible for someone to lose their human dignity and be executed, then it is only a short step to say that certain classes or types of people belong to this less-than-human group. History has shown that this is not outside the realm of possibility.”

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A similar bill was expected to pass during last year’s legislative session, and had the Church’s and bipartisan support as it does this year, but it failed.

Colorado has executed a total of 101 people in its history, all of them males found guilty of murder. Yet, the state has only executed one person — in 1997 — since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1975. Presently, three men are on death row in Colorado. If this bill passes, it would apply to any sentencing after July 1.

Featured image by Mark Haas

Aaron Lambert
Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.

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