WASHINGTON (March 7, 2006)—In a letter to Senator Sam Brownback, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio expressed gratitude for the recent hearing on the death penalty and urged that additional hearings be convened in the near future.
Bishop DiMarzio is Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Senate Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights, chaired by Senator Brownback, recently held a hearing called An Examination of the Death Penalty in the United States.
In his opening remarks at the hearing, Senator Brownback said: "If use of the death penalty is contrary to promoting a culture of life, we need to have a national dialogue and hear both sides of the issue. All life is sacred and our use of the death penalty in the American justice system must recognize this truth."
"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agrees with you in this important standard," Bishop DiMarzio wrote. "As you know, the bishops of the United States oppose the use of the death penalty precisely because we believe that all life is sacred and because we believe that the use of state sanctioned executions is contrary to the culture of life that our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, called us all to bring about."
"As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights, you have begun an important dialogue on the sanctity of human life and the integrity of our criminal justice system that must continue, especially in light of the signs that many are reconsidering these issues," Bishop DiMarzio wrote.
"Our Bishops' Conference fully believes that those who commit terrible violent crimes must be incarcerated, both as just punishment and to protect society," the Bishop
said. "We stand in solidarity with victims and their loved ones. However, when it comes to matters of life and death, morality and common sense call for careful safeguards in applying an irreversible punishment and a full public debate on whether or not we should continue to use the death penalty in our country."
Thanking Senator Brownback for his leadership, Bishop DiMarzio urged additional hearings on the death penalty in the near future. "We look forward to working with you on this issue of life and death and would welcome an opportunity to participate in this process," he stated.
Bishop DiMarzio enclosed with the letter a copy of A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, a statement which the Catholic Bishops adopted overwhelmingly last November.