Letter to The Honorable David A. Welch on the House Bill 1422
January 10, 2006
The Honorable David A. Welch, Chairman
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee
Room 204 - The State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301
RE: HB 1422
Dear Representative Welch and Committee members,
As the Moderator of the Curia for the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester (the Diocese of Manchester), I write and appear today before your Committee to express the strong support of Bishop John B. McCormack and the Diocese of Manchester for House Bill 1422.
In addition to this written testimony, I have provided each Committee member with a copy of the most recent publication of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding this issue. It is entitled “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.” I have also provided brief excerpts from other teaching documents of the Roman Catholic Church, hoping that these will be helpful as you reflect on this important social and moral issue.
Simply stated, there is no reason for the existence or use of the death penalty in a modern society that seeks to serve the common good, including our own in New Hampshire. As the most recent statement by the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States points out
The sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human life and dignity;
State-sanctioned killing in our names diminishes all of us;
[the application of the death penalty] is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime is committed;
We have other ways to punish criminals and protect society.1
This brief overview of the compelling reasons that have emerged in the last several years make it clear that the call in 1980 by the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops to abolish the death penalty was prophetic. The legacy of our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, gave further credence to this effort. The hallmark of his pastoral work was his desire to teach the dignity of
all human persons. His work at the dawn of the 21st century compelled us all to launch into a deeper understanding of the need to foster respect for all human life by acknowledging the virtual absence of any compelling need for a death penalty in modern society. Since then legislators, jurists, attorneys, ministers, surviving families of victims of violent crime — literally people of every race, language and way of life — have cried out for an end to the death penalty.
In addition to the above noted summary of the compelling social and moral reasons for supporting this legislation, I would point out that the “fiscal notes” of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Judicial Council, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Corrections all make it clear that the elimination of the death penalty is in the best fiscal interest of the State of New Hampshire.
In closing, I would note that New Hampshire is a wonderful place to live for many, many reasons. I urge you to improve our wonderful reputation as a “first state” in a nation that celebrates freedom and liberty by removing this significant flaw in our social fabric. Your vigorous endorsement of HB 1422, and your effort to ensure its passage in the General Court, can only make New Hampshire a better place for us all.
Assuring you of my esteem for your efforts in public service and my daily prayer for your good works, I remain
/s/ Edward J. Arsenault
Moderator of the Curia