.- Bishop George Thomas of the Diocese of Helena, speaking on behalf of both he and Bishop Anthony Milone of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, spoke out Monday in favor of a new bill before Montana lawmakers which could eradicate the death penalty statewide. House Bill 561 would replace the death penalty in Montana with life imprisonment and no chance of parole for those crimes currently punishable by death.
Bishop Thomas, in a statement to lawmakers noted that while Catholic social teaching acknowledges that, “the state has the right to take the life of persons guilty of extremely serious crimes”, that “this principle cannot be overshadowed by the Church's consistent belief in the dignity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death.”
He also cited Church teaching that, “If ... non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good, and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person."
The bishop concluded his statements by asking the House Judiciary Committee, “to favor the higher ground provided by this bill and take ‘the road less traveled' and send this bill to the full House for further debate and ultimate approval.”
Erik Schiedermayer, head of the Montana Catholic Conference commented to CNA that while House Bill 561 still needs to make it out of committee and into the House, that he and others are very excited. “This might be the session where we abolish the death penalty in Montana.”