Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of the anti-death penalty advocacy group Catholic Mobilizing Network, said in a statement that Virginia’s repeal “signifies the growing consensus that capital punishment is a flawed and morally bankrupt system that violates the sanctity of human life.”
“From the pews to the pulpit, many Virginia Catholics were persistent advocates who paved the way for the commonwealth’s abolition of the death penalty,” Vaillancourt Murphy said.
The Catholic Mobilizing Network said Virginia has “a long history of slavery, lynching, and systemic racism,” and the modern death penalty system in the United States “is a direct byproduct of these legacies of racial violence.”
“We are hopeful that Virginia’s repeal will signal to other southern states that the death penalty is an immoral and racist relic,” Vaillancourt Murphy said.
Although Catholic groups including the Virginia Catholic Conference praised Wednesday’s action, they have criticized Northam in the past for his efforts to expand abortion in the state. Northam signed abortion bills in both 2020 and 2021, the former signing taking place on Good Friday.
Northam also sparked a national controversy in 2019 when, during a radio interview on a bill legalizing some third-trimester abortions, he infamously appeared to defend infanticide. Northam said that under the proposed legislation, if a baby was delivered alive following a botched abortion, a “conversation” should ensue between the mother and doctor about whether to attempt to administer care while the baby would be “kept comfortable.”
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told CNA in an interview that she is thrilled by Northam’s death penalty repeal, and she hopes he will adopt a consistent position on the sanctity of human life.
“As a Virginia resident, I hope we’re paving the way for other states to follow,” Day said. “I think this is really good news.”
Day said her group is “pro-life for the whole life” and that capital punishment “has no place in a pro-life society” - but neither does abortion.
“Violence is never the answer,” Day said. “We would urge him [Northam] to bring some consistency to his position and join us in protecting life from womb to tomb. It’s not consistent of him to protect some lives but not others.”
Anti-death penalty advocates recently told EWTN News In-Depth that they hope a federal ban on the death penalty is within reach, since President Joe Biden is the first sitting president to publicly oppose the practice.
(Story continues below)
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This article was updated on Wednesday afternoon to include the statement by Archbishop Coakley.