Pennsylvania bishops urge halt to execution


Pennsylvania's Catholic bishops have appealed to Gov. Ed Rendell to do whatever is within his power to stop the execution of George Banks, scheduled to take place today.

Although a stay of execution was issued by the Commonwealth Court Nov. 30, the execution may still take place as scheduled depending on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling. This being the case, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has submitted a letter of appeal to the governor yesterday.

In the letter, the bishops urge Rendell to "do everything in (his) power to prevent the execution of Mr. Banks." They add: "Punishment should reflect the belief in the inherent human dignity of each person."

The bishops’ position on the death penalty is nothing new. They made their opposition to the death penalty clear in their 2001 statement, “The Death Penalty: Choose Life.”

In it, the bishops refer to the teaching of the Catholic Church on capital punishment, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "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."

In the statement’s conclusion, the bishops write: "We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes but for what it does to all of us as a society.

“Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders,” they continue. “The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.”

Banks would be the first person executed in Pennsylvania since 1999.

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