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February 10, 2021
The death penalty is cruel, unjust, full of racial injustice, and turns us into killers as well. We must abolish it.
Photo credit: Bryan Woolston | Reuters
Lawmakers In Virginia Vote To Abolish The Death Penalty -via NPR

The Virginia House and Senate have both approved landmark legislation to abolish the death penalty in the commonwealth and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam says he plans to sign the bill into law once it reaches his desk.

Opponents of the death penalty cite the high cost, the possibility of executing the innocent, and the disproportionate racial impact. Almost half of the people Virginia executes are Black, although Black residents only account for roughly 20% of the state's population.
Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Do not kill,
–Exodus 20:1-2:13 (CEB)
“Prisoners are human persons who, despite their crime, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They need our care. I draw the attention of society's leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.” You might imagine these words were written by a bleeding-heart liberal like me, or one of the other contributors to The Resistance Prays. If so, you’d be wrong. In fact, they are the words of the famously conservative Pope Benedict XVI, a theologian whose election to the papacy was seen as a victory for the most reactionary and traditionalist elements in the Roman Catholic Church.

Virginia’s legislators voted nearly along party lines on the death penalty abolition bill - only two Republicans broke ranks and voted with the Democrats. But despite the ways in which the right of the state to murder human beings has become a partisan issue, the morality of the death penalty is an issue where progressives can find common cause with those conservatives who, like the Catholic Church, understand capital punishment to be a denial of the sanctity of human life.

The retributive violence of the death penalty is incompatible with our faith’s call to love, justice, and forgiveness, not to mention with the example offered by our Savior, himself a victim of the death penalty. As Virginia joins the majority of the majority in not practicing this inhumanity, we can all work and pray for an end to the death penalty nationwide.
By the time former President Trump left office, he had overseen the most executions of any President within the last century, rushing in his final weeks in office to have thirteen of our fellow human beings killed. Last month, a group of Democratic congresspeople urged President Biden to commute the sentences of the 49 remaining prisoners on federal death row. Contact the White House to join your voice with theirs and ask President Biden to immediately commute all federal death sentences.
Merciful One, we ask your blessing on all we do to build a culture of life. Hear our prayers for those impacted by the death penalty.
We pray for all people, that their lives and dignity as children of a loving God may be respected and protected in all stages and circumstances.
We pray for victims of violence and their families, that they may experience our love and support and find comfort in your compassion and in the promise of eternal life.
We pray for those on death row, that their lives may be spared, that the innocent may be freed and that the guilty may come to acknowledge their faults and seek reconciliation with you.
We pray for the families of those who are facing execution, that they may be comforted by your love and compassion.
We pray for civic leaders, that they may commit themselves to respecting every human life and ending the use of the death penalty in our land.
Compassionate Mother, give us wisdom and hearts filled with your love. Guide us as we work to end the use of the death penalty and to build a society that truly chooses life in all situations.
We ask this, Holy One, through our sibling and savior Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

(US Conference of Catholic Bishops, adapted)
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