OLYMPIA – The Catholic bishops of Washington state submitted testimony Tuesday in support of Senate Bill 5339, which seeks to repeal the death penalty and require that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole become the sentence for aggravated first degree murder convictions.
“Our country’s legal system is far from perfect when it comes to imposing the death penalty,” said Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain in a statement released February 5 by the Washington State Catholic Conference. “This past fall, our state’s Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional as it had been implemented in an arbitrary and racially-biased manner. Senate Bill 5339 removes the unconstitutional language and moves Washington state towards greater justice and respect for life at all stages.”
The bishops have long been on record as opposing capital punishment, while stating their deep concern for families and loved ones of victims of violent crimes. “All citizens have the right to be protected from those who commit the crime of murder,” said Archbishop Sartain. “The act of murder cries out for an appropriate punishment, but the death penalty merely adds violence to violence, perpetuating an illusion that taking one human life for another can somehow balance the scales of justice.”
The Catholic Church’s consistent belief that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death has energized the bishops’ efforts for decades to abolish the death penalty.
The Catholic bishops of Washington state are Archbishop Sartain and Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel Mueggenborg of Seattle, Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane and Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima.
The Washington State Catholic Conference is the public policy voice of the state’s bishops.