The auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver represented the Colorado Catholic Conference at the hearing.
January 27, 2020
An effort to repeal the death penalty in Colorado was advanced out of a Colorado Senate legislative committee on Monday evening, after hours of testimony including from Denver auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez.
Bishop Rodriguez testified that even people who have committed horrible crimes are not outside of Christ’s mercy.
“The Catholic Church has long taught that every person, whether they are unborn, sick, or sinful, has a God-given dignity that cannot be erased or taken away. Yes, it can be marred, but it cannot be blotted out in the eyes of God,” said Bishop Rodriguez.
Below is Bishop Rodriguez’s full testimony:
“Thank you, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for allowing me to be here to speak in favor of repealing Colorado’s death penalty.
Many of us know the scene from the end of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus speaks about the final judgement. In his words about those who are welcomed into heaven, Jesus explicitly mentions visiting those who are in prison. And when his followers objected that they hadn’t visited him in prison, Jesus says, “‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Mt. 25:40).
I mention this because it’s clear that even those who committed horrible crimes and are in prison are not outside of Christ’s mercy. In fact, he counts them as his “least brothers.”
The Catholic Church has long taught that every person, whether they are unborn, sick, or sinful, has a God-given dignity that cannot be erased or taken away. Yes, it can be marred, but it cannot be blotted out in the eyes of God.
This is not an easy thing to accept, but it is true. That is why in August 2018, Pope Francis publicly stated:
“Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.
In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.
Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person…” (New CCC 2667).
It is understandable that the family of a victim might feel like justice is being served by the murderer being executed, but the reality is that only God can offer true justice in eternity.
Besides the fact that it cannot offer healing to victims and their loved ones, the use of the death penalty only adds to the cycle of violence. What are we teaching our children? If we as a society accept the idea that it’s possible for someone to lose their human dignity and be executed, then it is only a short step to say that certain classes or types of people belong to this less-than-human group. History has shown that this is not outside the realm of possibility.
The Catholic Church, many other Christians and many other people of faith believe that human life is sacred from conception until natural death. We believe that, because God made us in his image and likeness, it is not possible to lose the dignity that confers to our lives. We are, as Jesus said, his brothers and sisters, even if we have committed great crimes or sins.
For these reasons, the Catholic Church stands in favor of repealing the death penalty in Colorado. Thank you all for your kind attention and may God bless each of you.”
Archdiocese of Denver