Pennsylvania bishops welcome death penalty moratorium

by Soli Salgado

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf declared a moratorium on the state's death penalty Friday, and Catholic bishops welcomed the action.

Wolf, a Democrat who campaigned on implementing this moratorium, said halting these executions will remain in effect until he has reviewed the report on the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment. The purpose is to examine a variety of questions concerning the death penalty, including how it's carried out, its constitutionality, and if it reduces crime.

"Today's action comes after significant consideration and reflection," Wolf said in a statement Friday. "This moratorium is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes."

"This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust and expensive."

With 186 inmates on Pennsylvania's death row, each will receive temporary reprieve as their executions are scheduled, reported NPR, until concerns raised by the task force are addressed. The state's last execution was in 1999.

Terrance Williams, whose execution was scheduled for March 4, was the first to be granted temporary reprieve.

"We are thankful to Governor Wolf for effectively establishing a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania," wrote Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh in a press release.

"Catholic teaching affirms the dignity of every human person from the moment of conception until the last breath of natural life. No one is excluded, not even criminals who have committed a heinous act. God's love and mercy is offered to all."

Archbishop Charles Chaput also released a statement, adding that "turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims."

"But killing the guilty does not honor the dead nor does it ennoble the living. When we take a guilty person's life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture and we demean our own dignity in the process."

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