Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has welcomed Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf's decision on Friday to effectively establish a moratorium on the death penalty in the state due to the flawed nature of the system.
The moratorium “will remain in effect until the governor has received and reviewed the forthcoming report of the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment,” Wolf's office announced Feb. 13.
“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,” Wolf stated. “Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, 150 people have been exonerated from death row nationwide, including six men in Pennsylvania.”
Archbishop Chaput praised Wolf for his decision, saying, “I’m very grateful to Governor Wolf for choosing to take a deeper look into these studies and I pray we can find a better way to punish those who are guilty of these crimes.”
“Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief and they rightly demand justice,” Archbishop Chaput continued.
“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.”
The advisory commission will study the effectiveness of capital punishment, and Wolf said the moratorium would be in place until “all concerns are addressed satisfactorily.”
Wolf, a Democrat, took office on Jan. 20. This morning he granted a temporary reprieve to Terrance Williams, who was to have been executed March 4.
As each death row inmate's execution is scheduled, Wolf will grant a reprieve, but not a commutation, his office stated. More than 180 persons are on the state's death row.
“Today’s action comes after significant consideration and reflection,” said Wolf. “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.”
Archbishop Chaput had also praised a Philadelphia judge in 2012, when he stayed Williams' scheduled execution, sending the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In his Sept. 10, 2012 column, the archbishop noted that even convicted murderers “retain their God-given dignity as human beings” and that “we don't need to kill people to protect society or punish the guilty.” He added that “we need to end the death penalty now” saying it does not heal or redress wounds, “because only forgiveness can do that.”
Several US states have moved away from capital punishment in recent years. In total, 18 states have abolished capital punishment.