By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
1:40 PM EST, February 14, 2013
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori came to Annapolis Thursday with a simple message: Repeal of the death penalty is a matter of human dignity.
In an interview with The Sun before his appearance before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee's hearing on Gov. Martin O'Malley's repeal bill, Lori said that essential dignity extend even to "human persons who do terrible things."
"Our position is there's a better way -- that life without parole is more reasonable if there's any possibility of reform and rehabilitation," he said at the Maryland Catholic Conference's office in Annapolis. "Unfortunately, we do not create a more just and humane society by taking life at any stage."
Lori was scheduled to follow O'Malley to the witness table as part of a panel with other Maryland religious leaders.
"This is a very broad interfaith, ecumenical effort," he said.
The archbishop said the Catholic church is making a all-out push to get behind the first full-fledged effort at repeal since 2009.
"There's just a sense that this has ripened and that the possibility of repealing it this year is realistic," he said.
Lori said he has discussed the issue with Catholic legislators who otherwise support church positions and knows there is resistance to its stand on capital punishment.
"The church's social teachings don't fit neatly in any one political agenda. I think that's always the case and always will be the case," he said.
Lori made a distinction between the church's positions on the death penalty and abortion, indicating that its stance on unborn life is more central to its teaching.
"Regarding abortion, we believe the child in the womb is completely innocent and completely defenseless," he said. "We're not equating the two but we're saying that even on death row a human life retains its value."
Lori, who was making his first appearance as archbishop at a Maryland legislative hearing, said he would not attempt to appeal to lawmakers with arguments about the effectiveness or costs of the death penalty but would stick to the moral questions.
"The death penalty just isn't the way," he said. "Killing does not beget peace. Killing does not beget kindness in our society."
Lori expressed sympathy for the survivors of murder victims, saying his family had lost one of its own to homicide.
"My late cousin's wife was murdered and we decided as a family the death penalty would not bring us peace," he said.