USCCB Joins Maryland Bishops in Calling Upon MD Governor to Commute Death Sentence

February 03, 2006

The following letter was sent to Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich on February 3, 2006.

Dear Governor Ehrlich:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and in solidarity with the Catholic Bishops of Maryland, I am writing to urge that you exercise your power of clemency and spare the life of Mr. Vernon Evans. It is not my intent in any way to diminish the responsibility of those who have committed terrible crimes; however, this execution can only compound the violence that already exists in our society.

As pastors who minister to both the victims of capital crimes and those who sit on death row, we strongly believe that the use of the death penalty diminishes all of us when a man or woman is killed on our behalf. In our recent pastoral statement, The Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, the U.S. bishops point out that our society should forgo the use of the death penalty for several important reasons.

• The sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human dignity.
• State-sanctioned killing in our name diminishes all of us.
• Its application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong. It is prone to errors and can be biased by factors such as race, the quality of representation, and where the crime is committed.
• We have other ways to punish criminals and protect society.

For us this is not about ideology, but a fundamental respect for life. We do not believe that you can teach that killing is wrong by killing. We do not believe that you can defend life by taking life. In his encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II challenged all followers of Christ to be “unconditionally pro life.” While this is not an easy path to follow it is a challenge to which we are all personally called.

Governor, we understand how difficult this decision is and we will continue to pray for you and all those touched by this terrible situation. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter. With every best wish, I am


Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Ph.D., D.D.
Diocese of Brooklyn
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
[email protected]