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Lawmaker Claims Church Teaching Changed His Vote

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer A Colorado Congressman says it was the preaching of Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput that made him cast the deciding vote in favor of repealing the death penalty in that state. According to a report by the Durango Herald, debate over a bill to repeal the death sentence lasted only a few minutes in Colorado’s House of Representatives on Tuesday. Most of the 65 representatives had already made up their mind – except for Rep. Ed Vigil. The freshman Democrat sat watching the House's electronic board tally the vote until it came down to a 32-32 tie. Vigil, a former district attorney's investigator, had supported the death penalty, believing it to be a useful deterrent to crime. However, as he sat staring at the tally, realizing his vote would decide the issue, his conscience was pricked. He began to think about the moral appeals he had heard in Church, particularly those preached by Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver. Archbishop Chaput discussed the Church's position on the death penalty in a recent column in the Denver Catholic Register. In it he said that Church teaching involves “a call to set aside unnecessary violence, including violence by the state, in the name of human dignity and building a culture of life." "In the wake of the bloodiest century in history," Archbishop Chaput said, "the Church invites us to recover our own humanity by choosing God’s higher road of restraint and mercy instead of state-sanctioned killing that implicates all of us as citizens." Likewise, he quoted John Paul II, who points out in his Gospel of Life, that "the nature and extent of the punishment [for capital crimes] must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity; in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society." The late Pope noted that "today however, as a result of steady improvements to the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent." The Archbishop stressed that "In modern industrialized states, killing convicted murderers adds nothing to anyone’s safety. It is an excess."   He also said that "for John Paul II, the punishment of any crime should not only seek to redress wrong and protect society. It should also encourage the possibility of repentance, restitution and rehabilitation on the part of the criminal. Execution removes that hope." All of these arguments weighed on the freshman lawmaker's mind as a long pause ensued on the floor of the chamber. House members rose and looked toward Vigil who was seen to bite his lip and run a hand through his hair just before reaching across the desk to cast his vote. He hit the green button for “yes.” The death penalty repeal passed by a 33-32 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate where another close vote is expected. If it passes, Colorado will become the 16th state, along with the District of Columbia, to abolish the death penalty. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace. http://www.womenofgrace.com

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