By Jack Ryan
In an ode to the Holy Father and his own father, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that he will introduce legislation to ban the death penalty in New York State once and for all.
“Today, in solidarity with Pope Francis and in honor of my father [the late Gov. Mario Cuomo], I will be advancing legislation to remove the death penalty —and its ugly stain in our history — from State law once and for all,” Cuomo said.
Earlier Thursday, Pope Francis declared that the death penalty is always “inadmissible” because it “attacks” the inherent dignity of all humans.
The new teaching, contained in Catechism No. 2267, says the previous policy is outdated and that “there are other ways to protect the common good.”
There have been no state-sponsored executions performed in New York since 1963, but the provision still exists in state law. Cuomo, who is Catholic, said it was time for the state to strike the death penalty option.
“The death penalty is morally indefensible and has no place in the 21st century,” Cuomo said.
Former Gov. Mario Cuomo also remained a staunch opponent of the death penalty during his time in office. The younger Cuomo said Pope Francis’s decision was a “validation of [his] father’s principled stand against the death penalty in the face of overwhelming support for capital punishment.”
“My father staked his political career on his opposition to the death penalty and never backed down, saying it ‘demeans those who strive to preserve human life and dignity,’” Cuomo said.
As Governor, Mario Cuomo vetoed legislation that would reinstating the death penalty 12 times in 12 years.
“He did this because he believed the death penalty was wrong and he had the courage to stand firm in his beliefs — so much so that he was willing to lose his office rather than capitulate,” Cuomo said. “Pop was right then and he is right now.”
The death penalty was reinstated in New York under the administration of Gov. George Pataki but halted by the courts in 2004.
Before the pope’s declaration, Vatican policy accepted capital punishment as just.
“Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good,” the Vatican said in a statement. “Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.”
The Catholic Church will now advocate for detention instead of execution.
“The Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide,” the Vatican said.