Catholic conference regrets failure of Calif. death penalty repeal

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 8, 2012 / 02:26 am (CNA).- The California Catholic Conference says it regrets the failure of a state ballot measure to repeal the death penalty, but that the effort helped to increase respect for life.

“We’re obviously disappointed that the people of California did not choose this opportunity to repeal the use of the death penalty in California,” Ned Dolejsi, Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA Nov. 7.

“We felt that the time was right to express this protection for the dignity of the human person, no matter how flawed, since we have bloodless means at our disposal to protect ourselves.”

Referendum 34 proposed to replace California's death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole. If it passed, the sentences of almost 725 convicted death row inmates would have been reduced to life in prison. It also promised to dedicate $100 million in the state budget for police agencies to solve more homicide and rape cases.

The measure failed with 52.8 percent voting against.

Dolejsi said the conference felt the ballot measure was “something that the bishops really wanted to put forward before the people.”

“We don’t get many opportunities like this in California,” he said.

“We’re very, very thankful to the thousands and thousands of Catholics who worked hard to help our culture have a little more respect for life in this scenario.”

The Catholic bishops backed Proposition 34 in a January statement, saying that the death penalty is “no longer necessary to protect the community.”

“As Catholics we hold human life as sacred. In the exercise of justice, this principle must prevail in the manner we treat one another, even for those who have done grave harm,” they said.

On another front, Dolejsi said the conference is “heartened” that a referendum strengthening prosecution for human trafficking convictions passed “overwhelmingly.” It secured 81 percent of the vote.

Californians also passed Referendum 36, changing California’s “three strikes” law to ensure that a life sentence would be given to a three-time felony offender only in the case of a serious and violent felony. The measure passed with over 68 percent of the vote.

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