Va. General Assembly update

A priest prays with a death-row inmate in 2008 at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Ind. The churchís preferential option for the poor includes ministering to and visiting with those who are in prison. (CNS photo/Tim Hunt, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

The Virginia General Assembly passed a final version of a bill that will abolish the death penalty in the commonwealth Feb. 22. The Senate voted 22-16 to pass the legislation, which the House of Delegates then approved on a 57-43 vote, according to the advocacy group Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. There is expected to be a public signing ceremony with Gov. Ralph Northam in April.

An earlier version of the bill passed both chambers in early February. In a statement with Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge praised the decision. “We offer — and affirm the utmost need for — prayerful support for the families of victims of horrific crimes,” they said. “We also affirm, with clarity and conviction, the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: ‘(T)he death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.’”

Legislation that would expand abortion coverage in Virginia’s health exchange also is likely to be signed by Gov. Northam, who is pro-choice. The Virginia Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of Virginia’s bishops, and Bishop Burbidge have spoken against the measure.

“Replacing the current life-saving restrictions on abortion with a policy of abortion coverage in our state exchange is drastic,” said Bishop Burbidge during his Feb. 2 “Walk Humbly Podcast.” “It will result in the tragic end to more unborn lives, and additionally in poll after poll, citizens do not want their tax dollars going toward abortion.”

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