Cuomo Invokes Pope in Advancing Legislation to Abolish Death Penalty

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Outgoing New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D.) / Getty Images
August 3, 2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) announced this week he would advance a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state "in solidarity with Pope Francis."

Pope Francis decreed on Thursday that the death penalty was "inadmissible" in all cases, and the Catholic Church would work "with determination" to see the practice ended around the world. Church doctrine formerly accepted the death penalty in some instances if was "the only practicable way" to defend life.

Cuomo, who penned an op-ed against capital punishment in 2004 for theĀ New York Times, tweeted out a story about the Vatican's decision along with his own announcement.

"The death penalty is a stain on our conscience. Today, in solidarity with Pope Francis and in honor of my father, I will be advancing legislation to remove the death penalty from NY law once and for all," he tweeted on Thursday.

Cuomo's full statement invoked the work of his famous progressive father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, reading:

Pope Francis's decision is a validation of my 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.'

As Governor, Mario Cuomo vetoed legislation 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. Pop was right then, and he is right now.

The death penalty was reinstated in New York under the Pataki administration but halted by the courts in 2004. In his final years, my father continued to advocate for eliminating the law from the books, calling it a 'stain on our conscience.' Today, in solidarity with Pope Francis and in honor of my father, I will be advancing legislation to remove the death penalty -- and its ugly stain in our history -- from State law once and for all.

Just last month, however, Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to defending abortion rights by announcing New York State would sue if the Supreme Court rolled back or repealed the landmarkĀ Roe v. Wade decision. The Catholic Church opposes abortion and defines it as a grave sin.

His brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, also reacted to the Pope's announcement.

Noting the cross-section of voters in America who oppose abortion but support the death penalty, the new primetime host admonished pro-life people to be consistent about their views from conception to natural death, as well as to treat people equitably with regard to their economic status.