MIAMI SHORES, Fla. — Although plenty of family members of Nikolas Cruz's victims seem to favor the death penalty for the Parkland school shooter, a recent column to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Miami urges them to reconsider.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski on Friday wrote a column for Florida Catholic magazine condemning the death penalty as Cruz's punishment.
His message was published in advance of Wednesday's hearing in which Cruz pleaded guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
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Wenski's message to Catholics was clear: "Why insist on the death penalty?"
"Standing with the families of murder victims does not compel us as a society to seek another death in return," Wenski wrote. "Their pain cannot be wiped away and the loss of life of their loved ones cannot be restored by another death."
Wenski went on to write that Cruz "is no longer a threat to society at large."
"A sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole is a severe and just punishment that also allows for continued reflection on the grave harms he caused," Wenski wrote. "Perhaps the state sees Mr. Cruz's execution as just retribution and fitting revenge. Maybe so, but does not this only serve to further the cycle of violence which continues to harden the hearts and minds of even our youngest members?"
By pleading guilty, Cruz must now wait for a jury of 12 to unanimously decide whether he should die for his crimes or spend the rest of his life in prison.
Many family members of the murdered victims attended Cruz's hearing and said afterward that they want their loved one's killer to be executed.
Wenski, who noted that he presided at the funerals of two of the victims, said the act of murder "is a heinous crime "cries to God for justice."
"There is no question that Mr. Cruz's actions were heinous," Wenski wrote. "The victims are forever gone to us. Their families and all those who fearfully witnessed this abhorrent act of bloodshed will forever be scarred by it. … Their loss is incomprehensible. They want justice -- and justice can be served by accepting a guilty plea with life imprisonment."
Wenski concluded that a life behind bars "would serve the common good of all by helping break our society's spiral of violence, for an 'eye for an eye' mentality will just end up making us all blind."