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Will the Pope Weigh In?

Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Frederick) was widely seen last year as the swing vote on the Maryland Senate committee that killed a proposed repeal of Maryland's death penalty.

Mooney has a conservative record but as a Catholic found himself wrestling with a bill that called for abolishing capital punishment and replacing it with life without parole. The legislation is back this year and faces long odds again, with Mooney still the deciding vote.

He says he's still wrestling. He has lately joked with colleagues that Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Washington in April could push him over the edge. If the Catholic leader, an opponent of the death penalty, were to tap him on the shoulder and personally share his views . . .

"If he called, I'd be honored to talk to him," Mooney said. "Obviously, it would be an important conversation. But it's academic to speculate, because I don't think I'm going to get the call."

The Washington Archdiocese has invited Mooney and other Catholic lawmakers in Maryland to take VIP seats at the pope's Mass on April 17 at Nationals Park.

Richard J. Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said he's not sure that church teachings can change Mooney's mind, despite the opposition of two popes to capital punishment. "If that's not enough for Senator Mooney, I'm not sure whether a personal visit from Benedict the 16th will convince him."

Dowling added, "We'd be out of session anyway."

By Anne Bartlett  |  March 10, 2008; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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