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In an effort led by former Utah Bishop John C. Wester, Catholic clergy in New Mexico sent out a stern letter this week, unanimously opposing the governor's push to reinstate the death penalty.

Seven years ago, the state ended capital punishment, the bishops wrote in a public statement, "moving New Mexico from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, justice and love."

Now Gov. Susana Martinez is pushing for legislation to bring it back.

"We, the Catholic bishops of New Mexico, in one voice, once again echo the teaching of the church that life is sacred," says the statement signed by five bishops, including Wester, now the archbishop of Santa Fe. "We join Pope Francis in his continued call to end the practice of the death penalty."

When Wester led the Diocese of Salt Lake City and Utah's more than 300,000 Catholics, he also spoke out against capital punishment.

The death penalty "diminishes us and erodes our respect for the sanctity of all human life," Wester said in 2010. "Executing criminals will not overcome crime nor will it restore the lives of the innocent victims."

In March 2015, Wester penned a statement against Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signing a bill that made it legal for convicted murderers to be executed by a firing squad.

"It seems as if our government leaders have substituted state legislation for the law of God," he wrote. "They argue that, because executions are lawful, they are then moral. This is not so. No human law can trump God's law. Taking a human life is wrong; a slap in the face of hope and a blasphemous attempt to assume divine attributes that we humble human beings do not have."

Clearly, Wester has taken this fight with him to his new state.

Peggy Fletcher Stack