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Demonstrators protest the death penalty in Southern California Demonstrators protest the death penalty in Southern California 

US Bishops appeal to Administration to reverse course on Federal executions

Archbishop Paul Coakley, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, calls on the US Administration to reverse course on presiding over Federal executions for the first time in 17 years.

By Vatican News

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of federal death row prisoners who had challenged the government’s lethal injection protocol, paving the way for the Trump Administration to carry out the first executions at the federal level in nearly two decades.

The high court’s denial means that the government can proceed with four executions starting this month. 

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City released a statement reiterating the call made last July for the Administration to reconsider its decision and reverse course.

The Chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development's statement on Tuesday decries the US Attorney General’s decision to set new federal execution dates for four federal death row inmates beginning July 13.

“As articulated to the Supreme Court in another case earlier this year,” Archbishop Coakley states, “the bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for decades.” 

Papal appeals

He notes that Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty around the world. 

“As Pope Francis articulated through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the death penalty is unacceptable as an affront to the Gospel and to respect for human life,” he says.

The Archbishop also recalls that at their June 2019 meeting, the Catholic Bishops of the United States voted overwhelmingly in affirmation of this position.

“Two of my brother bishops and I wrote. . . last year: ‘To oppose the death penalty is not to be “soft on crime.” Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life.’ To this end, I implore Attorney General Barr and President Trump to abandon this path to preside over the first federal executions in 17 years,” he concludes. 

The high court’s denial means that the government can proceed with four executions starting next month. Daniel Lee is scheduled to be executed on July 13; Wesley Purkey and Daniel Honken on July 15 and July 17; and Keith Nelson on August 28. 

The men, who are currently housed in the high-security federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, have been on death row between 16 and 22 years. The US government plans to use a single dose of pentobarbital to put the inmates to death. 

01 July 2020, 11:54