By Vatican News staff writer
Bishops in the US have reiterated their calls for an end to the death penalty, as the government speeds up the pace of federal executions in the last days of the Trump presidency.
Five executions have been scheduled in the upcoming weeks before President-elect Joe Biden’s 20 January 2021 inauguration. If the five go off as planned, thirteen executions will have been carried out since July.
Chairman of the US Bishops Domestic Justice and Human Development Committee, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma, said in an interview with CBSN on Thursday, that the Church is opposed to the use of the death penalty and that the trend of the resumption of federal executions is very concerning.
Likewise, the Bishops Conference of Indiana said that it recognizes “the pain and evil caused by those on death row” and prays that “the families and victims of these crimes have comfort and healing.” However, the Bishops insist that to “teach that murder is wrong by allowing the government to commit murder is not only wrong, but irrational.” They added that “the most recent encyclical from the Holy Father, Pope Francis, reaffirms the Church’s commitment to calling for the abolition of the death penalty around the world.”
Another statement released on Monday by US Bishops’ Conference Committee chairman on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City and Archbishop Coakley called for an end to the executions, highlighting the resumption of federal executions was at odds with this season of anticipated redemption – Advent.
Federal executions resumed this week with one slated for Thursday and another for Friday.
Brandon Bernard, the ninth federal death-row inmate to be executed in 2020, was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday evening at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana after the Supreme Court denied a stay of his execution.
He was convicted for his role in the June 1999 kidnap and murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley, a couple who were Christian youth ministers from Iowa. Despite not being identified as the gunman who fatally shot the couple, Bernard was accused of buying the lighter fluid and setting the couple’s car on fire with them in it. Bernard was eighteen years at the time.
Bernard’s attorneys say that some of the jurors have come forward to attest that they are no longer in support of the death penalty in the case. The attorneys also claim that some evidence that could have changed the outcome of Bernard’s sentencing was hidden.
Bernard’s co-defendant, Christopher Vialva was executed in September.
Several celebrities, pro-life activists, politicians and renowned personalities advocated for a commutation of Bernard’s sentence but their calls to the Trump administration were to no avail.
President Donald Trump is the first US President to resume federal executions in nearly two decades. Bernard’s execution is the first to be carried out during the presidential period between an election and an inauguration in over a century.