By Devin Watkins
The US Department of Justice imposed a moratorium on federal executions on Thursday, as a review of its policies and procedures are ongoing.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the ban on capital punishment at a federal level, saying every person has the right to be “treated fairly and humanely.”
Dignity of all human life
In response, representatives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) welcomed the moratorium in a statement released on Saturday.
Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, upheld the Church’s teaching on the dignity of human life.
“The Catholic Church has consistently taught that every person is created in the image and likeness of God,” they wrote, “and for this reason we consistently uphold the sacred dignity of all human life.”
They added that US Bishops have long called for an end to the death penalty. “We do so in unity with Pope Francis who has also advocated for an end to capital punishment globally.”
Abolition of death penalty
The Bishops said the DoJ’s moratorium on federal executions is “a welcome step.”
“We must also tirelessly continue to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty from both our state and federal laws as we build a culture of life,” they said.
The statement concludes by recalling that US Bishops have often repeated their reasoning for opposing capital punishment.
“God created and loves every person,” they wrote, “and we should respond to this love with reverence for the dignity of every human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled, or challenged that life may seem.”
Other Catholic groups also welcomed the federal executions ban, including the Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), which works with the USCCB and is under the sponsorship of the Congregation of St. Joseph.
In a statement, CMN Executive Director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy called the federal death penalty “a flawed and morally bankrupt system that violates the sanctity of human life.”
She added that a moratorium was not enough, and that it does “nothing to redress the horrors of executions nor the excesses and inequities in the federal death penalty system.”
The CMN statement also called on the Biden Administration to commute the sentences of those on federal death row “to break these cycles of trauma and open up the possibility for healing.”