In the wake of more federal executions scheduled in coming weeks, two bishop chairmen have issued a statement calling on the Administration to act as a witness to the dignity of all human life. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement:
“Sadly, we must call on the Administration yet again to stop an execution, this time scheduled on November 19. Two more are scheduled in December. We are now on pace for ten federal executions in 2020, more than double the previous record of four in 1938.
“The death penalty is not necessary to protect society. It is not necessary to hold people accountable for grave crimes. The decision not to execute someone, even someone who has done something terrible, is not ‘soft on crime’; rather, it is strong on the dignity of life. As Pope Francis writes in his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti:
‘. . . not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.’ The firm rejection of the death penalty shows to what extent it is possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of every human being and accept that he or she has a place in the universe. If I do not deny that dignity to the worst of criminals, I will not deny it to anyone (no. 269).
“We ask President Trump and Attorney General Barr, as an act of witness to the dignity of all human life: stop these executions.”
For additional USCCB statements and resources on the death penalty and the recent resumption of federal executions:
- In July of 2019, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, then-chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the administration to abandon plans to resume federal executions.
- In October 2019, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane participated in a roundtable discussion for the World Day Against the Death Penalty.
- Archbishop Coakley, Archbishop Gregory, and Bishop Dewane co-authored an op-ed in America Magazine in December 2019.
- The USCCB restated its opposition to the death penalty in an amicus curiae brief in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2020.
- Archbishop Coakley called on Attorney General Barr and President Trump to reverse course on the executions after the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeals of the death row inmates in June 2020.
- Archbishop Coakley and Archbishop Naumann issued a statement in August 2020 urging the administration to stop the executions.
- Archbishop Coakley and Archbishop Naumann issued a statement in September 2020 asking the administration to forgo the executions.
- A USCCB action alert continues to allow Catholics to raise their voices in opposition to the death penalty.