Bishops call on Trump administration to stop planned federal executions
by Matt Hadro
Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2021 / 03:34 pm MT (CNA).- In a joint statement Jan. 11, the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice chair Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, joined by pro-life chair Archbishop Joseph Naumann, called for a stop to planned federal executions on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
“We renew our constant call to President Trump and Acting Attorney General Rosen: stop these executions,” the archbishops said.
“Every person is created in the image and likeness of God, and we encourage everyone to work to rid the death penalty from our state and federal laws and to develop greater appreciation for the sacred dignity of every human life,” they stated.
Lisa Montgomery is the first woman to face federal execution since 1953, according to the New York Times; her execution is scheduled Jan. 12. Her lawyer told CNA that she asked for a commutation of Montgomery’s sentence, because of severe mental illness, brain damage, and trauma she previously suffered.
On Jan. 14th and 15th, Cory Johnson and Dustin John Higgs—two Black men—are scheduled to be executed, respectively.
The federal government executed 10 death row inmates in 2020, after a nearly-two-decade moratorium on the federal use of the death penalty. Former Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic, had announced the resumption of the federal use of the death penalty in 2019.
On Monday, the archbishops called on Congress to pass legislation abolishing the federal death penalty, and asked President-elect Joe Biden to declare a halt to the federal use of the death penalty.
“It is long past time to abolish the death penalty from our state and federal laws,” the archbishops stated.
“The terrible loss suffered by victims’ families must be considered as well. We encourage lawmakers to redirect the energy and resources that currently go towards executions to provide compassionate and professional assistance to the families of victims,” they said.
The next chair of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, said Jan. 8 that the death penalty is part of the “throwaway culture.”
“[B]asically the Church is stating the state cannot and should not exercise this power [to execute],” Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville said of recent papal statements calling the death penalty “inadmissible.”
“Although the Church didn’t dispute that the state may have that right to do for the sake of the common good, it’s simply the conditions were evaporating by which it was in any way necessary,” Flores said of St. John Paul II’s teaching.