(Source: CD/Vatican News)

The US Bishops called on President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr to stop the federal use of the death penalty ahead of more executions this week.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Archbishops Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, denounced that since July this year there have been five executions in the United States.

That’s more than were carried out in any year in the last century.

On Tuesday, the federal government executed William Emmett LeCroy, who was convicted of raping and murdering a 30-year-old nurse in Georgia 19 years ago. He was sentenced to death in 2004.

On Thursday, Christopher Vialva is due to be executed for shooting a man dead near Fort Hood, Texas, in 1999, when he was a teenager. His mother has appealed to President Trump to spare her son’s life.

The archbishops stated that as a Church, “we must give concrete help to victims of violence, and we must encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence.”

“Accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process,” they added.

Both archbishops acknowledged that “responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society.”

But they also pointed out that “executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all articulated.”

In July this year, the US Supreme Court declined to take up the case of federal death row prisoners who had challenged the government’s lethal injection protocol.

This paved the way for the Trump administration to carry out the first executions at the federal level in nearly two decades.

Following that decision, Archbishop Coakley told Vatican News that he was saddened by the move, adding that he didn’t think there was “any situation in which the death penalty is justifiable.”

The archbishop also underlined that the Church “has been working ardently for years to combat not only the federal government’s but also state government’s use of the death penalty.”

In August, Lezmond Mitchell and Keith Dwayne Nelson were put to death following the US Supreme Court’s decision.

Three other people were executed over the course of four days in July.

More on Novena on the Church’s opposition to the death penalty:

US: Opposition grows to Catholic award for Attorney General William Barr, who directed restart of federal executions

US Bishops reaffirm opposition to death penalty: “Even a person who has sinned terribly does not forfeit their human dignity”

US Bishops cry to government on death penalty: “Remembering the Lord’s call for mercy, we renew our plea: stop these executions!”

“Devalues the sacred dignity of human life”: US Catholics denounce execution of only Native American on federal death row


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.