Leaders of the U.S. Bishops’ conference (USCCB) have urged the Trump administration to cease all federal executions, insisting that capital punishment is not necessary to protect society.
“We ask President Trump and Attorney General Barr, as an act of witness to the dignity of all human life: stop these executions,” wrote Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The bishops released their statement this week as more federal executions have been scheduled for the coming weeks. On Thursday, the federal government executed Orlando Hall, a man convicted of kidnapping and raping a 16-year-old Texas girl, bludgeoning her with a shovel and burying her alive.
In their statement, the bishops noted that two more executions are scheduled for December. “We are now on pace for ten federal executions in 2020, more than double the previous record of four in 1938,” they note.
“The death penalty is not necessary to protect society. It is not necessary to hold people accountable for grave crimes,” they declare. “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.”
Citing Pope Francis, the bishops state that the “firm rejection of the death penalty shows to what extent it is possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of every human being,” asserting that “not even a murderer loses his personal dignity.”
This week’s appeal for an end to federal executions follows on other similar calls from the U.S. bishops to end the practice.
In July, the bishops issued a statement noting that “Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty around the world.”
Again in August, the bishops released a declaration stating that “God created each of us in his image. “This gives each person an irrevocable dignity, despite their sinfulness.”
“Remembering the Lord’s call for mercy, we renew our plea: stop these executions!” they appealed.