The chairs of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on Pro-life Activities welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 23 announcement that it would review the drug protocols of lethal injection executions in the state of Oklahoma. The court will consider whether the procedures violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
“I welcome the Court’s decision to review this cruel practice,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami. “Our nation has witnessed through recent executions, such as occurred in Oklahoma, how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing.” The court’s decision to consider the case of Glossip v. Gross, brought by three death row inmates in Oklahoma, comes after several lethal injection executions were botched, including that of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma.
“Society can protect itself in ways other than the use of the death penalty,” Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, Chair of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, said. “We pray that the Court’s review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end.” The U.S. bishops have been advocating against the death penalty for over 40 years. In 2005, they initiated the Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and continue to work closely with state Catholic Conferences, the Catholic Mobilizing Network and other groups towards the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.
The bishops join Pope Francis who in October 2014 called on Christians and all people of good will “to fight…for the abolition of the death penalty…in all its forms,” out of respect for human dignity. The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in this matter in April.