Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Catholic News ServiceDecember 07, 2020
President Donald Trump listens to Attorney General William Barr

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Federal executions are at odds with Advent as a season "of anticipated redemption" and must be stopped, said the chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' domestic policy and pro-life committees.

"This Advent, the Lord comes to love us even though we don't deserve it. Let us repent and embrace his gift," the committee chairmen said in a Dec. 7 statement.

They called on President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr to "stop these executions" in "recognition of God's unmerited gift of self-giving love." "Executions solve nothing," they said.

The statement was issued jointly by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

They noted three bishops' committee chairmen issued a similar statement in Advent 2019 and that the bishops as committee chairs and as a body have urged the Trump administration to halt federal executions since they resumed them in July 2019.

"We've asked many times to stop the federal executions," Archbishop Coakley and Naumann said. "In fact, last Advent, three bishops wrote that the resumption of federal executions was at odds with this season of anticipated redemption.

"But the executions resumed. Eight since July. Two more this week (of Dec. 7). Three (planned) in January. A new regulation will permit federal execution by means other than lethal injection, such as the electric chair."

They called on Trump and Barr, who is Catholic, to recall God's mercy during Advent.

"What does the birth of our Lord say to this? The Lord comes not to destroy, but to save," Archbishops Coakley and Naumann said. "For the Second Sunday of Advent, we hear St. Peter counsel that the Lord ‘is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance' (2 Pt. 3:9). Can we follow the Lord's example?"

They added: "We are all sinners. Some have done terrible things. Victims need help. Justice is needed for peace. But executions solve nothing."

On Nov. 27, the Justice Department published a final rule change, effective Dec. 24, to add to the execution methods it uses for federal death sentences, permitting it to use "any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed."

The proposed change was announced in August and posted on the Federal Register for public comment. It calls for alternative means for federal executions if the lethal injection drug is not available in the state where the defendant is given the death sentence.

In July 2019, the Trump administration announced the resumption of federal executions and Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions for five federal inmates, with all taking place in the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

That month, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, then-chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the administration to abandon its plans to resume federal executions.

Eight federal inmates have been executed this year. The most recent was Orlando Hall, who was put to death by lethal injection just before midnight Nov. 19, about an hour after the Supreme Court denied him a stay.

In a response issued that same day, Archbishops Coakley and Naumann called on Trump and Barr to stop federal executions "as an act of witness to the dignity of all human life."

Two more are scheduled to take place in December: Brandon Bernard, Dec. 10; he was convicted of murdering married youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley in 1999; and Alfred Bourgeois, Dec. 11; he was convicted of abusing, beating and torturing his 2-year-old daughter to death in 2002.

Lisa Montgomery was scheduled to be put to death Dec. 8 for being convicted of strangling a pregnant woman then cutting her open and kidnapping her baby. On Nov. 23, a judge ruled to postpone her execution until Jan. 12. She would be the first female to be executed in almost six decades.

Barr also said Nov. 23 that the Justice Department plans to carry out more executions before president-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20.

More stories from America:
-Pope Francis closes the door on the death penalty in ‘Fratelli Tutti’

-10 reasons to oppose the death penalty
-Read: An exclusive essay by Pope Francis on a ‘personal Covid,’ his exile in Argentina

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

A Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, by Father Terrance Klein
Terrance KleinJuly 24, 2024
The world's tallest cross dominates the scene above a Spanish Civil War cemetery and memorial in the Valley of the Fallen (renamed the Valley of Cuelgamuros) near Madrid, pictured in October 2019. (CNS photo/Emilio Naranjo, pool via Reuters)
Spanish media reports that the ministry of culture is drafting a law that will expel monks. But that task will not be easy. The 21 monks do not wish to leave their monastery,
Bridget RyderJuly 24, 2024
Those who knew Father Norman Fischer said the priest’s easy ability to model the love of Christ and build bridges—sometimes through a beaming selfie or a fist bump—was legendary.
The realization that a younger person is more fit, more alert, more capable, more relevant, more suited to the job one has long done is not fun. We baby boomers can relate.
Valerie SchultzJuly 24, 2024