To reiterate his opposition to the death penalty, Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, released the following statement about multiple executions scheduled in Arkansas.
I join with Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Arkansas and other faith leaders in the region in calling for the Governor of Arkansas to halt the remaining executions scheduled for this week.
A judge has deemed one of the drugs the state uses in executions to cause a ‘substantial risk of serious harm’ so the state will not have access to it as of April 30. The governor, in an attempt to use what the state has on hand, scheduled eight executions in 10 days. One execution has already taken place and several more are set for later this week, including a double-execution set for Monday. This does not represent the pursuit of justice.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued a statement on these scheduled executions April 13. “The schedule of executions was not set by the demands of justice, but by the arbitrary politics of punishment. The state’s supply of a sedative is expected to expire at the end of the month, and so, in a dark irony, a safeguard that was intended to protect people is now being used as a reason to hasten their deaths,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice and committee chairman wrote.
As Catholics, we believe in the dignity of life in all its stages. Execution does not allow room for conversion nor does it provide healing to crime victims, their families or our communities.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2017
Bishop Kopacz: Don’t expand death penalty, end it
As the State of Mississippi’s Legislature debates the expansion of methods in support of the resumption of capital punishment, (H.B. 638) we respectfully submit the perspective and teachings from our Catholic faith that promote the abolition of the death penalty. We encourage and pray for a more comprehensive debate that calls into question our assumptions the moral legitimacy of the death penalty in the state and in our nation.
If, however non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority ought to limit itself to such means as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with dignity of the human person. Today the state, by rendering one who has committed the offense incapable of doing harm, without definitively taking away from him or her the possibility of redemption, the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity, are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
– Catechism of the Catholic Church 2267
When dwelling on legal and moral arguments concerning the death penalty, we should do so not with vengeance and anger in our hearts, but with the compassion and mercy of the Lord in mind. It is also important to remember that penalties imposed on criminals always need to allow for the possibility of the criminal to show regret for the evil committed and to change his or her life for the better. We do not teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill others. Saint Pope John Paul II has said the penalty of death is both cruel and unnecessary. Likewise, the antidote to violence is not more violence.
It has been nearly a year since our Catholic community suffered the tragic murders of Sister Paula Merrill, SCN, and Sister Margaret Held, SSSF, who served at a medical clinic in Holmes County. Immediately, in the midst of their profound loss, both the religious communities to which they belonged and their families stated time and again that they are opposed to the death penalty as a further assault against human dignity. We wholeheartedly agree.
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson