Indiana bishops call again for an end to federal executions


Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis has issued a statement on behalf of Bishop Joseph M. Siegel and the other Indiana bishops calling again for an end to federal executions in Indiana. The nation’s only federal death chamber is part of the Federal Correctional Institute in Terre Haute. Ten inmates have been executed there since July 2020.

At press time, three federal executions are scheduled for January 2021.

Archbishop Thompson issued his latest statement on Dec 14. Here is the full text:

“As we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who came to give us life, I once again appeal to the conscience of all humanity and ask our federal government to halt the upcoming executions within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute.  (More) executions have been scheduled for December and January.

“Indiana’s five Catholic bishops, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious leaders in Indiana have respectfully appealed several times to no avail to federal officials to end federal executions since they were resumed this year after a 17-year hiatus.  Opposition to the death penalty is rooted in principles of Catholic teaching, grounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. CCC, 2267) as well as various papal and curial pronouncements.

“We must never forget the victims of violence and their families.  In fact, closely related to the Church’s pastoral care of those who have fallen victim to crime, is our moral obligation to protect and defend the dignity of every person, particularly the vulnerable.  Our concern for victims and their families must not prevent us from doing what we can to also care for the families of those who perpetrate such violence and crimes.  Regarding the death penalty, attention must also be given to its impact on those who work in the prison system with particular concern for those who are designated to carry out an execution.

“Among the various threats to human life and dignity in our society, as Pope Francis has stated, the death penalty remains “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”  In his most recent encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti (‘On Fraternity and Social Friendship’), noting that ‘arguments against the death penalty are numerous and well-known,’ the Holy Father reaffirms the Church’s commitment to calling for the abolition of the death penalty around the world:

‘Let us keep in mind that not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God

himself pledges to guarantee this.  The firm rejection of the death penalty shows to

what extent it is possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of every human being

and to accept that he or she has a place in this universe.  If I do not deny that dignity

to the worst of criminals, I will not deny it to anyone.  I will give everyone the

possibility of sharing this planet with me, despite all our differences’ (Fratelli Tutti #269).

“The death penalty, far from resolving anything or providing ‘justice’ for victims, ultimately contributes to the perpetuation of a culture of death.  The urgency of this appeal is directed toward promoting a culture of life that takes into consideration the ultimate dignity and sacredness of every person as well as society itself.  We must be committed to both prayer and action if we are to be agents of divine grace in transforming the hearts of individuals and communities to more fully embrace the sacredness of life.  I urge Catholics and all people of good will to join in the urgency of this call, as we ask the federal government to restore its moratorium on the death penalty until it can be formally rescinded.”

As Archbishop Thompson noted, the USCCB also has issued a statement calling for federal executions to end.

The statement was issued jointly on Dec. 7 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.

Catholic News Service reported that 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.

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

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.