Catholic World News

Oklahoma prelate decries death penalty following botched execution

May 02, 2014

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said that the botched execution of a man convicted of raping and murdering a child “really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether.”

“How we treat criminals says a lot about us as a society,” he said. “We certainly need to administer justice with due consideration for the victims of crime, but we must find a way of doing so that does not contribute to the culture of death, which threatens to completely erode our sense of the innate dignity of the human person and of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”

“Once we recover our understanding that life is a gift from our Creator, wholly unearned and wholly unmerited by any of us, we will begin to recognize that there are and ought to be very strict limits to the legitimate use of the death penalty,” he continued. “It should never be used, for example, to exact vengeance, nor should it be allowed simply as a deterrent. In general, there are others ways to administer just punishment without resorting to lethal measures.”

Stating that his “compassion and prayers go out especially to the family” of the murder victim, the prelate called for prayers “for all those affected by or involved in last night’s execution in any way.”

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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 05, 2014 8:35 PM ET USA

    2267 of the CCC leaves many unanswered questions: When concretely is capital punishment justified? Only after someone is already serving life and commits another crime, a murder? What about for terrorists whose incarceration becomes a cause célèbre? What about the many 'life sentences' that become something less after time passes? Are some crimes so dangerous that exemplary punishment is merited, treason for example? When positing a new rule like this, casual vagueness doesn't pass muster.

  • Posted by: geoffreysmith1 - May. 03, 2014 7:35 AM ET USA

    And all the successful executions that have taken place in the past? The ones that were not botched? Should they not be admitted as evidence that capital punishment is a reasonable mode of punishment for a dreadful crime? The period of time that elapses between sentence and execution is quite sufficient to allow the criminal to make his peace with God - assuming he has any intention of doing so. If not, no sentence at all would be able to reform him.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - May. 03, 2014 7:15 AM ET USA

    Let's make a deal with the culture: we'll make executions of murderers only applicable when they are already serving life sentences if you'll stop allowing the murder of children before they are born. Sound like a good trade? No? Then be quiet until you are ready to stop ALL executions, particularly those of the innocent.

  • Posted by: Edward I. - May. 03, 2014 1:10 AM ET USA

    Since the bishop in question is my own bishop, loyalty compels me to defend his entirely accurate analysis of the moral status of using the death penalty. These casually critical comments, relying on platitudes, irrelevancies, and comfortable labels instead of on arguments, make me very upset. As for the Church's stand on the issue itself, paragraph 2267 of the Catechism is clear and easy to understand.

  • Posted by: - May. 02, 2014 3:43 PM ET USA

    It is not the state taking of guilty life that contributes to the culture of death, it is the liberal view that fallen man is capable of judging how many more lives than one must be sacrificed before the libs agree that the threshhold has been passed. Jesus never once said to stop taking truly guilty life, the woman 'caught' in adultery doesn't count. Instead He said that He Himself came NOT to change the slightest part of the law. Guilty life is to be forfeited when it takes innocent life.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 02, 2014 12:08 PM ET USA

    Ah…, the “seamless garment” approach strikes again! I think some of these bishops should review “Dante’s Inferno” for a correction in perspective. Not to justify the agony that this poor man endured but ANY minimally legitimate penalty in this life pales before the eternal. If the bishops would balance their indignation for the suffering of the guilty with a proportionate response for the wholesale slaughter of the innocent I and others would be able to take this article more seriously.

  • Posted by: Defender - May. 02, 2014 10:28 AM ET USA

    Let the punishment fit the crime. Think of the 11 month old girl who was raped and murdered before you shed tears for the murderer.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 02, 2014 7:19 AM ET USA

    I don't follow the bishop's logic here, although I agree that capital punishment diminishes respect for life and should see only occasional use. This botched execution argues only for more efficiency, perhaps for the traditional Oklahoma method, the firing squad. Our prelates would make a far stronger case for limitations if they spelled out what those "very strict limits to the legitimate use of the death penalty" really are. I've never heard any Catholic prelate even mention them.