Catholic bishop calls for repeal of the death penalty | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 4, 2015

Catholic bishop calls for repeal of the death penalty

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 9:52 AM

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Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock writes in Arkansas Catholic to urge the governor and legislature to repeal the death penalty, prompted by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request that Gov. Asa Hutchinson set executions for eight men on Death Row. He urges Hutchinson to commute the death sentences for all on Death Row and, in the interim, schedule no executions.

Taylor writes that he and his family took shelter in a service station that was struck by gunfire the day Charles Whitman went in a tower on the University of Texas campus and opened fire. He was a priest in Oklahoma City the day of the federal building bombing and conducted funerals for two of the victims. He also escorted a condemned in Oklahoma to his death.

So I have experienced the death penalty from the side of innocent victims and the side of criminals executed, and what is violated in both cases is the sanctity of life: either by the criminal or by the state. I know you often hear Catholics talk about the sanctity of life in the context of abortion, so today I need to emphasize two obvious things: 1) life does not cease to be sacred once the baby is born, and 2) no one will be fully secure until we reject everything that threatens human life or degrades human dignity.

A passage on the Oklahoma City bombing defendants was interesting.

Practically everybody knew someone who had died. We felt some relief when the bombers were arrested and convicted, knowing that they would never be in a position to do that again. Terry Nichols was given life without possibility of parole. Timothy McVeigh was condemned to die, which actually turned out to be counterproductive: it made him something of a hero to some anti-government, white-supremacist groups to the point that for several years we had to live with heightened security every April 19 for fear of copy-cat bombers.

Far from making us safer, his execution exposed us to greater danger because violence begets more violence, regardless of whether the killer is a Timothy McVeigh or the state of Oklahoma. By contrast, his accomplice, Terry Nichols is paying for his crimes in prison, a nobody, unable to inspire even white supremacists.

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