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CNA Staff, Aug 27, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).-  

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Thursday criticized the federal government for its continued use of the death penalty, which the Justice Department resumed this summer after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.

“The Church’s opposition to the death penalty is clear, and we have made many requests that the federal government should not resume these executions. Yet, not only has the government done so, they have scheduled even more executions. After the first three in July, there are two this week, and two more at the end of September,” the U.S. bishops said in an Aug. 27 statement.

“Remembering the Lord’s call for mercy, we renew our plea: stop these executions!”

The statement was signed by Archbishop Paul Coakley, chair of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the pro-life committee.

On Wednesday, the federal government executed a Navajo man convicted of a double murder, Lezmond Mitchell, despite the objections of the Navajo Nation, on whose territory the crime took place. A federal judge on Thursday halted a federal execution scheduled for Friday, saying that the government’s protocol for lethal injections is a violation of federal law.

Three people were executed by the federal government in July, despite requests to President Donald Trump for clemency, issued by faith and political leaders, including requests from the Archbishop of Newark and the Archbishop of Indianapolis.

On July 7, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders stated.

In a June interview, the president confirmed his support for federal executions. “I am totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is,” Trump said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the death penalty “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

Until this summer, there had been no federal executions since 2003.

In July 2019, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons would resume federal executions for the first time in nearly 20 years, and named five people who would be the first group of federal death row inmates to be executed.

The U.S. bishops have repeatedly asked the government to discontinue federal executions.

In June, Coakley issued a statement saying “I reiterate the call made last July for the Administration to reverse course.”

“As articulated to the Supreme Court in another case earlier this year, the bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for decades,” he said.

“Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty around the world.”