Last night, Oklahoma’s scheduled executions of two ended badly. Clayton Lockett died a cruel and painful death, and now, Charles Warner will wait – and ponder his own torturous death – for two more weeks. Various media outlets and national organizations are calling the state-sponsored killing, which was shrouded in secrecy, “botched” and “gruesome.”
As Catholics, we believe the true measure of every institution in society is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person. This includes our criminal justice system. At Catholic Mobilizing Network, we stand against the death penalty, even for those who have affronted God’s dominion over our lives by committing murder. We stand with our Church and with Pope Francis, who reminds us that God is “in every person’s life,” even if that life “has been a disaster.” As Catholics we try to seek God in every human person.
Especially now, when execution by lethal injection is under tremendous scrutiny in the media and courts, it is also being widely criticized not only by Catholic and other faith leaders, but also within the larger medical-pharmaceutical community. Catholic support for the death penalty has sharply dropped, while more and more people of faith are examining the ethical and moral implications of the death penalty.
The botched execution of Mr. Lockett is another stark reminder to us all that life is a freely given, sacred gift from God. It should not be ended, except at the time of His choosing.