Praying for Mercy: Reflections on Glossip v. Gross

April 13, 2015

Supreme Court (1)By Becky VanPool, Parish Engagement Director of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City

The Supreme Court has issued a stay for three Oklahoma death row inmates, Richard Glossip, John Grant, and Benjamin Cole, in order to review a challenge against the use of the sedative midazolam, which has been used in executions in Arizona, Ohio, and Oklahoma.  The case will be argued in April and decided by late June.  This review follows a year after convicted killer Clayton Lockett’s flawed execution caused him prolonged suffering before his death.

In the wake of legal challenges and moral aversion to the death penalty, there are legislators in Oklahoma who believe that finding more options to execute a person serves the best interest of the people. On April 9th, the Oklahoma Senate unanimously approved a bill that would allow execution by “nitrogen hypoxia” if the current lethal injection procedure is found to be unconstitutional. Our message continues to be that executions, by their nature, are cruel and unusual. As lawmakers debate a moral way to commit an immoral act, Oklahoma’s reputation deteriorates before the county and the world.

Faith leaders continue to be a guiding light in the darkness of such public discourse. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City recently called for rejection of the use of the death penalty in Oklahoma.  Coakley asked Catholics to fight against the use of the death penalty, which continues to promote violence in response to the violence that is committed.  “Let us pray together that the court’s review will lead to a recognition that this form of institutionalized violence against persons is not in the best interest of the state, and is ultimately harmful to society because it further erodes respect for the dignity of the human person,” said the Archbishop. Recently, a Baptist minister brought the argument regarding the death penalty to a fundamental level. “You shall not kill” is the 6th Commandment that was handed down by God to Moses.

The hope for Oklahoma and other states that lag behind the nation-wide attitude to abolish the death penalty is that as public opinion grows and the states that abolish the death penalty increase, a federal law will be established to bring Oklahoma into the fold.

As we work to change the hearts of Catholics, we see growing opposition to abortion and other life issues in our faith communities.  We send our prayers to the Lord Almighty to help us to work against the society’s trends that say life is not valuable.  When the disabled, the elderly, the babies in the womb, and those who are not able care for themselves are not protected, we know the lives of criminals will also be discounted.  We have to keep up the conversations, share the wisdom of our Church leaders, and fight for those who are on the margins.  When we bear witness to the teachings of our faith, we reflect the will of God and the light of Christ in a dark and violent world.  We know we are on the right side.