National News

Indiana Bishops Voice Opposition to State Seeking to Resume Death Penalty

Protesters opposed to the death penalty demonstrate outside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, which holds the state’s execution chamber, in Jackson. (File photo: OSV News/Tami Chappell, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — Indiana’s bishops announced their disapproval of the state’s plans to resume state executions after a 15-year pause and called for legislators to repeal the use of the death penalty in Indiana.

In a July 8 statement from the Indiana Catholic Conference, the state’s five bishops asked the attorney general, state legislators, and the governor to “bring Indiana closer to implementing a consistent protection of human life and social order through law.”

Their statement was in response to a June 26 announcement by Indiana’s governor that his administration would seek to resume the use of the death penalty after obtaining the lethal drugs needed to carry out executions.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Todd Rokita said they would seek the resumption of executions in Indiana prisons, starting with Joseph Corcoran, who was convicted on four counts of murder and sentenced to death in 1999. The state leaders filed a motion to carry out this execution with the Indiana Supreme Court.

“After years of effort, the Indiana Department of Correction has acquired a drug — pentobarbital — which can be used to carry out executions,” Holcomb said. “Accordingly, I am fulfilling my duties as governor to follow the law and move forward appropriately in this matter.”

Rokita similarly supported this, stressing that “Indiana state law authorizes the death penalty as a means of providing justice for victims of society’s most heinous crimes and holding perpetrators accountable.”

He also said the death penalty “serves as an effective deterrent for certain potential offenders who might otherwise commit similar extreme crimes of violence.”

The state’s bishops disagreed and asked the state leaders to rescind the motion asking the Indiana Supreme Court to set an execution date for Corcoran, repeal the use of the death penalty in the state, and remove plans to include a death chamber in the new state prison currently under construction.

“We make this appeal alongside a commitment to working with our elected leaders and public officials to continue strengthening the culture of life in our great state,” the bishops said.
The bishops stressed that “the Catholic Church has consistently sought to protect human life from conception to natural death.”

They said they are grateful for the state’s “commitment to protecting human life, particularly for the preborn,” but they also pointed out that the “Church holds that human dignity is also offended when the state’s punishment takes a life.

“The convicted, the executioner, and society are all harmed when violence is unnecessarily carried out, especially when the penal system can adequately protect the social order from further harm.”