RC Theologian Appeals for Stop in MO Execution

Tobias Winright, a moral theologian at Saint Louis University, sent the following open letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, asking for a stay in the execution planned tonight.


Open Letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon from

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​a ​
​Moral ​
Theologian Seeking Stay of Execution for Russell Bucklew
Dear Governor Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon:
​a ​
​moral ​
​ (and a former corrections officer and reserve police officer)​
 wish to go on record in requesting that you grant a stay of execution for Russell Bucklew, who is scheduled to be killed by the state of Missouri early on the morning of Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Although he committed a horrible crime, murdering his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend as well as kidnapping and raping her,
 do not believe that executing
​Mr. ​
Bucklew makes up for these atrocities. Nor do
 think that his death is necessary to protect the citizens of Missouri. 
Twenty-five years ago, while visiting St. Louis, Pope John Paul II--now Saint John Paul the Great--asked then-Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the death sentence of Darrell Mease, and the governor complied with his request. Moreover, John Paul called for the abolition of the death penalty:
The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation.  A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.
--Pope John Paul II, January 27, 1999, St. Louis, Missouri
Current Catholic teaching views executions carried out by state authorities as morally justified if it is "the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." Paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church adds: "Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm--without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself--the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent'" (quoting John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 56).
The execution of Russell Bucklew is not necessary. There are also concerns, in the wake of the recent, highly publicized execution of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma, about the use of lethal drugs by states at this time. Mr. Bucklew's medical condition amplifies these concerns.
Given these reasonable doubts about whether this execution is necessary to protect society and whether it can be conducted in a way that is not "cruel and unusual,"
 respectfully request that you grant Mr. Bucklew a stay of execution.
Tobias Winright
Maeder Chair of Health Care Ethics and Associate Professor of Theological Ethics
Saint Louis University

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July 14-27, 2017