The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review the use of lethal injections in carrying out executions is a welcome move, said the chairmen of two U.S. bishops' committees.
The court said Jan. 23 it will review the drug protocols of lethal-injection executions in the state of Oklahoma and consider whether such procedures violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
"I welcome the court's decision to review this cruel practice," said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
"Our nation has witnessed through recent executions, such as occurred in Oklahoma, how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing," he added.
Wenski made the comments Tuesday in a joint statement issued with Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities.
The court will consider the case of Glossip v. Gross, brought by three death-row inmates in Oklahoma. Last year, prison officials botched the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma using lethal injection. Lockett writhed in agony for 40 minutes before being unhooked from the drug dispenser in the prison's death chamber and died soon afterward of apparent heart failure.
Oral arguments in the case are to be heard by the court in April.
"Society can protect itself in ways other than the use of the death penalty," O'Malley said. "We pray that the court's review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life."
"Capital punishment must end," he added.
The U.S. bishops have been advocating against the death penalty for more than 40 years. In 2005, they initiated the Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and continue to work closely with state Catholic conferences, the Catholic Mobilizing Network and other groups to abolish the death penalty in the United States.
Last October, Pope Francis called on Christians and all people of good will "to fight ... for the abolition of the death penalty ... in all its forms," out of respect for human dignity.