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Local Catholics react to the Pope's death penalty comments

Posted: 2:16 PM, Aug 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-03 19:26:34Z

Pope Francis altered the Catholic Catechism on Thursday, saying the death penalty is "inadmissible" in all cases. 

While the past couple of popes have left room for Catholics to make up their own mind on the death penalty issue, the declaration by Pope Francis leaves no more wiggle room. 

Vice Provost for Mission & Ministry at Creighton University Eileen Burke-Sullivan says the Pope's message today says Catholics can no longer reject the church's teaching on the death penalty and be in good standing with the church. 

"You can think probably want you want to think but Catholics could not publicly assert that today and still be a practicing Catholic," says Sullivan.

The State of Nebraska is set to execute its first inmate since 1997 later this month; Carey Dean Moore is due to be executed Aug. 14 for a 1979 double-murder. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a practicing Catholic, has led the charge to bring back the death penalty in Nebraska. 

“While I respect the Pope’s perspective, capital punishment remains the will of the people and the law of the State of Nebraska," Ricketts said in a statement. "It is an important tool to protect our corrections officers and public safety. The state continues to carry out the sentences ordered by the court.”

St. Mary Magdalene Church parishioner Yolanda Bogdanyi opposes the death penalty and says it's ultimately up to the state but hopes the governor stops the execution. 

"I suppose it could be used as a deterrent but to actually kill another man, I would think twice about it," says Bogdanyi.

Two more pharmaceutical companies are objecting to Nebraska's use of lethal injection drugs that may have come from them.

Representatives of Sandoz Inc. and Hikma Pharmaceuticals said Thursday they have not confirmed whether Nebraska's corrections department has obtained their products.

It's also not clear whether they'll pursue a legal challenge that could derail the planned Aug. 14 execution of death row inmate Carey Dean Moore. Nebraska officials have refused to identify their supplier.

Sandoz and Hikma are each one of several manufacturers of drugs that are part of Nebraska's lethal injection protocol. The companies say using their drugs in an execution contradicts their values.

Drugmaker Pfizer sent a similar letter to Nebraska officials. State Sen. Ernie Chambers, a death penalty opponent, is urging the company to do more to intervene .

The Nebraska Catholic Conference also issued a statement on behalf of the Catholic bishops serving in Nebraska: "Simply put, the death penalty is no longer needed or morally justified in Nebraska."

The conference's full statement reads:

"Today, Pope Francis issued an important clarification on the Church’s teaching regarding the death penalty. The Holy Father’s declaration that the death penalty is no longer admissible under any circumstances is an answer to our prayers and welcome news, especially for those of us living in Nebraska.
 
"This change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2267) rightly upholds the inviolability of the human person, whose life is worthy of protection from the moment of conception to natural death, and ought to be treated with the respect and dignity given by God Himself.
 
"As the Catholic Bishops of Nebraska, we join Pope Francis in calling for the 'elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect,' since it is not necessary to protect public safety from an unjust aggressor. In particular, as we have publicly expressed on numerous occasions over the last two decades, Nebraska is fortunate to have a competent judicial system, modern correctional facilities and decades of law enforcement advances. Simply put, the death penalty is no longer needed or morally justified in Nebraska.
 
"In light of this teaching, we call on all people of good will to contact Nebraska state officials to stop the scheduled August 14 execution of Carey Dean Moore. Please join us in prayer for victims of serious crime, for those currently on death row and for the elimination of the death penalty in Nebraska."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.