.- On August 11th, David Thomas Dawson will be the first person to be put to death in the state of Montana in almost a decade. This week, Bishop George Leo Thomas of the Diocese of Helena spoke out against the impending execution calling for a dismantling of what he calls an obsolete system.
In 1987, Dawson was convicted of three counts of homicide and four counts of aggravated kidnapping in connection with the murders of David and Monica Rodstein and their 11-year-old son Andrew. A second child, 15-year old Amy, was kidnapped but survived.
Bishop Thomas said, in a letter published in the Helena Independent Record newspaper, that while Dawson’s crimes were unspeakably horrific, “The Gospel mandates that we ‘love our enemies and pray for those who have harmed us.’” He also cited the author C.S. Lewis, who once exclaimed, “If you want a religion that is really comfortable, I don’t recommend Christianity.”
The bishop outlined Catholic social teaching which says that, “if non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means. ...”
To this, he stressed that, “the fact of the matter is, modern technology has provided the means to assure the safety of the community for the natural lifetime of a convicted felon. The Montana penal system has this technology well in place.”
Bishop Thomas added that “In his testimony before the Montana Supreme Court, Dawson said it himself, ’I have no hopes, no dreams. All I have is 20 years of preparing to be executed. And it’s that preparedness that I decided, you know, enough is enough.’”
“David Thomas Dawson”, the bishop said, “is asking the people of the State of Montana to assist him in the willful taking of his own life, a request tantamount to state-sponsored suicide.”
He added that “His request, and the state’s willingness to grant it, demeans all of us, and makes us, perhaps unwittingly, participants in the suicidal ideations of a man unwilling to take responsibility for his tragic decisions.”
The bishop called on Catholics around Montana as well as all people of good will to press state governor Brian Schweitzer and legislators alike to “dismantle” what he called the “dated delusion that lethal injection is the answer to one of our society’s most complex problems.”