Baton Rouge, La., Feb 8, 2013 / 18:03 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Gov. Bobby Jindal has rejected the Louisiana Catholic bishops' request to halt the scheduled Ash Wednesday execution of a convicted murderer.
The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops on Feb. 4 condemned the “evil and tragic” actions of Christopher Sepulvado, a 69-year-old convicted for the 1992 murder of his six-year-old stepson Wesley Allen Mercer who was beaten to death.
The bishops said that the execution by lethal injection of a “faithful Catholic” on Ash Wednesday would be “inconsistent with the Lenten call for reconciliation and redemption and an unnecessary tragic irony.” They called on Gov. Jindal, a Catholic Republican, and the Louisiana Board of Pardons to halt the execution.
A spokesman for the governor on Feb. 5 said Jindal “sees no reason to intervene in the case,” the Associated Press reports.
“The trial was handled appropriately, and the punishment decided on by a jury of Mr. Sepulvado’s peers is proportional to the crime he committed,” spokesman Sean Lansing said.
The Catholic bishops said they acknowledge “the Christian power of reconciliation and redemption” which they said Sepulvado has “embraced.”
“He has expressed remorse for his actions while at the same time embracing his faith and ministering to his fellow inmates,” the bishops said. “Executing Christopher will not bring Wesley back to life, nor will it provide healing, reconciliation, or peace to those involved.”
Citing Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” the bishops said that the Catholic Church and society are “challenged to consistently speak against any assault on human life, including the practice of state-sanctioned killing.”
They said the state has the duty to protect its citizens, but they said non-lethal means are sufficient to do so.
They added that human life is “a gift that is freely and undeservedly bestowed on us by our Creator, and not to be taken away by humanity.”
The bishops offered prayer and solidarity for the victim’s family and for all families of victims of violent crime.
The inter-denominational Louisiana Interchurch Conference has also opposed the execution, the Associated Press reports. Fifty Catholic theologians and scholars from across the U.S. are among the 1,200 signers of a petition seeking clemency for Sepulvado.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans led an interfaith vigil for a reprieve for Sepulvado and for an end to the death penalty on the evening of Feb. 7 at New Orleans’ Notre Dame Seminary. The Archdiocese of New Orleans organized the vigil with the group Louisiana Catholics Committed to Repeal of the Death Penalty.