Boston Catholic archdiocese pushes back after Trump says Boston bomber ‘deserves death’

Boston archdiocese pushes back after Trump says Boston bomber ‘deserves death’

Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA
Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA

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After President Donald Trump said Sunday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, perpetrator of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, should be put to death, the Archdiocese of Boston said justice calls for life in prison, not the death penalty.

 “Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice,” in Tsarnaev’s case, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said.

“The incomprehensible suffering of so many caused by this heinous crime should appropriately be met with a sentence of imprisonment for life with no possibility of parole,” Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, told CNA Tuesday.

Donilon also acknowledged that the ongoing Tsarnaev appeal “has brought considerable further pain to the families and loved ones of those lost in the Marathon bombing and all the victims of that deliberate attack on innocent people.”

Remarks from the archdiocese came after Trump on Sunday tweeted that “rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty more than the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”

“The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand.” the president added.

Tsarnaev, 27, was in April 2015 convicted of using pressure cooker bombs to kill three people and injure nearly 300 more during the 2013 Boston marathon. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, perpetrated the bombing along with him, but was killed by police during the ensuing manhunt.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated by a federal appeals court July 30, because of concerns about juror impartiality. A new sentencing phase, with a new jury, has been ordered.

In his Aug. 2 tweets, the president noted that the court had said the Boston bombing was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the September 11, 2001 bombings, and said “it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!”

During Tsarnaev’s 2015 trial, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts, including Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, opposed the possibility of Tsarnaev’s execution.

“The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty,” the bishops said in a statement.

“The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent.’ The Church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God. As Pope Francis has recently stated, ‘[The death penalty] is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of oppression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized – they are already deprived of their liberty.’”

In a June interview, Trump said that he is “totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is.”

Earlier this summer, the federal government resumed the execution of prisoners condemned to death, after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.

On July 7, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders said.

On Tuesday, the Boston archdiocese told CNA it would pursue peace after the violence of the Boston bombings.

“We will continue to honor the memory of Martin Richard, Krystle Marie Campbell, Lü Lingzi, Sean A. Collier and Dennis Simmonds and the hundreds who suffered devastating injuries by a renewed commitment to root out violence and evil in our society by way of solidarity with Jesus’ call to love one another.”

Tags: Catholic News, Death Penalty, Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley

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