Catholic Bishops against Eric Robert execution - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Catholic Bishops against Eric Robert execution

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Eric Robert,  the man who was convicted of killing Correctional Officer Ronald "RJ" Johnson, is scheduled to be put to death at 10 Monday night.

Some people plan on protesting the execution. The Roman Catholic Bishops of South Dakota say execution is not the answer to punish those convicted of violent crimes.

KSFY News spoke with the bishop of Sioux Falls today.

The state's Roman Catholic bishops are concerned we have several people awaiting executions.

The bishop of Sioux Falls says capital punishment not only goes against the teachings of the church but also prevents redemption and forgiveness.

It has been argued in court whether the state's death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. The Catholic Church says it's unnatural.

Bishop Paul Swain said "the core moral teaching of the church, we respect life from conception to natural death. Executions are not natural death."

South Dakota has five inmates on death row and has set a date for the execution of Eric Robert.

"The teaching of the church is that it's a rare circumstance that there needs to be execution because there are ways of protecting society and punishing hardened criminals without going to that extreme measure and making the state an agent of death," Bishop Paul Swain said.

Sioux Falls Bishop Paul Swain urges a repeal of the death penalty.

"We try to raise the issue so that it is in people's discussion not only whether we can do it, which we can, but whether we out to do it being respectful of life," Bishop Paul Swain said.

Bishop Swain hasn't forgotten about the victims of violent crime.

"We just empathize to the extent, where possible, with the families and others who suffer as the result of the evil acts of some and those who undertake the evil acts need to be punished in a sufficient way. State laws allow that without having to go to what we view as an extreme," Bishop Paul Swain said.

The bishop believes the punishment should fit the crime but says executions do not allow a chance for the criminal to change.

"We believe that everyone has an opportunity in their hearts, if they can, for redemption and forgiveness. And, that god is ultimately the steward of life, so we allow judgment ultimately to be with him," Bishop Paul Swain said.

Bishop Swain and the Rapid City bishop sent out a joint statement urging the scheduled execution be stayed. Instead, they ask the convicted criminals to spend a lifetime in prison.

Bishop Swain said they appreciate the legislative and judicial officials who face making these decisions.

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