Catholic bishops in Tennessee call for end to executions

All executions scheduled for this year are being requested to be called off by the three Catholic bishops in the state of Tennessee. They’re calling on Governor Bill Lee to spare these people and not end their lives.

The three bishops, Nashville’s Bishop J. Mark Spalding, Knoxville’s Bishop Richard F. Stika, and Memphis’ Bishop David P. Talley all came together to make a joint letter. The letter was given to the Governor on April 23rd, and the Nashville diocese published the letter a short time later.

“We urge you to use your authority as governor to put an end to the fast-track executions planned for later this year, and particularly the execution of Donnie Johnson scheduled for May 16. As you know, he was convicted of the brutal murder of his wife, but even their daughter has spoken against his execution,” the letter states.

Scheduled for execution on May 16th, Johnson has been on the Tennessee death row ever since he was first sentenced to death. His crime was in 1984 when he murdered his own wife, Connie Johnson. She died in Memphis.

Tennessee began to resume executions this past August, and since then Johnson is the fourth person to be scheduled for execution. Governor Bill Haslam was wrapping up his final term when Lee was elected into office. He did not intervene in any previous executions. Johnson’s request for clemency is the first that Lee will be deciding as governor.

Before the three executions that occurred in 2018, both Nashville’s and Knoxville’s bishops made similar requests to not execute people. Memphis’ bishop is new, he was brought in on April 2nd.

This year and last year aren’t the first time that this has happened though. The Catholic Church has spoken out against capital punishment in the past. In August, Pope Francis changed the principals of the church to state that the death penalty is inadmissible.

“We clearly state our strong opposition to the state carrying out the death penalty,” the letter from the bishops states.

“Nationally, we have seen many people released from death row after they have been found to have been innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. Based on a human system as it is, there is always the chance that the state executes an innocent person. Even when guilt is certain, the execution is not necessary to protect society.”

About Sara Farrington 66 Articles
A Canadian born writer currently based in the United States, Sara's love for literature has been prevelant since she was just a child. With a passion and drive for living a full life, Sara is currently travelling the world with her boyfriend.


  1. All Catholics May Support Death Penalty

    1) “(Pope) Francis asserted, shockingly, that the death penalty is “in itself contrary to the Gospel” ” . . . it is false doctrine—a monumental papal error to which Catholics should not assent.” Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S. 12/18

    2) ” . . . the Catechism has been enlisted to preempt the lawful authority of public officials in a way that jeopardizes the lives of the innocent. This is not, you might say, your grandfather’s Catholic Church.”Catholic scholar, death penalty expert Prof. Joseph M. Bessette, First Things, 12/18

    3) “It does not aid the pastoral mission of the Church when those responsible for handing on (Her death penalty) tradition seem to join in the dismantling of their own theological heritage.” Catholic theologian Steven Long, 10/18

    4) ” . . . to teach that capital punishment is always and intrinsically evil would contradict Scripture. That the death penalty can be a legitimate means of securing retributive justice is affirmed in Genesis 9:6 and many other biblical texts, and the Church holds that Scripture cannot teach moral error.”

    “The legitimacy in principle of capital punishment is also the consistent teaching of the magisterium for two millennia.”

    “To contradict Scripture and tradition on this point would cast doubt on the credibility of the magisterium in general.” AN APPEAL TO THE CARDINALS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, various esteemed Catholic authors, First Things, 8/15/18

    5) “In the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution . . . considered especially fitting as a punishment for murder since in his covenant with Noah God had laid down the principle, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:6). Cardinal Avery Dulles

    much more, here:

    Critical Dismay: The Catholic Church’s Latest (2018) Death Penalty Catechism Amendment

  2. Using unchangeable teachings, going back 4000 years (Genesis 9:5-6), and for well over 2000 years, the Catholic Church, with her most renowned Popes, Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church, biblical scholars, philosophers and theologians have supported the death penalty, repeatedly and wit great.

    All of a sudden – POOF – Those teachings mean nothing, which is exactly, what the Bishops comments should mean to the Governor.

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