Arizona bishops ‘very concerned’ about possible executions – including by gas chamber

By Kate Scanlon for CNA

Gas chamber at the Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins / Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2021 / 09:17 am (CNA).

Arizona bishops are “very concerned” that the state could resume executions this fall – including the possibility of executions by gas chamber.

Documents obtained by The Guardian show that Arizona’s department of corrections spent more than $2,000 on the necessary ingredients to make hydrogen cyanide gas – the same type of gas used in the infamous Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz.

The documents also reveal the state has “refurbished” its gas chamber for executions.

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, told CNA on Monday that no matter the method of execution, “the bishops of Arizona are very concerned we might be resuming executions in Arizona as early as late September or early October after a seven year pause from litigation.”

“We’re very concerned about that, we believe the death penalty contributes to a culture of death, among other things, and our opposition remains firm,” Johnson said.

Pope Francis in 2018 ordered a revision to the Church’s catechism, calling the death penalty “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, the next doctrine committee chair of the U.S. bishops, has said the death penalty is part of the “throwaway culture” condemned by Pope Francis.

In a statement to CBS News, the Arizona Department of Corrections stated its intent to resume executions.

The department said it is “prepared to perform its legal obligation and commence the execution process as part of the legally imposed sentence, regardless of method selected. (The department) stands ready, with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, to carry out court orders and deliver justice to the victims’ families.”

The statement noted that Arizona law permits death row inmates to choose between dying from lethal injection or gas.

“If the defendant fails to choose either lethal injection or lethal gas, the penalty of death shall be by lethal injection,” the statement said.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the state has executed 37 people since 1976, and there are 119 people on death row.

It last executed a prisoner in 2014, a botched execution where inmate Joseph Wood died two hours after being injected with lethal drugs. An Arizona Republic reporter observed Wood wheezing hundreds of times, gulping, convulsing, and making loud snoring and sucking noises before he died.

Arizona is one of 27 states, as well as the federal government, that still permit the use of the death penalty. The Trump administration executed 13 federal death row inmates last year, after the federal government had not executed any prisoners for nearly two decades.

The state last executed a prisoner with lethal gas in 1999, according to the New York Times. Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, told the paper that for survivors of the camp, “the world will finally come apart at the seams, if in any place on this earth the use of Zyklon B in the killing of human beings is considered again.”

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Catholic News Agency 5518 Articles
Catholic News Agency (


  1. The refusal to impose the death penalty in capital cases does not result from compassion. It results from indifference and cowardice.

  2. This has always been confusing from a Catholic perspective – Per internet search: – According to Luke in chapter 23 it seems sure, at least at the beginning, one of His co-accused was riling against Him. Luke 23: 39-41 says, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.'”
    Jesus was suffering in a way that we cannot begin to grasp or even partially understand, so too was this criminal. He was never to come down from that cross alive, and yet he saw, or sensed something in Jesus that moved him in such a way that it became the road to his salvation. If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of Hell it was this criminal, a virtual nobody hanging beside Him, the Son of God. In a heartbeat, he voiced what his intuition had detected; that Jesus was indeed the Son of God! Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom'” (Luke: 23:42). What Jesus did next was a wonderful example of understanding, acceptance, love, and compassion all wrapped up in one conclusive act. It is the epitome of the life of Jesus, strength thru adversity. Without hesitation Jesus responded to his plea for mercy: “Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise'” (Luke:23:43). We can learn from one of the two who were crucified next to Jesus. It is never too late to repent and ask the Lord to accept us. Jesus cleansed this man from his sins, received him graciously, and justified him unconditionally. He conferred upon a sinner the gift of eternal life.

    Based on this capital punishment is acceptable, or at least just? I do believe it’s been determined not to prevent capital crimes?

  3. The Bishops need to drop this SJW Activism and instead focus on preaching the gospel and converting souls. This “Seamless Garment” garbage was invented by the Bernardin/McCarrick network of heterodox perverts, and needs to be laid to rest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.