Sunday, February 5, 2017


A Florida priest kidnapped in Florida and murdered in cold blood outside of Augusta, speaks from the grave that his vicious murderer be spared the death penalty.

In accused priest killer's case, bishops urge mercy, reject death penalty

  • Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine, Fla., speaks Jan. 31 at a joint news conference in Augusta, Ga., where the bishops of three dioceses called on Georgia prosecutors to remove the death penalty from the case of Steven Murray, accused of murdering Fr. Rene Robert of the St. Augustine diocese last April. (CNS/St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)
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Saying "justice needs to be tamed by mercy," Bishop Felipe J. Estevez of St. Augustine, Fla., and two brother bishops called Jan. 31 for the state of Georgia to drop the death penalty in the case of accused priest killer Steven J. Murray.
"We have great respect for the legal system and we believe Murray deserves punishment for the brutal murder, but the sentence of death only perpetuates the cycle of violence," Estevez said at a news conference. "It is unnecessary and denies the dignity of all persons."
Estevez, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta and Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Savannah, along with priests, deacons and other supporters, gathered outside the Richmond County Courthouse in Augusta to issue their appeal.
Murray, 29, has admitted in interviews to killing Fr. Rene Robert, 71, a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine, who befriended him as part of his prison ministry. He is charged with first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life or death.
On April 11, Murray kidnapped Robert, forced him into the trunk of his car and then allegedly shot him multiple times in rural Georgia. Murray was arrested in South Carolina driving Robert's stolen car.
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District Attorney Ashley Wright said she would seek the death penalty against Murray despite pleas for a life sentence from the church and Robert himself. In 1995, Robert signed and had notarized a "Declaration of Life," stating that he opposed the death penalty for any killer. It was kept in his personnel file.
He stated that should he die as a result of a violent crime, he did not want the individual or individuals found guilty of homicide for his killing to be subject to, or put in jeopardy of, the death penalty under any circumstances, no matter how heinous their crime or how much he may have suffered.
Wright has recently been named a Superior Court judge. After the news conference, the bishops talked privately to Hank Syms, acting district attorney, and Estevez gave him petitions with 7,400 signatures.
Hartmayer spoke on behalf his religious order, the Franciscans. Robert was ordained a Franciscan and later became a diocesan priest who lived in the spirit of the religious order, he said.
"Robert shows us what the Gospel teaches about being merciful," Hartmayer said. "He understood the plight of the poor, the violent, the sociopath. He treated them with compassion. He understood the risks and dangers of ministering to convicts. He died as a martyr of mercy."
Gregory said he was joining Estevez's appeal for mercy.
"We know that every human life comes from the hand of God and has dignity that is never lost, that can't be compromised," Gregory said. "No human life loses its dignity."
The bishops said that if Murray is convicted, he could be sentenced to life without parole.
"We hope if he is granted a life sentence that he find within his own heart and spirit to ask for God's forgiveness. That could take many years, but we are asking that he be given time to do it.
"We do it because we love our faith, we love our country, and we hope our nation will take the lead in preserving, defending and protecting every human life."
Gregory said if their appeal is turned down, "we will work harder. We won't be deterred by a negative decision. We will be reinvigorated to work harder."
Priests and deacons from the three dioceses joined the bishops.


rcg said...

I would be for abolition of the death penalty of we knew could protect the general population form further criminal acts. I think that was the same position held by Pope Saint JPII. I understand Fr Robert's motives for signing that declaration of life but I think it was extremely selfish and reckless.

TJM said...

When we end the death penalty for the unborn then I will worry about ending the death penalty for the vicious and evil ones.

Православный физик said...

The Church does not reject the death penalty absolutely. The application of the death penalty is a prudential judgement.

Our Lord himself had to face the death penalty so that we might have Life eternal. Christ conquered death by Death.

There are some situations where the person forfeits his right to life by the very nature of the act.

But I am with rcg, and TJM on this, I'll consider the removal of the death penalty, once the right of life for the unborn is respected.

Anonymous said...

We will oppose the death penalty only when abortion is outlawed.

We will do good for one only when good is done for all.

We will feed the hungry only when all the hungry are fed.

We will care for the destitute only when all the destitute are cared for.

Nowhere are we taught that we must feed the hungry, forgive the sinner, clothe the naked, only when ALL the hungry are fed, ALL the sinners forgiven, or ALL the naked are clothed.

This notion is contrary to Christian teaching. We do what is right because it is right, not because everyone is treated well.

TJM said...

Anonymous, you have your priorties mixed up so you must be a liberal. As Joe Potillor pointed out the death penalty may be applied under certain circumstances so it is not contrary to Christian teaching.

Anonymous said...

TJM - The position, "We will oppose the death penalty only when abortion is outlawed." is contrary to Christian teaching.

TJM said...

Anonymous, not at all. Abortion is an intrinsic evil. The death penalty is not. Go back to Theology 101.

Anonymous said...

TJM - No one is arguing about the relative evil of abortion and the death penalty.

You say you will not do "Good A" until "Good B" is accomplished.

This is contrary to Catholic teaching and unsustainable by Catholic doctrine. There is no teaching that one can refuse to do Good A because Good B is not accomplished.

CCC 1706 By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him "to do what is good and avoid what is evil."9 Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person.

We are not free to say, "I will avoid doing good until...."

TJM said...


Since the death penalty is not proscribed by the Catholic Faith, I am free, as a Catholic, not to join the left-wing loon bandwagon to end the death penalty for evil, hardened criminals. I am, however, obligated to fight an intrinsic evil like abortion, hence, I NEVER vote for the Abortion Party's (formerly the Democratic Party) candidates.

Gene said...

Nothing is more de-humanizing and contemptuous of human dignity than a culture that calls itself "civil" while allowing murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and terrorists to continue living, often back among their actual and potential victims. These felons should be eliminated from society with extreme prejudice so that true justice and human dignity can flourish. To speak of abortion in the same breath with the death penalty is a joke. Abortion is the completely unjustified and callous taking of an innocent human life; the death penalty is the elimination of those who do that. Liberals are so copulating stupid.