Following the issuance of a Warrant of Execution, the state of South Dakota intends to execute inmate Rodney Berget during the week of October 28, 2018. As the Roman Catholic Bishops of the Dioceses of Rapid City and Sioux Falls, we recall once more our statements on the death penalty issued during the 2012 and 2016 legislative sessions, and our public support of a 2018 legislative proposal for a limited repeal of the death penalty’s application. Now, as in our previous statements, we repeat the Church’s perennial call for a culture of life, and in so doing, we firmly oppose the death penalty as an unnecessary tool of redress available to our criminal justice system.
We express once again the inadequacies we shared in 2016, when we stated, “it is impossible for most of us to fully relate to the depth of horror that the brutal murder of a loved one brings upon family and friends.” Such sentiments of horror, anger, and repulsion are natural and understandable. Confronted with painful and depraved crimes, and with profound compassion for suffering families of crime victims, the Psalmist’s words arise, “How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”1 The suffering of those affected by unspeakable crimes weighs heavily on our hearts. Our support and prayers are with those who suffer such loss. We pray especially for the consolation that comes from knowing that those who suffer are beloved children of God and that they are in His loving care. There are none who escape His loving gaze. Likewise, we pray for Rodney Berget and all guilty persons sentenced to die, that they may experience true contrition, aware of the gravely sinful nature of their crimes, and open their hearts to the infinite mercy of the Lord, which is offered to all who truly seek it.