Texas Catholic Voice April 2022

In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:

  • Preserving life, even on death row ...
  • Access to interim hearings ...
  • NCEA report ...
  • And more!

A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director

During the Easter season while we rejoice in Christ’s triumph over death, the TCCB has been advocating for clemency in two death penalty cases that were scheduled this month. We are saddened that one was carried out, but thankful the other was stayed.

On Thursday, April 21, Carl Buntion, who had been on death row for three decades, was executed for the murder of Houston police officer James Irby in 1990. His attorneys filed a petition for clemency based on the erroneous prediction of the jury that he would be a threat to fellow prisoners and staff and that carrying out his execution after 31 years on death row would violate the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously not to recommend clemency or a reprieve. The bishops released a statement calling the execution of Mr. Buntion, an infirm, 78-year-old man, an “act of vengeance and retribution.”

While we are greatly saddened by Mr. Buntion’s death, we are grateful Melissa Lucio’s life has been spared. On Monday, April 25, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Ms. Lucio a stay of execution. The audio of her receiving the news from Rep. Jeff Leach that she was not going to be executed and would be given a new trial is incredibly moving.

Questions remain regarding the manner of death of Melissa’s daughter Mariah and there are troubling issues concerning her interrogation and inadequate defense. The bishops stated, “Melissa’s case highlights the serious flaws in our justice system that allowed her to be condemned to death on the basis of a dubious conviction.”

Another death row prisoner also received hopeful news last week. Rodney Reed was scheduled to be executed in November  2019 when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted an indefinite stay in response to the question of his guilt. On April 25, the United States Supreme Court said it would hear Mr. Reed’s appeal based on his request for DNA testing of certain evidence.

All three of these cases, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision last month that Texas likely violated the religious liberty of death row prisoner John Ramirez by denying his request for his spiritual advisor to lay a hand on him and audibly pray during his execution, expose the many injustices of the imposition of the death penalty in Texas. We will continue to seek clemency for every person scheduled for execution and pray for an end to capital punishment for which there is no justification in our modern times.

Interim Hearings

TCV readers may find elucidating several hearings at the Capitol during the Interim, including a hearing on criminal justice reform focusing on Melissa Lucio’s case. You can access the archives or watch live at capitol.texas.gov. On the home page under the heading of Legislative Activity are links to video broadcasts in the House and Senate.

Texas State Capitol Building in Austin, TX.

Good news for education

Father Mark Hamlet, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Austin, and Robert LeGros, principal of Cathedral School of Saint Mary in Austin, presented at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Convention 2022 in New Orleans this month. They were selected from hundreds of proposals submitted by educators in 91 dioceses throughout the country. Their presentation, "Hope for the Future: Partnership Program," demonstrated an innovative way to increase access to a Catholic school education. Partnering with Sacred Heart, a parish without a school, and other private donors, the Cathedral School of St. Mary saw enrollment double within three years. Father Hamlet said, “My hope is that participants will leave our presentation on fire to serve God's children who are not yet in a Catholic school.”

Upcoming Texas Executions

Ramiro Gonzales, July 13

Kosoul Chanthakoummane, Aug. 17

Please join our bishops in praying for those scheduled for execution, for the victims of violent crimes and for all affected, including their families and communities. As the bishops of Texas wrote in their pastoral letter, "May God give us the grace to witness to the dignity of human life. May the Lord console the suffering, protect our community, and grant conversion to those responsible for the inflicting of death and violence upon others."

Prayer for the Legislature

Please pray for all our public servants and elected officials, including our Governor, Lt. Governor, House Speaker, lawmakers, and their staff, that the Lord may grant them wisdom and prudence to work for the common good of all the people of Texas.

papal seal

Pope Francis' prayer intention for May

Faith-Filled Young People

We pray for all young people, called to live life to the fullest; may they see in Mary’s life the way to listen, the depth of discernment, the courage that faith generates, and the dedication to service.

The Texas Catholic Voice is a publication of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. For more information, write news@txcatholic.org or call 512-339-9882.