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South Dakota Catholics React To Berget Execution Date

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Many South Dakotans disagree with putting Rodney Berget to death on Monday, based upon their religious beliefs.

Berget's looming execution is on the minds of KELOLAND Catholics.   Parishioners attending noon Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral say they are praying for the family of his victim, Ronald "R.J." Johnson, as well as for Berget himself.

"The victim's family certainly, and then the condemned soul as well.  We're not to judge anybody, that's the Lord's to do,"  Stan Biondi of Sioux Falls said.

To the Catholic Church, the government's responsibility to provide both justice and safety for its citizens can be achieved without sending inmates to death row, no matter how serious the crime.

"We're always praying for contrition and for redemption for those who create such horrendous crimes as this one is, clearly.  And so, it's a tough matter," Bishop Paul Swain of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls said.

Bishop Paul Swain questions whether Berget's execution can bring true closure for the Johnson family.

"Certainly, it brings a closure to the factual matters.  But does it really bring healing?  I don't know that and I pray for them, because they're part of this drama, too," Swain said.

While state law and church teaching may be at odds over the death penalty, Bishop Swain hopes that one day, executions will no longer be carried out in South Dakota.

"I pray for that.  That's in the hands of our government leaders.  But in the interim, we need to do what we can to discourage it and if it happens, it's as rare as possible," Swain said.

The Catholic bishops in Sioux Falls and Rapid City have issued a a joint statement regarding Berget's upcoming execution.  

You can read the entire statement by clicking here

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