Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bishop McGrath's Statement on Stanley Williams

A Statement from San Jose Bishop Patrick J. McGrath on the Impending Execution of Stanley Williams

November 30, 2005

“There is an appointed time for everything, a time to kill and a time to heal….a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Eccl 3:3, 7). We have had our time of killing. Now is the time for healing. Now is the time to speak out, once again, in defense of life.

It is possible that on December 13 our state will execute Stanley Williams by lethal injection. Many will feel that justice has been accomplished, and many will feel avenged. Many will be saddened because we know that the cycle of hatred and death will continue. Vengeance does not heal. It only escalates the violence.

I call upon Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to provide clemency to Stanley Williams. Catholic teaching on this is clear:

  • “Today, in fact as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are rare, if not practically non-existent’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church).


  • “I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary” (Pope John Paul II, January 27, 1999).


  • “Twenty-five years ago, our Conference of bishops first called for an end to the death penalty. We renew this call to seize a new moment and new momentum . . . Our nation should forego the use of the death penalty because
    • The sanction of death violates respect for human life and dignity.
    • State-sanctioned killing in our names diminishes all of us.
    • Its application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed.
    • We have other ways to punish criminals and protect society. The sanction of death when it is not necessary to protect society undermines respect for human life and dignity” (“A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, November, 2005).

  • “We recognize that human beings can and do commit grievous crimes, but we reject the use of the death penalty—especially when we can protect society with an alternate penalty of life imprisonment. In addition, of particular concern to us is the fact that the application of the death penalty is deeply flawed—with those who are poor or from racial minorities most often its subjects. The three pending executions in California are illustrative of these facts.

    At this moment in time, we entreat Californians to ponder carefully whether the use of the death penalty makes our society safer. A moratorium is needed to evaluate whether the death penalty serves the common good and safeguards the dignity of human life. We are convinced that it does not” (Statement on Ending the Use of the Death Penalty in California, California Catholic Conference, November 30, 2005).

The death of Stanley Williams will not stop the hatred, crime and violence which engulf our cities, homes, work places and schools. His execution will be just another symptom of our failure to deal effectively with the serious social problems of our times.

Let us work together and reject the death penalty and look for other ways of dealing with violent crime, ways which are truly effective and which are consistent with a basic and fundamental respect for the dignity of all human life.