"The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error."
- William Jennings Bryan, The Cross of Gold Speech, July, 1896
By William Fisher
From The Valley Catholic, Newspaper for the Diocese of San Jose, Nov. 16, 2010
California Catholic Lawyers Against the Death Penalty is an organization of lawyers that seek to persuade fellow Catholics to oppose the use of the death penalty. In States such as California, where the death penalty law was adopted by popular initiative, it cannot be amended or repealed without a vote of the people. Popular support for the death penalty remains at a high level, and California polls have indicated that among religious groups, support for the death penalty is highest among Catholics.
Why do some Catholics reject the teachings of the Catholic Catechism, the pronouncements of the Pope, and the guidance of their Bishops on the issue of the death penalty? California Catholic Lawyers Against the Death Penalty seeks to make Catholics better acquainted with the reasons why the Church opposes the death penalty, and the overwhelming evidence that supports those reasons. Members of our organization are available to speak at conferences, retreats and meetings of parish organizations, are prepared to speak out through the popular media, and, where appropriate, seek to influence legislatures, governors and courts. As lawyers, we are uniquely equipped to assist in educating our fellow Catholics and demonstrating the persuasiveness of Church teachings on this issue. Our members are volunteers who receive no compensation or reimbursement for this work. We are, literally, clad only in the armor of a righteous cause.
Letter of Support – Bishop Patrick J. McGrath
I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then that you and your descendants may live. Dt. 30:19
I am pleased to support the newly formed California Catholic Lawyers Against the Death Penalty (CLAD). We are indeed blessed in the Diocese of San Jose to be home to Santa Clara University and its Law School, which in 2008 hosted the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.
Over twenty-five years ago, our Conference of Bishops first called for an end to the death penalty, stating, 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
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 definitively 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, no 2267
While we recognize the profound pain of those who have lost a loved one to violence, the death of another does not take away this pain nor does it undo the harm that was done. It does not make for a more just society. We cannot protect life by taking life. It does not protect life or promote human dignity.
Our witness to respect for life shines most brightly when we demand respect for each and every human life including the lives of those who fail to show that respect for others. The antidote to violence is love, not more violence. Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics
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.