WASHINGTON (December 12, 2005)—The head of the U.S. Bishops' Domestic Policy Committee, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, in solidarity with the Catholic Bishops of California, asked Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California to commute the death sentence of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Bishop DiMarzio made the appeal in a December 9 letter.
The letter is attached.
December 9, 2005
The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and in solidarity with the Catholic Bishops of California, I am writing to urge that you exercise your power of clemency to spare the life of Mr. Stanley "Tookie" Williams. It is not my intent in any way to diminish the responsibility of those who have committed terrible crimes; however, this execution can only compound the violence that already exists in our society.
As pastors who minister to both the victims of capital crimes and those who sit on death row, we strongly believe that the use of the death penalty diminishes all of us when a man or woman is killed on our behalf. In our recent pastoral statement, The Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, the U.S. bishops point out that our society can defend itself without resorting to the use of the death penalty and should therefore restrict itself to other non-lethal means. Such non-violent measures can give the offender time to repent for his or her crime and allow the possibility of receiving God's grace. I am enclosing a copy of the new pastoral.
For us this is not about ideology, but a fundamental respect for life. We do not believe that you can teach that killing is wrong by killing. We do not believe that you can defend life by taking life. In his encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II challenged all followers of Christ to be "unconditionally pro life." While this is not an easy path to follow it is a challenge to which we are all personally called.
Governor, we understand how difficult this decision is and we will continue to pray for you and all those touched by this terrible situation. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter. With every best wish, I am
Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Ph.D., D.D.
Diocese of Brooklyn
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops