Bishop William S. Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane, Washington
Chair: Domestic Policy Committee, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
June 5, 1997
Together with the rest of the country, the Catholic Bishops' Conference continues to mourn the horrendous loss of life caused by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. This terrible act still burns in our hearts.
Raw memories of that dreadful day in April, 1995 have resurfaced for all of us as the trial of Mr. McVeigh concluded and the guilty verdict was announced. But we can only imagine the magnitude of the agony being felt by the families of the victims and the survivors and the stories of their losses bring us to tears. Our thoughts and prayers are still with them as they and we relive that painful tragedy.
The jury that found Mr. McVeigh guilty of this horrible crime must now decide whether he should be executed for his offenses. In the face of such massive destruction of human life, it is easy to understand why many say yes, he should suffer the same fate as so many of his victims.
However, we as bishops believe that to execute Mr. McVeigh would tragically perpetuate a terrible cycle of violence and further diminish respect for life. Nor could it truly ease the pain of those who have suffered so much loss. No act, including an execution, can fill the void and heal the wounds of the loss of a child, a mother, a father, a brother or sister. Mr. McVeigh's death cannot bring back those who have been lost.
Our passions cry out for vengeance. However, our God calls for justice and mercy, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are called to seek justice without vengeance.
We must always seek ways to break the culture of violence that grips our society. Sending Mr. McVeigh to prison for life rather than to death row would be one step in demonstrating that all life is precious, even the life of one who has been found to have so brutally destroyed the lives of others. We do not believe that killing the person who killed so many of our sisters and brothers can teach our society that killing is wrong.