NEW VOICES: Philadelphia Archbishop Denounces Death Penalty and Urges Clemency for Terrance Williams

In his weekly column, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia voiced the Catholic Church’s ongoing opposition to the death penalty in the U.S. and called for clemency for Pennsylvania death row inmate Terrance Williams. “We don’t need to kill people to protect society or punish the guilty. And we should never be eager to take anyone’s life,” the Archbishop said. He addressed the needs of murder victims’ families, saying “Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief, and they rightly demand justice.” He concluded, “When we take a murderer’s life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process.” He particularly urged clemency for Williams, who is scheduled to be executed in October. Chaput noted that Williams’ attorneys have said he “was repeatedly sexually abused as a youth, including five years of abuse at the hands of the man he murdered, and this helped motivate his violence….Terrance Williams deserves punishment. No one disputes that. But he doesn’t need to die to satisfy justice. We should think very carefully in the coming days about the kind of justice we want to witness to our young people.”

(C. Chaput, “Justice, Terrance Williams, and the death penalty,” CatholicPhilly.com, September 7, 2012). See Religion and New Voices. For more information on Terrance Williams, see www.terrywilliamsclemency.com/.