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New Site Aims to Educate Catholics on the Death Penalty

Monday, Dec. 13, 2010

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Dec. 13, 2010 —A new website sponsored by Santa Clara University and California Catholic Lawyers Against the Death Penalty seeks to inform Catholic opinion regarding the death penalty in California, and to actively promote the repeal of California’s death-penalty law.

The website can be found at

California Catholic Lawyers Against the Death Penalty  [CCLADP] is a newly formed organization headed by Santa Clara University School of Law professor Gerald F. Uelmen, who teaches criminal law at SCU and previously directed a state-wide commission on California’s justice system.

Uelmen received a grant from the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education at Santa Clara University to organize and launch the website. CCLADP will be directed by an advisory board which includes many leading Catholic lawyers in California, including former Attorney General John Van de Kamp, former state public defender and Sacramento federal defender Quin Denvir, Newcastle attorney Paul Comiskey and San Jose attorney Thomas Hogan.

The new website will be a rich resource for Catholics who have questions about participation in enforcing the death penalty, with resource materials for Catholic prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges and jurors, as well as Catholic doctors, legislators and governors.  Uelmen said the genesis of the project was a public opinion poll showing that, contrary to Church teaching, Catholics registered the highest support for the continuation of the death penalty among all religious groups in California. 

CCLADP will seek to persuade Catholics to re-examine the issue in light of the wealth of Church teaching and advocacy available.  The website includes resource sections on how the death penalty is viewed and analyzed by the Pope, the American and California Bishops, the Bible and Catholic catechism.

 “While California Catholics include lots of ‘Cafeteria Catholics’ who pick and choose which Church teachings to follow,” said Uelmen, “it struck me as ironic that so many Catholics would reject such a rich source of guidance on such an important issue.” 

The site contains a letter of support from Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of the San Jose Diocese, noting how blessed the diocese was by the presence of Santa Clara University and its law school in promoting opposition to California’s death penalty law. 

CCLADP members will be available to speak to parish groups and organizations regarding the issue.  “Lawyers are particularly well informed on this issue, and can address a broad spectrum of the questions Catholics may have,” said Uelmen. The website also provides links to numerous websites of numerous other religious groups containing information about the death penalty.

Since California’s death penalty law was adopted by initiative, it can only be modified or repealed by a vote of the people.  Across the nation, growing opposition to the death penalty has led to many efforts at repeal.  Those efforts succeeded in New Jersey and New Mexico two years ago.  CCLADP hopes to affect public opinion among California’s Catholics to favor the abolition of California’s death penalty law and its replacement with sentences of life without parole.

About Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, founded in 1911 on the site of California’s oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. One of the nation’s most diverse law schools, Santa Clara Law offers its 1,000 students an academically rigorous program, including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual property law; combined J.D./MBA and J.D./MSIS degrees; and certificates in intellectual property law, international law, and public interest and social justice law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of Silicon Valley, and is distinguished nationally for its top-ranked program in intellectual property. For more information, see

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University is a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley. Santa Clara offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s degrees in a number of professional fields, law degrees, and engineering and theology doctorates. Distinguished by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, Santa Clara educates leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion grounded in faith-inspired values. Founded in 1851, Santa Clara is California’s oldest operating institution of higher education. For more information, see

Media Contact:
Deborah Lohse | Assistant Director, SCU Media Relations | (408) 554-5121 |


Tags: Catholic teaching, death-penalty, Death-Penalty-lawyers, social justice

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