California Bishops Visit San Quentin, Death Row with Sr. Helen Prejean

From the website of the California Catholic Conference, a fascinating article on the recent visit by nine bishops (including mine!) to California’s “Death Row”. The article (excerpted here) is a great look at the Bishops’ pastoral interaction with inmates:

Just past the canteen, down a small alley enveloped in shadow and behind two sets of huge metal doors is California’s Death Row. In this old, dank, dimly lit place, more than 700 men, stacked in tiers of cells and surrounded by guards, await execution.

San Quentin State Prison sits on prime real estate overlooking the northern portions of the San Francisco Bay. Notorious because of Death Row, in reality the prison is the state’s oldest. It was founded in 1852 after California’s first prison – a ship anchored in the Bay – became overcrowded.

It is a study in contradiction – a fortress-like complex set in a place of natural beauty; the state’s most infamous prisoners housed near some who are models of rehabilitation; the bland, eerie death chamber in a facility that has more programs for prisoners than most others.

Nine California Bishops – accompanied by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, the noted advocate to abolish the death penalty – made a pastoral visit to the men on Death Row this week. But in another of those contradictions, they also engaged with a lively, hope-filled Catholic community of prisoners and fostered relationships with Corrections’ administrators and guards.

Read the full article.

A question for you: Is your parish or diocese actively engaged in Prison Ministry?

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms.

  • dudleysharp

    Sister Helen Prejean: A Critical Review
    Dudley Sharp

    The parents of rape/torture/murder victim Loretta Bourque, a Dead Man Walking Case

    ” . . .makes you realize the Dead Man Walking truly belongs on the shelf in the library in the Fiction category.”

    “Being devout Catholics, ‘the norm’ would be to look to the church for support and healing. Again, this need for spiritual stability was stolen by Sister Prejean.” (1)

    Case Detective Michael Vernado, in the rape/torture/murder of Faith Hathaway, a Dead Man Walking Case

    “I wouldn’t have had as much trouble with (Prejean’s) views if she would have told the truth . . .” ” . . . (Sr. Prejean) based her book on what was in I guess a
    defense file and what (rapist/murderer) Robert Willie telling her.” ” . . . she’s trying to mislead people in the book. And that’s something that she’s going have to work out with herself.” “(Sr. Prejean’s) certainly not after giving anybody spiritual advice to try to save their soul.” (2)

    Book Review: “Sister Prejean’s Lack of Credibility: Review of “The Death of Innocents”, by Thomas M. McKenna (New Oxford Review, 12/05).

    “The book is moreover riddled with factual errors and misrepresentations.”

    “Williams had confessed to repeatedly stabbing his victim, Sonya Knippers.”

    “This DNA test was performed by an independent lab in Dallas, which concluded that there was a one in nearly four billion chance that the blood could have been someone’s other than Williams’s.”

    ” . . . despite repeated claims that (Prejean) cares about crime victims, implies that the victim’s husband was a more likely suspect but was overlooked because the authorities wanted to convict a black man.”

    ” . . . a Federal District Court . . . stated that ‘the evidence against Williams was overwhelming.’ ” “The same court also did “not find any evidence of racial bias specific to this case.”



    Did she consider the mental suffering of a parent who lost their innocent daughter to a rape/murder or, possibly, the mental (and physical) suffering of that girl, as she was being raped and murdered?

    Of course the sister considered it and she made her choice – the murderer.


    (1) “Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”–the-death-penalty-a-critical-review.aspx

    (2) Prejean: Death penalty is torture, online, October 1, 2012,–Death-penalty-is-torture.html?nav=5010

  • dudleysharp

    The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation

    Saint (& Pope) Pius V, “The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder.” “The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent” (1566).

    Pope Pius XII: “When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live.” 9/14/52.

    Jesus and the Death Penalty

    The Catechism and the Death Penalty