Bishop Olson, other Texas bishops affirm U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Ramirez v. Collier
FORT WORTH — Bishop Michael Olson joined his fellow Texas Catholic bishops in affirming the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Ramirez v. Collier, which granted John Henry Ramirez’ request to have his pastor audibly pray and lay hands on him as the State of Texas executes him.
The Supreme Court, with an 8-1 decision, ruled that Ramirez’ religious liberty rights were violated when the State of Texas refused his request to have his pastor present to lay hands on him and pray in his final moments.
Ramirez was sentenced to death row for the 2004 stabbing death of Pablo Castro, a father of nine, during a robbery in a convenience store.
On the day of his scheduled September 8, 2021, execution, the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case and his execution was stayed.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, representing the 21 active bishops in Texas, stated, “Allowing a prisoner to seek mercy at the moment of his death should be a minimal expectation of our society. When a person’s life is already being taken from him is it too much to simply provide that person with a warm touch and a prayerful presence?
“The ministerial presence of a chaplain underscores that religious freedom with the integrity of the conscience is a matter of human dignity not forfeited by the commission of grave crimes committed against life.
“Even with this decision, the killing of John Ramirez will not provide healing to the family and friends of Pablo Castro, nor will it result in justice for John Ramirez. For the sake of all impacted by this tragedy, for the affirmation of the inestimable value of human life, and for the common good, John Ramirez’ life should be spared.
“Mercy must accompany justice in our response to violence. State-sanctioned executions are a merciless and violent response which makes our society increasingly merciless and violent, as well as unjust. As we wrote in a pastoral statement in 2016, capital punishment reduces our hearts’ capacity for mercy and love,” the bishops concluded.
A new execution date for Ramirez has not yet been determined.