To: New Mexico – Governor Bill Richardson , the Legislature, prosecutors and
                                          media throughout the  state


From: Dudley Sharp, contact info below


 Catholic Scholars: Support for the Death Penalty
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below


There are thoughtful writings on both sides of this debate, but there is reason to believe that the pro death penalty position is stronger and that to abandon the death penalty is to abandon justice.


Recently deceased Avery Cardinal Dulles, in one of his final interviews, states that he thought the Church may return to a “more traditional posture” on the death penalty. (“An unpublished interview with Avery Dulles”,  All Things Catholic by John L. Allen, Jr.,, Posted on Dec 19, 2008,   at

Based upon the  strength of the Catholic biblical, theological and traditional support for the death penalty as, partially, revealed, below, I think the Church will have to.


Even today, a Catholic in good standing can call for more executions, if their prudential judgements finds for that.


(1) “Capital Punishment: New Testament Teaching”, 1998, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., considered one of the most prominent Roman Catholic theologians of  the 20th century.   See bottom.
 “There are certain moral norms that have always and everywhere been held by the successors of the Apostles in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Although never formally defined, they are irreversibly binding on the followers of Christ until the end of the world.” “Such moral truths are the grave sinfulness of contraception and direct abortion. Such, too, is the Catholic doctrine which defends the imposition of the death penalty.”
“Most of the Church’s teaching, especially in the moral order, is infallible doctrine because it belongs to what we call her ordinary universal magisterium.”
“Equally important is the Pope’s  (Pius XII) insistence that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture of Christianity.” ” . . . the Church’s teaching on ‘the coercive power of legitimate human authority’ is based on ‘the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine.’ It is wrong, therefore ‘to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances.’ On the contrary, they have ‘a general and abiding validity.’ (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp 81-2).”
about Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.


(2) “The Death Penalty”, by Romano Amerio,  a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.
“Amerio has the great gift of going to the heart of a subject in a few lines and very neatly distinguishes genuine Catholicism from imitations and aberrations.” “What makes Amerio’s analysis unique is that he restricts himself to official and semi-official pronouncements by popes, cardinals, bishops, episcopal conferences and articles in L’Osservatore Romano, from the time of Pope John XXIII to 1985 when the book was originally written.” (1)
titled “Amerio on capital punishment “,   Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum,   May 25, 2007
About Romano Amerio


(3)  “Christian Scholars & Saints: Support for the Death Penalty”, at
(4)  “Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective”,
          by Br. Augustine (Emmanuel Valenza)
(5) “Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice”, Prof. J. Budziszewski, First Things, August / September 2004
 (6) “The Death Penalty”, by Solange Strong Hertz at
(7)  “A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World” by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
(8) “God’s Justice and Ours” by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
(9) Forgotten Truths: “Is The Church Against Abortion and The Death Penalty”
          by Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Crusade Magazine, p14-16, May/June 2007

(10) “The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)”,
        by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 2003


         KARL KEATING’S E-LETTER,   Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
          KARL KEATING’S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers,, Nov. 22, 2005
Christian, non Catholic Scholars



(14) “Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says”, Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987.  The definitive  biblical review of the death penalty.


(15) “Why I Support Capital Punishment”, by Andrew Tallman
          sections 7-11 biblical review, sections 1-6 secular review

Religious positions in favor of capital punishment are neither necessary not needed to justify that sanction. However, the biblical and theological record is very supportive of the death penalty.
Many of the current religious campaigns against the death penalty reflect a fairly standard anti death penalty message, routed in secular arguments. When they do address  religious issues, they often neglect solid theological foundations, choosing, instead, select biblical sound bites which do not impact the solid basis of death penalty support.
(1) Books: ‘Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church’, by Romano Amerio, Fr Peter Joseph (reviewer)
IOTA UNUM: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century
by Romano Amerio (English translation by Fr John Parsons)
(Sarto House, USA, 786 pp)
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 9 No 8 (September 1996), p. 14
70% of Catholics supported the death penalty as of May, 2oo5, Gallup Poll, Moral Values and Beliefs. The May 2-5, 2005 poll also found that 74% of Americans  favor the death penalty for murderers, while 23% oppose.
copyright 1999-2009 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

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