10 October 2007

Texas Bishops: NO to Amnesty International

The bishops of Texas have issued a statement on Catholic involvement in Amnesty International:

Texas Bishops Respond to Amnesty International

October 8, 2007

We, the Bishops of Texas are instructing all parish and diocesan staff and other Catholic organizations to no longer support financially nor through publicity, nor participate in joint projects or events sponsored by the organization known as Amnesty International. This instruction is based on Amnesty International’s decision to limit its human rights agenda by promoting abortion as a way to curb violence against women, especially women in developing countries. In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members, many of whom are Catholics, and others who defend the rights of unborn children and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights. Our assessment is that Amnesty International is now violating its original mission to protect human rights worldwide and has lost its moral credibility.

While no human rights organization should turn away from the suffering that women face daily in the form of sexual violence, it should not prioritize a mother’s life above that of her unborn child. It is better to advocate advancing her educational and economic standing in society and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against her and her child. Abortion is an act of violence against both the child and its mother. Any organization truly committed to women’s rights must put itself in solidarity with women and their unborn children.

Discontinuing participation with Amnesty International does not mean the Catholic Church in Texas will cease to protect human life and promote human dignity in all circumstances. We will continue to oppose the use of the death penalty, unjust incarceration and the crushing effects of dehumanizing poverty in our state. We will continue to stand with refugees, migrants, and other oppressed peoples. But, we will seek to do so in authentic ways, working most closely with organizations who do not oppose the fundamental right to life from conception until natural death.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stated that individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support for Amnesty International if it continues with this new policy, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, Amnesty International has betrayed its mission. This statement has been supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We, therefore, call upon Amnesty International to act in accord with its noblest principles, reconsider its error, and reverse its policy on abortion. Until then, parishes, diocesan staffs, and other Catholic organizations should no longer work with Amnesty International.

Texas Catholic Conference


  1. Maybe it's just me, but everytime I see "no" fully capitalized (like in the title to this post) I immediately think "Novus Ordo."

    To much liturgy on the brain me thinks!

  2. Woot for Bishops taking a stand and God bless my own Texas Bishop.

  3. Anonymous4:58 PM

    For the most part, AI seems to be an organization that does quite a bit of good. Granted, the abortion issue is significant but is a complete break from them really the best course of action? Isn't it possible for Catholics to clearly voice their views/differences while simultaneously working together in common cause where our goals are in alignment?

  4. Anon,

    The quick answer to your question is No, we can't. Any cooperation with A.I. is now cooperation with their pro-abortion lobbying efforts. There is simply no way for any Catholic working with A.I. to tease out consistently what is and what is not abortion lobbying.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  5. To reconsider your anti death penalty position, start with the first two refernces.

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

    The strength of the biblical, theological and traditional support for the death penalty is, partially, revealed, below.

    (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.http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm

    "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.

    A thorough theological repudiation of Pope John Paul II's death penalty prudential judgements and of their improper inclusion into the amending of the Catechism.

    "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 http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/BudziszewskiPunishment.shtml

    (6) Chapter V:The Sanctity of Life, "Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics" By John Murray

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

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

    (9) "The Death Penalty", by Solange Strong Hertz at

    (10) "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).

    (11) "God’s Justice and Ours" by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002

    (12) Forgotten Truths: "Is The Church Against Abortion and The Death Penalty"
    by Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Crusade Magazine, p14-16, May/June 2007

    (13) "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

    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 1999-2008 Dudley Sharp
    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 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.

    Pro death penalty sites
    www.coastda.com/archives.html see Death Penalty
    http://yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)

  6. Dudley,

    I support the church's basic teaching on the D.P.: morally allowable only if no bloodless means is available to defend the moral order. This is why I stipulated that I oppose the use of the D.P. in the U.S.

    Thanks, Fr. Philip, OP

  7. Father Powell:

    May I recomend that you read, in their entirety,the first two references, above.

    And after doing doing that ask if a very weak, secular prudential judgement should be used to change nearly 2000 years of biblical, theological and traditional Church teachings.

  8. Mr. Sharp,

    With all due respect, I will tell you what I tell the left-leaning loonies that comment on this blog: I believe and teach the Roman Catholic faith as the Successors of St Peter teach it and present it in the Catechism.

    The Church's teaching in the CCC is not a change in doctrine, but a more detailed explanation of the circumstances that we must include in our deliberations to make a prudential judgment about the morality of the use the D.P. generally and in specific cases. Given the right circumstances, the right convict, the right intentions, I could live with a particular execution. However, we have bloodless means to achieve our goal of protecting ourselves from capital offenders and those are the means we must use.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  9. Dear Fr. Philip:

    I have been aware of both Evalgelium Vitae and amendments to the catechism, from the time they were written and considered.

    That is, speoifically, why I referred you to the first two essay. The subsequent essays, from other devout Catholics, also included in those references, are helpful in the considerations.

    I recommend the first two because of their stature, although the others are very solid.

    In 1997, I began asking Catholic theologians if a prudential judgement had ever been entered into a Catechism, as Church teaching. None could think of any. I doubt it has occurred before, and for good reason. I doubt it will ever occur, again. I think the subject one is highly flawed, rationally, biblically, theologically and traditionally, again, as the two references easily reveal.

    Your reasoning is sound, within the current Catechism, in that it leaves some room execution, in specific cases.

    However, because of the rational failures, regardling the solely secular consideration of the state of criminal incarceration, the Pope's reasoning failed to find, even in the US, that a failure to execute murderers puts more innocts at risk. It is hard to imagaine the Church would, knowingly and radically, change the understanding and use of capital punishment, whereby the decison resulted in most, if not nearly all, murderers being spared, at the cost of more innocents harmed and murdered.

    That is the result of Pope John Paul II's writings and their wrongful inclusion into the Catechism.

    As you pointed out, every cirsumstance will be slightly different. That is an understatement, as the state and security of incarceration, not only varies widely throughout the US, but even more so, throughout the world.

    To state the very obvious, living murderers are infinitely more likely to hamr and murder, again, than are executed murderers.

    As in "Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm”

    16 recent studies, inclusice of their defenses, has found for death penalty deterrence. Not surprising, as all prospects of a negativre outcome deter some - there is no exception.

    And, at lkeast in the US, and maybe in all jurisdictions, the due process protections of the death penalty are far superior to the due process for lesser sentneces, meaning, an actual innocent is more likley to be sentneced to death and more likely to die in prison, than it is that an innocent is lieley to be executed. In the US, this is a certaintly. Elsehwere, I cannot say.

    Please consider, the good Pope's pronouncement that "bloodless means" are preferrred. Does his his prudential judgement have more weight than the Holy Writer "For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life. If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; For in the image of God has man been made. Genesis 8:5-6?

    "I will demand"

    "By man shall his blood be shed"

    "will" "shall"

    Quaker biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey. A Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College, wrote a landmark essay on the death penalty entitled "A Bible Study".  Here is a synopsis of his analysis: " . . . the decree of Genesis 9:5-6 is equally enduring and cannot be separated from the other pledges and instructions of its immediate context, Genesis 8:20-9:17; . . . that is true unless specific Biblical authority can be cited for the deletion, of which there appears to be none. It seems strange that any opponents of capital punishment who professes to recognize the authority of the Bible either overlook or disregard the divine decree in this covenant with Noah; . . . capital punishment should be recognized . . . as the divinely instituted penalty for murder; The basis of this decree . . . is as enduring as God; . . . murder not only deprives a man of a portion of his earthly life . . . it is a further sin against him as a creature made in the image of God and against God Himself whose image the murderer does not respect." (p. 111-113) Carey agrees with Saints Augustine and Aquinas, that executions represent mercy to the wrongdoer: ". . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy." (p. 116). Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992.  Dr. Carey was a Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College

  10. Dear Fr. Philip:

    You have been both kind and patient and I am, likely, testing both.

    I will move on.

    Thank you and God bless you,

  11. my apologies, I amde an obvious error.

    I wrote:

    "And, at lkeast in the US, and maybe in all jurisdictions, the due process protections of the death penalty are far superior to the due process for lesser sentneces, meaning, an actual innocent is more likley to be sentneced to death and more likely to die in prison, than it is that an innocent is lieley to be executed. In the US, this is a certaintly. Elsehwere, I cannot say."

    It should read:

    "And, at least in the US, and maybe in all jurisdictions, the due process protections of the death penalty are far superior to the due process for lesser sentences, meaning, an actual innocent is more likley to be sentneced to


    and more likely to die in prison, than it is that an innocent is likeley to be executed. In the US, this is a certaintly. Elsehwere, I cannot say.