The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court about the medication used in capital punishment in which they misrepresent Catholic teaching.

The NCR Amicus Brief is here

The opposition the NCR ascribes to capital punishment is from statements by bishop’s conferences (which are not considered dogmatic).

The brief begins noting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB) call for abolition; and to put that call in authoritative context, Pope Benedict XVI (when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger) has remarked on the teaching authority status of the episcopal conference:

“The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given by the individual bishops.

“It is a matter of safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an episcopal structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The national level is not an ecclesial dimension.

Ratzinger, J. Cardinal with Vittorio Messori. (1985). The Ratzinger report: An exclusive interview on the state of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (pp. 59-60)

Dogma is only established when the pope speaks ex cathedral , or in concert with the entire global body of bishops in an ecumencial conference such as Trent or Vatican II; both of which produced Universal Catechisms, binding on the entire Church.

The national Catechisms, such as those for the United States, do not have the same authority.

No pope has spoken ex cathedra on capital punishment and the only recent action with the pope and the global body of bishops meeting in ecumencial conference, is the Catechism of the Catholic Church which clearly supports capital punishment, though noting that if penal conditions ever arise that the aggressor can be stopped from continued aggression, then capital punishment may be allowed to stop.

However, as we see from this article as part of the National Public Radio (NPR) series on Super Max prisons, that situation is not even possible there, which is what most people think of when claiming the aggressor can be stopped in the right penal condition.

An excerpt from the NPR article.

Even locked in isolation, some inmates have managed to find ways to kill each other and assault staff. On a recent afternoon, a half-dozen officers spent an entire day tearing apart the cells in one hallway, searching desperately for a metal binder clip they believed one of the inmates was hiding. Officer Buchanan discovered the paper fastener hidden inside a crack in the concrete wall. It had been sharpened into a deadly razor.

In the cell next door, Sgt. France held up a couple of staples she found.

“They use the staples. They sharpen them to a point, wrap paper around them real tight, and make a spear out of it,” France says. “It will go through the perforations on the cell. They can spear someone with it.”

Isolation Breeds Deadly Ingenuity

Lt. Steve Perez explains that inmates pull out the elastic from their underwear and braid it into a kind of super-powered bow to fire their weapons.

“They can project a spear coming out of there at 800-square-pounds per foot,” Perez said. “And 800 pounds per foot, into your neck, it’ll drive that right in there. And now we’ve got to go in there, and what does he have on it? Does he have feces? HIV? Does he have herpes? TB? Hepatitis? And that’s not unusual.”

Prison officials say that removing the most dangerous gang members and putting them in segregation makes regular prisons safer for the rest of the inmates — and it weakens the gangs.

But Jim, a 38-year-old SHU inmate from Long Beach, says that’s wishful thinking. He says that to gang members, being sent to the secure-housing unit is an honor.

“Coming up here was the big thing,” Jim says from inside his cell. “Put in work. Come up here, be with the big homeys. Because this is the only place you’re going to be around the fellas, you know.”

‘You’re a Target Because of the Color of Your Skin’

Jim says gang leaders still control the gangs from within the SHU, mostly by mailing each other letters. And he says if you show up to prison and don’t join the gang of your race, you’ll be a target for the other gangs within days.

Retrieved March 21, 2015 from

In closing, the amicus brief notes that Catholics belief in the sanctity of life is why capital punishment should be abolished, but they have it backwards.

The sanctity of human life is exactly why capital punishment is and always has been, allowed by the Catholic Church, an argument built on God’s covenant with humans noted in the Catechism:


The witness of sacred history

2259 In the account of Abel’s murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”

2260 The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God’s gift of human life and man’s murderous violence:

For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning. . . . Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.

The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. This teaching remains necessary for all time.

Retrieved March 23, 2015 from

This statement “This teaching remains necessary for all time” came from the pope and all the bishops of the world meeting in a ecumenical conference and is dogma, incontrovertible truth.