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What Does the Church Teach Concerning Capital Punishment? Comments

The question of capital punishment within the Catholic Church is a thorny one, and it is difficult within the cacophony of competing voices to sort out the current state of the Church's teaching. The Church's teaching that relates to the intentional killing of an innocent human being by either public authority or a private actor is certain.The teaching of the Church on the killing of a malefactor-specifically as found in Pope John Paul II's ... Continue Reading

21 - 30 of 37 Comments

  1. vance
    2 years ago

    Dliodior, The execution of a 'Cold Blooded Killer' is a non-issue. If you are so concerned about 'Capital Punishment', be concerned about the "Capital Punishment" of ((( MILLIONS ))) of babies who committed "NO CRIME". OR the "Capital Punishment" of Euthanizing innocent people like Terri Schiavo. Throughout America and the world, severely handicapped people are executed for the crime of being handicapped. This is the REAL ISSUE of Capital Punishment. Before you cry your eyes out over executions that "Don't Happen', cry instead for the executions of innocents that "ARE HAPPENING".

  2. Fr. Ralph Caley OSB/OHI
    2 years ago

    "This is the constant teaching of the Church,......from St. Clement of Alexandria, to St. Thomas Aquinas,....." May please have a resource location for St. Thomas Aquinas. Thank you.
    Pax†

  3. Dliodoir
    2 years ago

    Andrew, you are rationalizing why it is ok to not exercise mercy when, in fact, mercy could be shown while still protecting the public. Again, you make a very complicated argument to counter John Paul the Great's simple proposition. . .if mercy can be shown the condemed so that his (or her) life might be spared, mercy should be granted UNLESS there is NO OTHER WAY to protect society. You cling to the legalistic shield that your dissent is somehow less evil than that of the abortion supporter. And yet a life is ended and mercy is rejected when it was an available and viable option. What would Jesus do?

  4. Dr. John
    2 years ago

    Here we make the mistake of trying to bend God's will and law to justify and excuse or codify our own actions.
    Capital punishment is one of the biggest lightning rods facing us today. Very few things eclipse this in the moral arena.
    Here is a simple answer:
    Go to the parable of the man who hired workers, some in the morning, some later in the day, some at the last minute. All were paid the same wage. I am sure we all remember this one.
    Also, bear in mind that a soul is not lost until it dies unrepentant and unaccepting of God's grace and Jesus.
    If a person is capable of repenting at the last second and gaining the Kingdom of Heaven then we have no right to block their ability to do so. Only God knows the sinners heart.
    Since God made all of us in his image and wishes none would perish and since he forbids us from judging others (and I would submit that this is the ultimate judgement) then logically it would follow that we are not to interfere with the natural course of life and not to judge another unlikely to repent and thus gain the Kingdom.
    In other words, it is not up to us to critique the creations of God when in fact we are of the same ashes and dust as the ones we are critiquing and in His eyes all capable of salvation.
    We can imprison and punish those that run afoul of the laws. There is no prohibition against this.
    No one goes to the Father except through Jesus. No one goes to Jesus unless the Father calls them. We do not determine when God will call or even if God will call.
    For us to decide for God whether a person is capable of salvation is not within the scope of our authority or knowledge.
    When one couples that with the overt politics and economic bias of the capital punishment system and the judiciary in this country including the incompetence of the prosecutors and the lawyers that try and defend then the answer becomes more obvious.
    It is a serious and unforgivable sin to take a corrupt and flawed system and use it to justify taking a life no matter how egregious the offense and no matter how much it offends our sensibilities.
    Leave vengeance to God. He will make things just.
    How many times has mankind acted in a manner that angered and offended God yet our God chose to withhold death and instead give forgiveness and life.
    We cannot place our authority above that of God.

  5. MarkV
    2 years ago

    "If the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice, he would be overthrowing the tradition of two millenia of Catholic thought, denying the teaching of several previous popes, and contradicting the teaching of Scripture."
    -- Avery Cardinal Dulles

    This is a very excellent article. Too often people read "very rare, if not practically nonexistent" and add words that aren't there. "Very rare" is more analogous to 99% than 100%. Lukemia in adults is "very rare." Additionally the language of "practically nonexistent" is not the same as "completely nonexistent." If we need to context on either of these, compare the language of 2267 with 2357.

    No doctrine is based on one line of scripture, or what one pope wrote in one paper in one year of the 2000 year history. The Rock of the Church does not change doctrine. If it was Church teaching in 325 AD, it is still Church teaching today. If today it is less common, the statement "practically nonexistent" does not damn past practice or prohibit future use. Just because today we may believe that we do not need capital punishment does not mean that at some unforeseeable future time it would not again be more necessary.

    A good resource: R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., Canon Lawyer: www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4

  6. renton
    2 years ago

    it looks like a particular commentator is selectively choosing some killing is okay. looks like flip flop to me.

  7. Andrew
    2 years ago

    @Bruce: I agree, the Church is neither conservative or liberal: it just is. And if it is now, it also was in the 16th century, in the 12th, in the 1st.
    Here's the thing. The Church that "just is" said in the Roman Catechism which was standard for five generations and represents the common teaching:
    "Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment­ is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.
    (Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, 1566, Part III, 5, n. 4)
    The same Church that just is said in the CCC in 1997:
    "Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."
    Now, if the Church is, then she is through history, and the "is" of the 16th century should be the same as the "is" of the 21st, with any differences being one of development. My article was an effort to reconcile the Roman Catechism with the CCC with the guidance of Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum to the American Bishops. Distinguishing between the order of justice and the order of mercy was my best effort. If you have a better way, I'd love to hear it or hear about it.
    While I have no doubt the CCC (an EV) is an authentic teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, I have no doubt the Roman Catechism was also. As you said, the Church's teaching just is: As St. Vincent of Lerins put it: her teaching is quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all).

  8. Bruce W. Carr Jr.
    2 years ago

    Well stated Dliodoir. I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church says it even better:

    2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68

    The Church is neither liberal or conservative... it is.

  9. vance
    2 years ago

    Andrew and Dliodoir, The murder does not stop when he is in custody. He murders other inmates and calls on his fellow gang members to keep killing. Some female staff members have been found in prison dumpsters. Many attempts to murder staff have been foiled. The vast majority of murderers are sociopaths who will tell you that the 'Victim' had it coming or was "in my way". On a case by case basis with unusual mitigating circumstances, there maybe justifiable mercy for life in prison. To allow people to murder without consequence is unjust and evil. This is the evil system we have today. God commanded capital punishment, yes commanded not suggested, ( God doesn't suggest ) because we are created in his image and our lives are precious and invaluable. What is also unjust is to house murderers at $45,000 a year when this money can be spent on the needy.

  10. CaptainAwesome
    2 years ago

    To All,

    Read "Dliodior"s reply. He said all that is accurate of the Faith.

    Well done!

    Jesus Loves You!


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