Can a Catholic Still Maintain the Death Penalty?

Ever since the new revision of the Catechism there has been some uproar among more conservative Catholics as to whether or not a Catholic can still hold to the proper use of the death penalty despite the Catechism rejecting it now. Is it permissible for a Catholic to still hold to the death penalty?

Slightly off topic (And I apologize, but it is interesting): I think this is a major struggle for American Catholics. Not the death penalty per se, just having another entity tell us what to think on certain political issues. Hear me well: I am not saying the church is wrong for telling us-I’m simply saying that it’s hard to accept that for many American Catholics.


Yes, it’s mainly an American Catholic argument, most countries including Catholic countries have done away with the death penalty.


I think that it is impossible for the teaching on the permissibility of the death penalty to change from the affirmative, because it is affirmed in Scripture by Christ, and in fact executed personally at the hand of God several times, and by His angels repeatedly. In fact, we are all under the death penalty of sin unless we repent and are baptized.
However, the idea is that there are alternatives to the death penalty that nations ought to consider, which I believe is what the catechism states. The death penalty will always remain permissible as a last resort, and can never be considered morally wrong in itself, because we would be accusing God of evil.


I don’t think the Church is just another entity. Either we have faith or we don’t. I don’t see the death penalty as a political issue. It is a part of our beliefs as Catholics in all things pro-life. I know many will disagree, but you can’t be anti-abortion and pro death penalty. That’s not consistent.


Right, I agree with you 100%. It’s just what I’ve seen other Catholics say, nothing more.

I know many will disagree, but you can’t be anti-abortion and pro death penalty.

Nonsense. Abortion is the murder of an innocent, the death penalty is the application of justice. Furthermore, the Church exists because of the death penalty, Christ having submitted to the authority of Pilate, even though he was innocent.
For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God’s minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. – Romans 13:4


Yes, because the death penalty is not immoral in itself, and it is outside the competency of the Church to ban it :slight_smile:


Wow. So that frees us to pick and choose what things we will follow of Church teaching?


@Irishmom2 I don’t follow. What are you trying to say?

There is obviously nothing wrong with Catholics being opposed to the death penalty. But I don’t think it was necessary to rewrite a paragraph in the CCC. My opinion hasn’t changed in the two years since we first had a thread about this here:

Pope revises catechism to say death penalty is ‘inadmissible’ Social Justice
I suspect he may be making a mistake – once again, getting the Church too closely mixed up in politics. We know what the Latin American bishops now say about Liberation Theology. “When the Church made its preferential option for the poor, the poor made their preferential option for the Pentecostals.”


No, at least not without going against the Church’s teaching.

I was responding to post 8.

Good to know that some people find the Church incompetent in leading the faithful.

I don’t think you understand the teaching. CCC 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 are 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 non-existent."

Therefore, the teaching only cautions nations to consider if the death penalty is necessary. If the answer is yes, then it is lawful and moral.

Edit: This quote from the catechism is apparently out f date as of 2018!

Not at all :slight_smile:

But the Church has certain competencies, and the state has others. When one acts outside of their competencies, as the Church has previously told us, we are free to hold other views :slight_smile:

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I don’t believe the Church is acting outside it’s competency, so that is all I am going to say.


No. Not if you take Rome’s claims of magisterial authority at face value. What does scripture say about the power of the state to exercise the death penalty?

More than that. Open borders spread protestantism among Latinos like Covid spreads in a nursing home. Those churches teach some of them to be preachers and missionaries and send them back to their countries of origin to spread protestantism. The Assemblies of God, for example, has its world headquarters right here, and it has a whole school dedicated to training and sending missionaries into Latin America.

“Welcoming the stranger” by endorsing open borders was a terrible mistake for the Church, both in this country and in Latin America.

It has been my observation that Mexicans tend to retain Catholicism; largely I think due to their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. But Central Americans flock to pentecostalism like flies to spilled coke.


Well its not dogma. The church may currently have a stance on the death penalty, but I think it gets problematic when you do a small amount of research and find that we actually used to support it in extreme cases…and as hard as it is for some to admit, so does the bible. So in modern times yeah it may not be admissible under a pontificate, but it will never be a dogma and thus is possibly open to change. I would practice obedience in these times.


People wouldn’t be objecting as they are if the change was simply a prudential judgment that “developed nations in the twenty-first century no longer have justification for the death penalty, what with all the resources they have.” The wording can easily be read as “at no point in time and under no circumstances ever can the death penalty ever be considered moral, even as just a hypothetical.” Such a reading flies in the face of 2,000 years of positively affirming the right of a nation to use the death penalty.

If we aren’t “picking and choosing” to listen to just the latest revision, and instead keep in mind 2,000 years of positive and clear teaching, then what’s in the catechism must simply be a development of prudential judgment for the times we live in, not a reversal.

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