Can a Catholic Still Maintain the Death Penalty?

If you are going to start by accusing me of disobedience I see no reason to tell you anything. It is not only insulting, it is an offense against charity, love, and the Church :slight_smile:

I have already explained that if you read the whole thing you will see the argument relies on this:
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 with 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 definitively 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.”

All of those are prudential judgements that can be easily refuted just by observation :slight_smile:

It is a case by case situation. :slight_smile: please do not take one paragraph and use it to bash other people for disobedience when they use the whole statement :slight_smile:

I am really not sure what the basis of your position is. Are you saying that you get to say what the Church teaches? How can you deny the plain words of the Catechism, and still think that you are not dissenting?

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No, I am saying that you aren’t interpreting it light of tradition, which is necessary, and you shouldn’t be accusing anyone, including clergy in Good standing, of dissent when you don’t know :slight_smile:

Anyways, it is not worth arguing over with you, we will let God speak for Himself when the time comes :slight_smile:

Interpreting the Church’s teaching in light of tradition is left to those with teaching authority - like the Pope. The Pope has done that, and the Catechism reflects the authoritative teaching of the Church. If every Catholic can just look at each paragraph of the Catechism and accept it or reject it based on that individual’s own idea of “tradition” then there is no Catholic teaching and no Church.

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As apt as you may consider this analogy, it’s in poor taste to allude to Protestants and a disease in the same analogous breath.

Just to add to your case for the death penalty’s uselessness, states with the highest death penalty rates also have the highest murder rates. Such a correlation shouldn’t even exist if the death penalty is an effective deterrent.

Editing to add: From a theological standpoint, these data make it harder to justify killing the perpetrators.

I’m not often accused of having good taste. But neither do I have any obligation to regard protestantism well, because it’s view of morality is subjective, and it has drawn many away from the true Church.

Me neither. I would hope that it’s not because they like the idea of executing people.
In some cases they may think society is not truly safe as long as these “worst offenders” are alive and could commit bad deeds again.

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You can disagree with Protestantism without implying that it’s a “disease.”

To state otherwise reflects the ridiculous polarization in which our society is choosing to engage.

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Death penalty has always been permissible and still is and always will be. Whatever change you speak of is null.

I believe you are speaking of a comment Pope Francis made on the death penalty. That is the Pope’s opinion, it is not infallible nor did it change the teaching. It cannot change, even the Pope wanted to change it.

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I support the death penalty. I know I’m not supposed to, but…meh. There are some who are so vile that they should be euthanized.

I found this to be helpful in resolving the difficulties I had with the revision of the Catechism.

It all makes sense when we view capital punishment as societal self-defense in Catholic ethics.

This is simply incorrect. Have you followed the thread? It is not referring to a comment or opinion of the Pope. It is a formal change to the Catechism. The Church teaches that the penalty is not permissible.


I accept the Church’s prudential judgment that the death penalty is inadmissible in today’s world. If the world would ever change radically — if, for instance, there would be some horrible disaster that would bludgeon the surviving peoples and nations into medieval times, and take away our ability to secure and (attempt to) rehabilitate capital criminals — then it might be once again admissible. For me to dismiss the Church’s prudential judgment (not doctrine, not dogma, just a sober assessment of the world as it now exists) would mean that I were placing my view of the world above that of the Pope and the magisterium. That would take awfully big shoes.

In our country — let’s just be honest — the death penalty exists largely to satisfy the indignation, and desire for justice (or revenge? — there’s a thin line separating the two) among the people, especially among the less-educated and less-refined. Just look at the crowds that gather outside the prisons before an execution, and how they celebrate and cheer when it takes place. I wouldn’t be surprised if vendors were selling T-shirts, bobbleheads, and deep-fried-whatever! It doesn’t exactly bring out the best or the noblest in people.

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I think Tim Staples did a really good job on this question here:

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The church has always taught that death penalty was permissible, so it cannot change 2,000 years later. Was there a change to Catechism? I have no idea. I use Catechism of Trent and Baltimore catechism. However, the teaching does not change nor can it change.


You are correct that it cannot suddenly be determined that the death penalty is evil in itself and therefore never permissible under any circumstance. What has changed is that the Church now advises nations of the modern time that the death penalty is presently inadmissible due to considerations for alternative means by which they can accomplish their duties, which chiefly pertain to the protection of the innocent.
This prudential teaching deserves due consideration because of the seriousness of the matter and the authority of the teacher. Many in this thread misinterpret the change to mean precisely what it doesn’t mean, to wit, that the death penalty is per se a moral wrong, and thus they have set Tradition at odds with itself, which is of course impossible.

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To be clear, I am not one of those :smiley:

I just think that it is impossible to make those prudential judgements without evaluating each case, which is the job of a judge, not a pope :slight_smile:

There are numerous examples of just the last few months were violent offenders were released and went out and committed the acts again :slight_smile:

There are also examples of it happening in the prisons, and from within to the outside, etc. :slight_smile:

I think it is a fair point to say that national authorities are better situation to determine the necessity of capital punishment than the Pope. For example, a developing nation with fewer resources might not be as capable of indefinitely detaining a violent criminal, and in this case it would be problematic for them to put at risk their own citizens in order to avoid the death penalty.
However, the Pope likely also considered this, and felt comfortable revising the catechism in any case. Clearly he believes that every nation of today, no matter their wealth or resources, has at the very least the ability to avoid the death penalty.
Admitting that there is any scenario at all where capital punishment is permissible does not necessarily mean that anyone is elevating themselves over against the Pope. In the words of the catechism, “Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.” Here it is admitted that the death penalty was “long considered” to be acceptable. If it was evil intrinsically, then it could never have been acceptable.
I think the people that have misread the catechism know who they are, I don’t want to name them.

I don’t have a problem with the Church opposing the use of capital punishment. I do have a problem with the Church changing its doctrine.

But I don’t think that’s what happened here. Saying that current conditions in developed nations make the death penalty inadmissible does not seem a change of doctrine, but a judgment about current conditions in the world.

If the death penalty was inadmissible for all of history, then the Church was wrong in the past.


You’ve stated exactly why its important to be precise when speaking about the revision. It clearly does not constitute an about face on the doctrine, but it is the informed judgement of the current pontificate that the death penalty is inadmissible under the current conditions.

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