Can Catholic support capital punishment?

The Church has done it in the past but now not so much.

I am not sure, but it is a moot point for me; as I was against Capital Punishment LONG before Pope Francis became Pope (and indeed, before I became Catholic). The last three Popes have all spoken out against it, so there is that…


Welcome to CAF. Click on the magnifying glass on the upper left and do a search. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of threads on this topic that could entertain anybody’s quarantine.


The Church says (not as a dogma, it is more of an opinion, but the opinion of Rome should not be taken lightly) that we shouldn’t support capital punishment due to the circumstances of the modern world, and that means we really shouldn’t without a good reason.
Also, while disagreeing with the Church on this is allowed, if it is done it should be done prudently. If you choose to disagree you must still submit to the fact that the policy of the Church right now is to discourage capital punishment, and it does no good to try and sabotage that effort.

Personally I support capital punishment, and I will defend my stance when warranted, but otherwise I don’t make a fuss about it. It is just one of many political issues I disagree with the Authorities in the Church on. It’s not my decision to make, though.


Capital Punishment is not intrinsically evil or inherently immoral, and the Catholic Church did not err when it taught that civil power may use it on malefactors when it is necessary when it is necessary to preserve just order of societies, as Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Cardinal Raymond Burke et al have noted in their Declaration of Truths.

So given that it can never be immoral when it is necessary, the remaining question is this: Is capital punishment necessary at this point in time in our society? This question has been the subject of numerous and very entertaining debates on this forum, to the point of being done to death (pardon the pun).

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Would Jesus be for or against capital punishment being a victim himself. What do you think Jesus would say if asked that question.

I think you can support both given the proper context of said sentence. We know that government is given authority and this is within the reign of their authority provided they are ruling justly. However, it is to be seen in our society today, that there are many all over the world that do not reign justly and we should separate ourselves from the support of the unjust.

I do not think it is wicked for this power to be exercised but it should be done very scarcely and in the most serious of circumstances. I can say that I am happy to not have to be one making these decisions and delegating said sentences.


Best answer so far. Thanks

The search :mag: feature will be of much use to you.

When Jesus hung on the Cross, one of the robbers hanging by His sides mocked Him, but the other robber, Dismas, scolded the defiant robber, saying they had received their just reward for their crimes, but Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:39-40).Jesus did not rebuke Dismas. Whether Christ would approve of how capital punishment is applied today is debatable, but He certainly did not consider it immoral in principle.

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Hmm. To probe the mind of God. :thinking:
Interesting to contemplate.

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Because capital punishment is a state issue, each state has the authority, within the bounds of Supreme Court decisions, to determine which crimes justify such punishment. They are not uniform; what may get one criminal executed in Jurisdiction “X” will not get them executed in Jurisdiction “Y”. That very fact is an unequal application of justice.

Additionally, trying to determine in a relatively short period of time what prejudices or or other attitudes a jury member might have is, to put it minimally, daunting. And while evidence such as might be provided by DNA tests, for example, might be useful in screening out some individuals, it is not necessarily as accurate as has been portrayed. There have been repeated studies conducted showing how inaccurate witness identification can be.

And anyone who believes that prosecutors are always out to seek justice - as opposed to seeking a conviction - is a person who simply has not payed critical attention to the news. I am not saying that there are not excellent, honest prosecutors; simply that not all are.

I have no problem whatsoever with something such as the shooter in the West Freeway Church of Christ meeting his Maker then and there; in 12 seconds he had managed to kill two members of the congregation and may well have killed others had jack Wilson not brought it to an abrupt end. But most cases which carry the death penalty do not end as such in the middle of the crime. Oregon has 30 men and 1 woman awaiting execution, which the last governor put into abatement when he would not sign the death warrant; and the current governor has maintained the same position. The longest serving under sentence has been on Death Row for 28 years.

The case which put the whole group into prolonged suspension was one individual who demanded his appeals be terminated and the execution carried out - which has been referred to as suicide by execution.

A joint study by Lewis and Clark Law School and the University of Seattle put the cost of executing 61 individuals at an average cost of $2.3 million, including incarceration costs, and 313 aggravated murder cases at an average of $1.4 million.

When Peter chopped off the guard’s ear, Jesus’ response was “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” He was citing Genesis 9:6, which advocates Capital Punishment (“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God, He made man.”) So, it seems that our Lord supported Capital Punishment.


I certainly believe you are correct in referring to the church’s recent opposition to the use of capital punishment as an opinion rather than doctrine, but, precisely because it is a judgment, we are not in fact bound to assent to it. We do not need to accept it.

“…prudential judgment, while it is to be respected, is not a matter of binding Catholic doctrine. To differ from such a judgment, therefore, is not to dissent from Church teaching.” (Cardinal Dulles)

Dulles also said this, so we do need to use discretion:

“…they are morally accountable if they disregard the prudential judgment of the hierarchical leaders, who speak with authority even when they are not handing on the word of the Lord.”

I think it is reasonable, however, to distinguish between “disregard”, and “disagree”.


I don’t disagree, exactly, but I’m not entirely on the same page either. The Church is not a democracy, and since I’m only a layman I don’t have much of a say in what policies the Church should pursue. I’m not arguing that we should all keep quiet, but I do think that the new statements from Rome requires us to be more restrained in our expressions than before.

If Pope Francis wishes to make the Church more palatable to the secular, Western world where it can be legitimately done (as with condemning capital punishment), then you and I will disagree with him, but he is currently in charge of these matters. And so my opinion is that we may voice our concerns regarding this new policy, but must otherwise avoid opposing it (to a reasonable extent).

If you’re going to follow the church in her opinions, why would you not follow her doctrines as well? We agree that the comments on capital punishment are judgments, but it is the church herself who teaches that such judgments do not require our assent. Surely we are justified in accepting the doctrine that disagreement with opinions may be legitimate.

What I’m arguing for (and this is my opinion) is that we shouldn’t actively oppose a policy from the Church. Not opposing is not the same as assenting or supporting.
I see these new developments about the death penalty as a part of the evangelization policies regarding the Western world. I don’t think it’s the right or best way to go about converting people, but since this is how the Church has decided to do it, I will not block the way.

I don’t think it’s unjustifiable or a sin to oppose an opinion, but in this case I don’t see the point. As a layman I have no political power in the Church, and so I think the best I can do in accordance with obedience to Rome is to grudgingly accept their decision. If I had political power then things might be different, though.

In practice such submission does not need to greatly affect your normal behavior. The way I practice it is simply to make it clear in my arguments that I am in disagreement with the Church (and thus giving the leaders their due voice), and to shift my focus from why I think capital punishment is a good thing to why I think it’s not a bad thing.

In my case, “actively” opposing this policy consists of weighing in on the subject whenever I have the opportunity to do so, because I think there are real-world consequences involved. My most serious concern is to counter what I understand to be harmful arguments put forward in support of the idea that capital punishment is now immoral, a harmful idea in its own right.

Beyond that is the commonly held belief that Catholic judges may not impose this sentence, and that Catholics should not sit on juries dealing with capital crimes. Individuals are justified in concluding for themselves that they could not in good conscience be involved with capital cases, but they are not justified in concluding that it is inappropriate for all Catholics.

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This is where we disagree, as I try to avoid such discussions unless my opinion is warranted, or if there are consequences, as you say, directly involved.

Yes, that is a dangerous idea which should be resisted. I wish Rome would be clearer in their language so people wouldn’t get the impression that morality is subject to change. I don’t think arguing against such arguments is in opposition to the Church’s opinion, quite the contrary I think it’s aligned with the Church’s dogma.

As for what Catholic judges and jurymen can do, that seems to be a more difficult question. I agree with you that that must be up to each individual.

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