Capital punishment...again


If I’ve got the post number correct this is #349.

I think there are only two criteria that determine whether a punishment is just:

  • its severity is commensurate with the severity of the crime, and
  • use of the punishment does not introduce other harm to society

As for the first, if capital punishment was ever just then it can only be because death is a commensurate punishment for (at least) the crime of murder, and this relationship can never change since the severity of neither the crime nor the punishment can ever change. As for the second, this is a prudential judgment (as I have always recognized) that is the responsibility of the government to make based on its own evaluation of the impact of the punishment.

So which is it? Is the punishment of execution for murder fixed outside the common good and can never change. Or are all punishments including execution, determined by the State as the caretaker of the common good?

Where did the Church ever teach the first of your ‘criterior’?


From the 1610s until early in the American Revolution in 1776. England transported its convicts and political prisoners, as well as prisoners of war from Scotland, Ireland, to its overseas colonies in the Americas.

From 1787 to 1868, transportation resumed on a large scale to Australia.

Between 1788 and 1868, about 162,000 convicts were transported by the British government to various penal colonies in Australia.


I don’t know you. I don’t know if you would lie to me. I don’t know if you have knowledge, I can’t check you out. However Warren H. Carroll I know wouldn’t lie, has knowledge and I can check him out. He said that one of the reasons he converted was that there was never a change to a dogma, development yes change no. He was a leading historian. His history series is terrific. The notes and documentation is a book unto themselves. Your assurances mean nothing compared to his well documented history that they have never changed.


Any change is not in the fundamentals of the doctrine that capital punishment serves. The change only reflects the practice of capital punishment as doing more harm than good today, rather than serving the dignity of man. The Church is not instituting this change since this has been happening in States across the world for more than a century now. The Church is correcting the false assertions by US Catholics that capital punishment was a ‘divine command’ and a default sentence. That was never taught by the Church in its history.


Would you please document That US Catholic asserted that capital punishment was a divine command and a default sentence. Never have I seen such a claim. What has been asserted as stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia- The infliction of capital punishment is not contrary to the teaching of the
Catholic Church, and the power of the State to visit upon culprits the penalty of death derives much authority from revelation and from the writings of theologians.
Even that Catechism talks about the “traditional teaching” I have no idea why you state that the Church is not making this change. What the secular world does has no impact on our teachings. That Church is suppose to teach truth not what is currently popular .



Just a brief note before I stop participating in this thread.

Neither modern historians nor modern jurists know what ‘capital punishment’ exactly means in canons of law from the 14th century forward.


That statement in the Catholic Encyclopedia is then followed with “The advisability of exercising that power is, of course, an affair to be determined upon other and various considerations.”

The judgement to use the death penalty is in the hands of the State who are accountable to the common good.

Now I am currently awaiting a response from Ender who represents here, the type of Catholic who mistakenly believe that the death penalty was ordered, commanded or established by Genesis 9 apart from its relation to the good of mankind or the ‘common good’ and therefore as if having a intrinsic justness. They argue that even if the death penalty is deemed harmful to society by the Church, it’s esteemed justness can never warrant abolition.

The Church has never taught that.


I take my own advice. I consider that I might be wrong constantly. Sometimes I am wrong. There is a disease in our society where it has become considered “weak” or “unmanly” to admit error. Look at the US President for an example. The president of my own university claims he hasn’t made a mistake in over a decade. Obviously, they are both wrong just as frequently as everyone else. I believe that it is actually a sign of intellectual strength to admit an error. You can learn from it, and grow. I make mistakes professionally, and personally, every day.

Maybe I am wrong about the death penalty. But Mr. Ender, yourself, and others in this form, are decidedly wrong when you ignore, or claim that evidence presented by @Don_Ruggero consists of nothing more than “assertions,” “[his] understanding of the situation,” or nothing more than “I’m right, you’re wrong, discussion is not allowed.” You can disagree with him, the Pope, every bishop and cardinal on the planet, and a very large number of secular governments for all I care, but do NOT belittle this good man’s effort by being so cavalierly dismissive of his argument.

I recommend that you, Mr. Ender, and others who similarly dismiss the efforts of the Vatican on this point, log off the forum for a few weeks. In that time you can go to your local university library and read as many books and journal articles on as many topics that you know absolutely nothing about as you can. Humble your intellect. Once you get a firmer grasp of what you don’t know, come back. Read through the thread again, see if it made a difference. If you still think his points are mere “assertions,” go back to the library and repeat as needed.

Start over, and assume you are wrong. That’s how I begin writing every article or book. Sometimes I am wrong. You are too.


But Mr. Ender, yourself, and others in this form, are decidedly wrong when you ignore, or claim that evidence presented by @Don_Ruggero consists of nothing more than “assertions,” “[his] understanding of the situation,” or nothing more than “I’m right, you’re wrong, discussion is not allowed.” You can disagree with him, the Pope, every bishop and cardinal on the planet, and a very large number of secular governments for all I care, but do NOT belittle this good man’s effort by being so cavalierly dismissive of his argument.

Wow! I am not going to engage with you further I don’t want to be suspended suffice it to say that you paint with a very broad brush. Non of which you have written applies to me and you have ignored what I have said.
I have not addressed anything that Don has said other that I hope he is wrong otherwise what the Church has taught for 2000 years was wrong. I suggest that you that you humble your intellect. Read Warren Carroll"s history. I had better stop I have had to delete things that I know would get me permanently suspended


Punishment in general is not universally prohibited by Jesus … but killing is.

Number and verse please?

Are you equating all killing with murder?

This thread is not about “punishment”.

Did you notice the title of this thread?


It is hard to reply to straw man assertions.


You have jumped into the discussion 400 plus posts in and it’s understandable you haven’t followed the positions.

Out of curiousity; do you believe that the Church’s endorsement of abolition of the death penalty is legitimate or heretical?


I did indeed notice that but I thought it was silly. I also notice that you did not answer my questions


Those of us that aren’t from the US but from countries where the death penalty has been abolished over the last century, can clearly recognise that the Church isn’t changing anything. It is responding with scriptural and doctrinal authority to the falsehood that abolition is ungodly. As I’ve said, you have jumped into the conversation not aware of the previous assertions that abolition of the death penalty is ungodly. Ender particularly leads that false position.


Well, if you are not going to address me by my title and my name, Don Ruggero, as the two go together, at least have the courtesy to use the title that you would use in the United States…Father. It is really not considered polite to simply use the title “Don” standing alone unless you are close terms with the priest…

I was already lecturing in the field of moral theology when Saint John Paul II – rightly – condemned the death penalty in Evangelium Vitae in 1995 – and told my students at that moment that the previous teaching was about to be surpassed in their lifetime. The Church’s living Magisterium overpasses all the Doctors of the Church and corrects them as need be.

I also remarked on this forum some two years ago that a theological commission was empaneled precisely on the point of an eventual revision of the catechism because of the development of doctrine on this very point. The work was finished last Spring.

It is one of the things that I am most grateful to see come to its fruition in my lifetime.



It horrifies me, actually, that there are Catholics in America who would actually cling to this horrible reality that is capital punishment – let alone try to defend its use. It is, as the Successor of Saint Peter has said, inadmissible and unacceptable. It has no place in today’s world at all…and not only because it is immoral to employ it.

I would hope all Catholics in America would join with the Bishops of their country in working diligently for the complete abolition of the death penalty.


And by what possible qualification do you think that you are better able to assess what the reality is – a development of doctrine – than both the Head of the College of Bishops, the very Vicar of Christ himself, and the Cardinal Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

That is effrontery so ridiculous as to be absurd


As a Catholic in America, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. I would also like to see more American Catholics speak up in defense of the migrants and refugees, and our Latino Catholic brothers and sisters (many of whom are American citizens or lawful residents) who are being scapegoated in the current political climate.


Indeed. How wonderful that the Vice President of your national conference of Catholic Bishops – and therefore its next President – is himself an immigrant, having been born, grew up, and attended university in Mexico. I have enjoyed whenever Archbishop Gomez and I have had occasion to speak together. I am confident that he will do even more on the issues of migrants and refugees when he is himself the President of the Bishops’ conference.


That sounds great. Except no one has bothered to answer the core questions, which are simple ones. The problem isn’t lack of knowledge but the fact that defenders of the position can’t answer simple questions. After a while it becomes obvious why. I do agree that it is likely only by excessive education one could ‘understand’ this. Most of the worst, nonsensical ideas have come from academics.

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