Death penalty question.

I understand that the Church only supports capital punishment if there is no other way of protecting society, but with all the technology that the United States, and I’m sure a lot other countries have these days, the death penalty is probably never, if at most rarely ever necessary, if I or anyone else who wants to completely abolish the death penalty in the US or any countries that don’t exactly need it, would I or anyone else who wants to completely abolish it, be guilty of heresy?


While the Church understands that execution is an historic necessity, it would hold that in a modern Western nation there is really no need for it. This is not a matter of moral doctrine and never has been; we are free to disagree.


It is not heresy to oppose the use of capital punishment and even try to eliminate it. It is heresy, however, to assert that states do not have the moral right to apply it.


I cannot believe that America still has the death penalty.

I feel ashamed that we took too long to abolish it and that was decades ago.

Indeed, but your country is over a thousand years old!

It may take us that long to grow a society that truly values human life.


The church is over two thousand years old and she has always supported the right of a state to employ capital punishment. Is it your position that she has yet to grow into a society that truly values human life, or, at best, only acquired that value in 1995?


Heresy to the U.S.? Over half the country is against abortion for the 1st time in years, I am not sure of the % against the death penalty but a life is a life. If there is any form of heresy it would be against God and his commandments. Thou shall not kill.

I have exchanged letters with those sentenced to death and the humanity and spirituality I have found in my best pen pal is beautiful and I thank the Lord for our fellowship.

You may want to check out Lifelines in the U.K. Just the website explains the fate of a condemned man who was later set free.

Your heart is in the right place.

I don’t claim to speak for the Church. That is a matter for his Holiness as her head.

I am however, disgusted that my country uses human death as an instrument of legal policy; take that as you like. Unlike the Church, citizens in this country have the right of dissent.


Neither do I, but the church has spoken on this issue for nearly 2000 years. Surely we can read and understand what she has said.

I am however, disgusted that my country uses human death as an instrument of legal policy…

Are you equally disgusted with your church for insisting that it is a country’s right to use capital punishment?


Look, you and I are never going to agree.

Let’s just leave it at that.


This is probably true, but my point in engaging in these debates is to cause people to face the implications of their own arguments. You expressed disgust with your country for using capital punishment, so why are you not equally disgusted with your faith for providing the moral justification for such a practice?


I hope I can end this debate as there is nothing to debate.

Live God’s will or man’s law. Do not kill his creation. Every person alive or dead is his creation.

It’s so simple to say that God’s will can not be debated. Am I missing something here???

You are probably on the wrong board if you want to convince faithful Catholics who respect and trust the guidance of John Paul II, one of the godliest, holiest, brightest, wisest, honest, orthodox men of the Catholic Church that he is in error and you have the answers to show them the correct way.

You expressed disgust with your country for using capital punishment, so why are you not equally disgusted with your faith for providing the moral justification for such a practice?


It would be disgusting to cut of someones limb arbitrarily without concern for the health and wholness of the body. It would be moral and good to cut off that limb if it was a danger to the health and wholeness of the body.

No matter how often I say it you still can’t seem to comprehend that it is not JPII who I find to be in error, but you. The mistake is not in what he said but in how you interpret it.


As a Catholic I assume you accept that the church actually does fulfill “her mission of authentically interpreting God’s law.” (Veritatis Splendor) Given that she teaches there are three exceptions to the fifth commandment it would seem that your options are to accept either that her position is wrong or yours is.


Now you’re just gaslighting.

Is that Australian for “I have no rebuttal so I’ll just call you names”?


You can google it. You’ll find it interesting I’m sure.

So let’s read some of the things she has said:

“Abolition of the death penalty is most consonant with the example of Jesus, who both taught and practiced the forgiveness of injustice.”

-excerpt from Statement on Capital Punishment, US Bishops, November, 1980

“(punishment) ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

       -excerpt from *Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)* -  an encyclical of Pope John  Paul II, March 25, 1995

"In its traditional teaching as summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church affirms the right and duty of legitimate public authority ‘to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense’ (no. 2266 ). Recourse to the death penalty is not absolutely excluded (see no. 2267 ): the death penalty is not intrinsically evil, as is the intentional taking of innocent life through abortion or euthanasia (see nos. 2271 , 2277). Nevertheless, the Church teaches that in contemporary society where the state has other nonlethal means to protect its citizens, the state should not use the death penalty (see no. 2267 ).

-excerpt from *A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death *- a statement of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops Calling for an End to the Use of the Death Penalty - November, 2005

This position is so naturally consistent with love for human beings and true desire for their continued existence. Those who argue in favor of the death penalty often horrify me with their callousness towards the lives of the wicked. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, we should remember.

I would say that it is a moral matter - we cannot enforce the death penalty because of a desire for revenge or “justice”. I believe that we are not free to disagree with the Church that the only appropriate time to kill a human being is when it is the only way to prevent further harm from coming to its citizens.

The Fathers of Trent taught:

“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.”

This is the teaching of the Church. The State has the right to enforce a death penalty in order to preserve the lives of those with whom it has been entrusted to keep safe.

Prudentially, meaning with our best assessment of modern affairs, as to make the best decision we can make to be in line with the teachings of our Faith, the Church teaches that in modern western society, the State is able to secure the lives of its citizens without resorting to the execution of criminals. In such a situation, where the citizens of a state are equally safe with the criminals in prison or executed, I believe the Church infallibly teaches, and all Christians must agree, that the State is morally prohibited from taking the lives of its criminals.

HOWEVER, prudentially, Christians are free to believe that the present situation in western society does not match those criteria. Hence, Christians could legitimately believe, with true fidelity to the Church, that the United States continuing to execute criminals is a just action successfully ordered towards the preservation of human life.

However, seeing the bishops of the Church and the Holy Father overwhelmingly teach that we should eliminate the death penalty in modern society, that prudential view is probably wrong, and anyone who holds it should pause and reassess.

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