Death Penalty


In the old days, when the death penalty was common place,

  1. the Catholic Church never used it, only the civil authorities.
  2. the Catholic Church didn’t support it or oppose it
  3. it is not a sin to kill a guilty person, therefore it was accepted

Are all three statements correct? This is my current belief, I am quite confused on the subject.


The Church is not in favour of the death penalty (in fact it rejoices when countries abolish capital punishment) but accepts in some rare instances it might be necessary.

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 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 nonexistent."


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