Is it a sin to believe in the death penalty?


Currently in the process of converting [to Byzantine Catholic].

I believe the death penalty is supported/called for by scripture, and therefore support it’s implantation by the government.

My reasoning (it doesn’t really matter for answering my question) is this:

I believe all of the scholarly translation of Exodus 20:13 which read “thou (or you) shall not commit murder” are much more consistent with the rest of the scripture.

The translators who came up with “thou shall not kill” committed a grave injustice that has been foisted upon all Christians for hundreds of years. They had available to them the English word “kill” and for whatever reasons chose not to use it. There is a Hebrew word for “kill” (an amoral word) and a Hebrew word for “murder” (an immoral killing). English has the same concept.

All 5 books of the Torah include the death penalty for various offenses. Therefore it is a clear translation problem to assert that the Bible is “against” the death penalty.

Am I allowed to believe this? Do I have to go to confession and repent of holding this belief every week before receiving the Eucharist?

This is a serious question. I am struggling with the concept of obedience to dogmas and teachings that I am strongly convicted are wrong in the context of “sin.”


It is a sin to believe it is an appropriate and condign sentence in any case, or, to participate in facilitating the taking of an offender’s life for those reasons. The exception described by the Church wherein the offender is still a threat to society and leaves no alternative to society but to end his life, is no longer classed has capital punishment, but an act of self preservation.


Well, I only know Roman Catholicism, and for us we are allowed to support capital punishment, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses capital punishment should always be a last resort. If a criminal can be prevented from committing crime again, he or she should not be executed. In addition, the authorities must have pretty much 100% proof that the person committed the crime. This could be video footage of the crime being committed or several third-party witnesses. In America there are prisons and mental health facilities for these people to be locked away the rest of their lives, so the Church these days discourages capital punishment in America. I believe individuals are free to support it.

One valid example would be a person that feels prison security is not adequate. They could then make the case that criminals held in that prison are still a risk to society. Therefore, capital punishment is in the best interest of their society. This could be true in some areas of the country.


“The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.”
–Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 1995

At the heart of Catholic teaching on the death penalty is the belief that “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end…” (Catechism, No. 2258).

I do not believe that it is a sin to “feel” support of the death penalty, however to actively campaign, show public support, convince others, and even passively participate in the death penalty may be a sin. I would search for articles in the apologetics database, as I am certain they have addressed this issue.

I am against it, and the Catholic Church is most definitely is against it. The DP is a collective act of revenge, sanctioned by several states and their supporters / voters.
Thank you for raising the question.


The Catholic Church has always held that the individual and the state have the right to take human life in self defense. Thus, the Church has always allowed taking human life in self defense of human life, just war, and capital punishment. This resort to force must, of course, always be a last resort. In recent years, popes and bishops have taken a more negative line towards capital punishment, arguing that it is generally not necessary for self defense in the modern world. However, the Church has not changed the traditional teaching allowing the taking of human life in self defense and never will change this teaching. Some Catholics seem to want to believe that many Apostolic teachings have been recently tossed out the window but this is not the case.

So, the short answer is no, it is not a sin to believe in the death penalty in limited cases. Your arguments from the Old Testament are generally not valid for Christians, however. The acceptable Christian argument is self defense, not revenge or punishment.


This is correct.

The death penalty is only just if it protects society. In Texas and the rest of the US the prisons are more than sufficient to protect society so it really is no longer necessary.

I’d urge you to patiently consider your stance. As Christians our mission is to visit the imprisoned and spread the kingdom. It makes sense to give people as much opportunity for repentance as possible. Eternity for them depends on it.

I used to be staunchly for the death penalty but I think the church makes much sense in their balanced position on it.


It is not a sin, however, it’s rather hypocritical if you support the Church’s teaching on life.

You cannot support a fetus’s right to life but immediately call for its death once it comes into the world and licentiously commits a crime.


Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by order of the Catholic Church. Thousands upon thousands of people were tortured and put to death in the Spanish Inquisition, and innocent people were killed because they did not choose to conform their religious views to those of the Catholic Church. Believing in the death penalty is a very Catholic thing to do.


Your logic is defective. I can certain support a fetus’ right to life and favor the imposition of capital punishment. The fetus is innocent and has done nothing wrong. A person who, with premeditation, kills another human being, deserves death.

As a historical matter, when society supported, and regularly imposed, the death penalty, abortion was generally illegal. Now, abortion is legal, but people object to putting murderers to death.


Seriously…better check your history.


Don’t agree, if you read English History the Anglican Church under Henry V111 and his daughter Elizabeth 1 put Catholics and Catholic priests to death just for being Catholic, its a very British , Anglican thing to do also. Mohammed did the same if during his time the people did not change to his belief, die or else, so please get it correct, its not a Catholic thing to do at all, look around you and take off the rose tinted glasses.


During the Protestant Cromwell’s reign or terror, the entire catholic population ( about three thousand innocent men, woman, children and babies ) of the Irish city of Drogheda, put to the sword (by the orders of Cromwell) there crime was being Roman Catholic.In his despatchs to the speaker of the House of Commons Cromwell wrote

“It has pleased God to bless our endeavor at Drogheda. . . the enemy were about three thousand strong in the town. I believe we put to the sword the whole number. . . . This hath been a marvelous great mercy. . . . I wish that all honest hearts may give the glory of this to God alone, to whom indeed the praise of this mercy belongs.” (127)

Queen Elizabeth I, had thousands of Catholics put to death in England. She ordered that Catholic Mary Queen of Scots be executed in 1587. She had thousands more killed in Ireland


Pope Saint Pius V advocated capital punishment for priests convicted of homosexual acts.

Pope John Paul II opposed capital punishment.

No pope until very recent times questioned the practice.

Saint Thomas Aquinas endorsed it.

The catechism of the Council of Trent said it is not only justified, but virtuous.

If it is a sin to support capital punishment the saints are sinners. The moral law is immutable. Popes do not make the moral law and they have no power to change it. The notion that capital punishment is sinful or immoral is a novel development of very recent time.

Popes today who want to the practice to stop know they can not condemn it is a violation of moral law. This would contradict their predecessors in office. So the argument is made that it is no longer necessary to protect society. We are wealthy enough to keep criminals who threaten society in prison for life.

But Trent said capital punishment is virtuous. Is virtue not necessary?

During this period when Rome has taken this novel position there have been hundreds of millions of abortions, the murder of innocents who committed no crime. This holocaust is sanctioned by civil governments elected by the people. The laws of these governments and the governments themselves are illegitimate before God who will surely bring them to justice.


You cannot support the death penalty.

No matter how evil, everybody deserves the chance to repent of their sins and turn to God.

Don’t forget the innocent end up with the death penalty too, one of the reasons it was banned in England.


The Church has made a prudential decision in contemporary times to oppose capital punishment because of the heightened means of controlling violent crime. It no longer serves the purpose that it once did. It is not a doctrine and it’s theoretically possible in a dystopian future that this stance will reverse itself, but presently and for the future, capital punishment is going to be opposed.

How much knowledge and wisdom do you believe you have compared to the Curia? Decisions are not reached lightly. Every soul is almost bound to have a contention with Catholic social teaching in one area or another. Consider it an opportunity to read more fully about it. :slight_smile:


This should not even be in question…Look at one of the 10 Commandments…THOU SHALT NOT KILL…I did not see any asterisks after that regarding states or govts, it simply says to kill IS WRONG…its that simple imo.

I believe it has been justified in our society so the powers that be can do what they want and still claim they are not committing any sins, in other words, twisting words around to fit the description they need.

However if it can proven in the bible that it is OK for Govts and states to do this, then it would also OK for them to commit other offenses against the 10 Commandments, it cant be both, you either follow it, or you dont, no middle ground imo.


Any Catholic can disagree with the Church’s new prudential judgement on the death penalty, can support more executions, and remain a Catholic in good standing.

2004, Cardinal Ratzinger (now retired Pope Benedict XVI) Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with guidance to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated succinctly, emphatically and unambiguously as follows: June, 2004 “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick: More Concerned with ‘Comfort’ than Christ?, Catholic Online, 7/11/2004


That is not, now, Catholic teaching, nor has it ever been.

For more than 2000 years, there has been Catholic New Testament support for the death penalty, from Popes, Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church, church leadership, biblical scholars and theologians that, in breadth and depth, overwhelms any teachings to the contrary, particularly those wrongly dependent upon secular concerns such as defense of society and the poor standards of criminal justice systems in protecting the innocent.

The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation


The church has always acknowledged three situations where life may lawfully be taken:*“It is lawful to kill when fighting in a just war; when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime; and, finally, in cases of necessary and lawful defense of one’s own life against an unjust aggressor.” *(Catechism of St. Pius X)
Beyond this, she has never justified capital punishment as an act of self defense but of just retribution.*If the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice, he would be overthrowing the tradition of two millennia of Catholic thought, denying the teaching of several previous popes, and contradicting the teaching of Scripture (notably in Genesis 9:5-6 and Romans 13:1-4). *(Cardinal Dulles)

Your arguments from the Old Testament are generally not valid for Christians, however.

As Cardinal Dulles pointed out, the basis for the church’s position on capital punishment is from the Old Testament, specifically Gn 9:6, which says:Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.


This point is inadequately understood. The relatively recent opposition of the church to the use of capital punishment is prudential, not doctrinal.In coming to this prudential conclusion, the magisterium is not changing the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine remains what it has been: that the State, in principle, has the right to impose the death penalty on persons convicted of very serious crimes. (Cardinal Dulles)

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