The death penalty - right or wrong


I fully support it as long as it can be proven with certainty, i.e. video evidence, multiple witnesses, DNA evidence, etc. Also, I think death penalty juries should consist of 15 jurors and should require unanimous vote.

Dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen to someone; dying in a state of mortal sin is. Someone with a death date is more likely to reflect and repent.

Eliminating the death penalty and pretending that it was never supported by the Church is a great error.


Let’s examine Dulles’ comment again.

For the symbolism to be authentic, the society must believe in the existence of a transcendent order of justice, which the State has an obligation to protect. This has been true in the past, but in our day the State is generally viewed simply as an instrument of the will of the governed. In this modern perspective, the death penalty expresses not the divine judgment on objective evil but rather the collective anger of the group. The retributive goal of punishment is misconstrued as a self-assertive act of vengeance .

He is talking of what societies believe about justice; that societies accepted the “existence of a transcendent order of justice” in the past, but as this is no longer true the “retributive goal of punishment is misconstrued.” The church hasn’t changed what she believes; it is society that has lost its sense of the transcendent order of justice and now has a false understanding of the nature of punishment…which would explain why people now presume the objective of punishment is protection rather than retribution.


This is of course a very valid concern, but there are risks to the innocent for not executing the guilty as well, and those risks are actually fairly significant. I think it is fair to ask how many murders from recidivist killers are you willing to tolerate to avoid the risk of executing one innocent man?


We have the ability to incarcerate individuals. Problem solved.
The morality of this issue has not changed. Temporal circumstances have changed.

The focus of our moral evaluation has not changed:
“Human life is sacred”.
This is where you are losing focus. If you debate morality as if it were only about prohibitions, you go in circles.


Because when someone is coming at you and your family with a knife you can’t incarcerate them.
This is not super complicated.

“Human life is sacred”. An aggressor is threatening human life. You must protect human life.
If you had the option of talking that aggressor out of his violent action, you do that. Normally that’s not an option. So you have to kill the aggressor to protect innocent human life.

These evaluations can be excruciatingly difficult in things like just war.


No, that was my point: the problem is not solved. Do you have any idea how many murders are committed each year by killers who were not executed as punishment for their first murder? Since 1976 when SCOTUS reinstated the death penalty, even the most ardent opponents can identify only 8-10 individuals who were even possibly innocent. That’s over a period of 40 years. There as many innocents murdered by recidivist killers each year.

Now I will grant that coming up with that statistic is difficult, but here is a Bureau of Justice Statistics paper (pg 8) from 2002 that says this:

Within 3 years…1.2% of the 1,443 persons who had served time for homicide were rearrested for a homicide.

This was based on data from only 15 states but was calculated to represent about 2/3 of the total population of released prisoners. Doing the math this works out to about recidivist 9 murders per year, and this doesn’t include any of the various repeat murders that are committed by prisoners themselves or the murders that are committed on their behalf.

So: while the possibility exists that an innocent person has been executed, recidivist murders are not a theoretical possibility. It’s a measurable quantity. This is why I asked how many murders you are willing to tolerate to avoid the possibility of executing an innocent person?


How can this be difficult? If “pro-life means pro-all life” then what’s the problem? It’s binary: killing is allowed in some circumstances or it is forbidden in all, but if it is allowed in some circumstances then one can hardly hold that “pro-life means pro-all life”. It sounds like a debate about whether all means all.


(I wasn’t addressing the mistaken execution of innocents, that issue is tangential, I think you conflated my post)

So we need to do a better job of incarcerating criminals, not kill them because we are incapable of that.
Many times, moral evaluations are excruciatingly simple, the implementation is excruciatingly difficult.

Human life is sacred. The Church recognizes that truth. That is non-negotiable, and it’s the source good that informs these moral evaluations.


You have never been to battle, have you.
Once again the good (which you deny evidently)
“human life is sacred”

If an attacker is coming at you and your family with a weapon, you defend them. You are protecting human beings from an attacker.


Think about what you are asking. If you kill or are causing death, it better be for a morally sound reason, such as self defense, protecting your family or your nation from an attack (just war).

Just War principles are, according to the CCC:

In this regard Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met:

"1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

  1. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

  2. there must be serious prospects of success;

  3. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition" [ CCC 2309].


OK, but why should they be incarcerated? What is the purpose of punishing them that way?

Clearly I agree with this, but it is ironic that this claim is given as the explanation for why the life of the guilty should be spared when it appears in Scripture as the explanation for why the life of the guilty is forfeit.

Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.

Human life is sacred because it is made in God’s image, and because of that someone who illegitimately takes a life forfeits his own.


My arguments stand or fall on their own merit. Nothing in my background improves or diminishes them.

Why on earth would you assume this? The positions I have taken are nothing more than what the church has taught for 2000 years. I’m not the one with the variant opinion here.

“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 Pius X)

This is the eternal teaching of the church, and I accept it. How can believing what the church teaches mean I reject the idea that human life is sacred?


This is absolutely true, and the church has given three morally sound reasons, not just the two you list.

Q. 1276. Under what circumstances may human life be lawfully taken?
A. Human life may be lawfully taken:

  1. In self-defense…
  2. In a just war…
  3. By the lawful execution of a criminal… (Baltimore Catechism)


and now the Church has said that #3 is no longer admissible.



“Human life is sacred”. The Church’s moral teaching has this as it’s focus. That hasn’t changed.

God does not serve the Baltimore Catechism. The BC teaches people in a given time and a given place.


The text is actually רָצַח, thou shalt not “murder” not “kill”…and they hold two separate meanings.






You shall not kill.54

‘Nough said


“Inadmissible” is an ambiguous term. If executions are now intrinsically evil, which is what everyone assumes is meant by inadmissible, why wasn’t it proclaimed that way? Why are executions inadmissible? Because they are unwise or because they are intrinsically evil?

It is disturbing that people are comfortable with the idea that church teaching is so fluid that a doctrine having as good a claim as any to being infallibly taught, can simply be reversed overnight by papal edict.

I suspect that was the position put forth by every single catechism the church has ever produced. It was also the virtually unanimous position of the Fathers and Doctors, and of every pope until this one.

Really? Morality changes with time and place? That’s not what the church teaches. Shall we no longer believe this as well?

1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history


Who said the moral law is not immutable?
The problem here is, you don’t really understand what the moral law is.

“Human life is sacred”.


1750 The morality of human acts depends on:

  • the object chosen;

  • the end in view or the intention;

  • the circumstances of the action.

The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the “sources,” or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.

[1751] The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.

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