The death penalty - right or wrong


I need to be more specific here: what I agree with is that this is the correct understanding of what the new version of 2267 is saying. I don’t necessarily agree that the judgment it expresses is accurate.


How is it possible you don’t understand intrinsic and extrinsic values? If something is not intrinsically evil… then it is extrinsically evil. If something was moral in the past and is immoral now, it is understood as extrinsically evil today. Like slavery and polygamy. So in the past when the Church spoke of the admissibility of the death penalty, it was to counter the argument that it was basically intrinsically evil. When the Church speaks today about the inadmissibility of the death penalty, it is not now saying it is intrinsically evil (because common sense tells you that if it was admissible in the past and is inadmissible now, that defies the whole meaning of intrinsic value), it is saying there are good reasons for inadmissibility that relate directly to a ‘culture of death’, that the death penalty is actually contributing to. ie that human beings have a divine right to decide life and death.

The irony is that that love affair with the death penalty that drives the resistance to abolition demonstrates the very hubris behind the culture of death. When nations around the globe have been naturally abolishing it and you hear the argument that it can never be abolished because we have a divine right to it, that is the very spectre that makes inadmissibility necessary.


If, as you concede, capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, then objections to its use can only be prudential, not moral. Unless it is used egregiously - like executing someone for stealing a loaf of bread - then while the decision to use it can be called unwise it cannot be called immoral. If I think it is a good idea to use it (as it was used in the past) then I might be making a mistake but I am not committing a sin.

That is precisely what “saying there are good reasons” for not using it means. It is a prudential judgment…an opinion.


What does ‘prudential’ mean to you? Is it merely personal opinion?


The Church’s teaching is that prudence is a faculty of the reason and conscience in determining right and wrong so it is in fact judgement of a moral nature.

In the past the Church has addressed the death penalty in exactly the same way; that is as a response of a moral nature. The same could then be said about past teaching. They were also prudential judgements.


“May Christmas help to strengthen and renew, throughout the world,
the consensus concerning the need for urgent and adequate measures
to halt the production and sale of arms,
to defend human life, to end the death penalty,
to free children and adolescents from all forms of exploitation,
to restrain the bloodied hand
of those responsible for genocide and crimes of war,
to give environmental issues,
especially after the recent natural catastrophes,
the indispensable attention which they deserve
for the protection of creation and of human dignity!“

Saint John Paul II . Urbi el Orbi Christmas 1998


Essentially, yes. A rose by any other name…

Not exactly. First, prudence is part of all our decision making, whether it be a moral decision or a purely practical one. Second, an error in judgment is not usually a sin even in moral judgments. Disagreements may be legitimate even in the application of moral laws.

I absolutely disagree with this. Doctrines are not prudential judgments…they are based on Scripture, as are the teachings on capital punishment.


It’s at this point that one can see that you are not presenting genuine a Christian argument but merely using grabs of Catholic teaching that support what is really a godless position.

CCC 1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

There is no doctrine mandating capital punishment. The Church has only ever addressed it within the context of the 5th Commandment as a permission under certain circumstances. Throughout the thread I have demonstrated that using Aquinas. It is allowed in serving the common good and prohibited if it does not serve the common good.

When the Church speaks of capital punishment addressing cultural practice, it is with her prudential judgement as the recognised moral teacher in a Christian based society. The claims you are making about the Churchs teachings are duplicitous.


So, do you understand the Church’s teaching about the sacredness of life? And that the Pope’s changes to the CCC reflect the constant good end of the moral law, with prudent observations for our time?




Godless? Really, your comments are way out of line.

That’s all well and good, but if you assume this means being prudent means never making a mistake you are…mistaken. The very fact that differences in judgment may be legitimate proves that, as is clear from this:

There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty (Cardinal Ratzinger)

Diversity of opinion may be legitimate, which means that prudence alone cannot guarantee that the one right position will be reached.

“Prudential” has a technical theological meaning… It refers to the application of Catholic doctrine to changing concrete circumstances. Since the Christian revelation tells us nothing about the particulars of contemporary society, the Pope and the bishops have to rely on their personal judgment as qualified spiritual leaders in making practical applications. Their prudential judgment, while it is to be respected, is not a matter of binding Catholic doctrine. To differ from such a judgment, therefore, is not to dissent from Church teaching.

The only reason we could legitimately disagree with the prudential judgment of popes and bishops would be if that judgment could not be held to be without error. Again, prudence in fact does not guarantee that the correct judgment has been reached.

Throughout this thread you have demonstrated a fixation on attacking a position I have never held, and have refused to accept that I actually agree with your statement.

Duplicitous as well as ungodly? My aren’t we all worked up. What are we to do? I have agreed with your statement above, so if that makes me duplicitous and godless, what does that make you?


Pope Benedict himself( Nov 30 2011)

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday offered his support to a major international meeting underway this week through the sponsorship of the Sant’Egidio Community aimed at eliminating capital punishment.

_I greet the distinguished delegations from various countries taking part in the meeting promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio on the theme: No Justice without Life. I express my hope that your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order. _

The Holy Father’s appeal came at the end of his weekly General Audience, during which he continued his series of catecheses on Christian prayer.

The Pope on Wednesday focused on how Christ, Himself, prays, saying that Christ’s example most fully reveals the mystery of Christian prayer.

_A significant moment in this regard is Jesus’ prayer following his Baptism, which expresses his both his deepest identity as the Son of God and his solidarity with the sinful humanity whom he came to save. Jesus’ prayer reflects his complete, filial obedience to the Father’s will, an obedience which would lead him to death on the cross…”

Ender , please, this dealing with three Popes as if it were “ opinion” , almost treated as peers well… one doesn t know what to say…
As if we could compete in any way with all what these three heavy weights know, their experience and faith…
No wonder posters come here and write as if dealing with just somebody else…
No… it is the Magesterium.
At the end of the day, it does look like a problem with authority sincerely, as if what three Popes say were not enough.
Now it is enough, it is inadmissible . And Rome has spoken.


The Catholic Church universally opposes the death penalty as cruel and unnecessary and calls for it to be abolished around the world. You oppose the Catholic Church’s position based on a 14 year old side note in a letter written by Cardinal Ratzinger regarding receiving communion. Your opinion holds no weight as Catholic teaching and your attempts to use grabs from teaching to present some sort of authority are pretty appalling. You can have your opinion which is based on flawed, insular reasoning, but don’t try and present it as a legitimate Catholic position.


I think the death penalty is wrong.


While there are times when the death penalty is justified, we must support life for all and leave all judgment to God.


Gracie, I don’t dispute that the last three popes have all opposed the use of capital punishment, but it is extremely important that we understand the nature of their opposition. It was Benedict (Cdl Ratzinger) who said in regard to Evangelium Vitae:

You ask about the correct interpretation of the teaching of the encyclical on the death penalty. Clearly, the Holy Father has not altered the doctrinal principles which pertain to this issue as they are presented in the Catechism…

What were the doctrinal principles spelled out in the catechism (1992 edition)?

The traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.

That is, the objections to capital punishment were to the inadvisability of its use in the belief that its use was harmful to the society that employed it. That is not a doctrinal objection; it is a prudential judgment.

Let me also point out that very seldom do I actually come out in support of capital punishment. Almost all of my comments are directed at what I consider invalid arguments against it.


Is serving in the military permissible if killing is flat out impermissible? Is it ever okay to kill?


So the Church is wrong and your teaching and interpretation of Scripture is right.

Isn’t there a word that’s used for people who protest Church teaching?


In this case, we would call him “Lutheran.”


If it is cruel why isn’t it also intrinsically evil? Even if it was necessary wouldn’t it still be cruel and therefore ruled out on that basis alone? Your positions are contradictory. You accept that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil yet you describe it as if it was.

What I mostly oppose are your arguments. The comment I cited went to the nature of prudential judgments in general and expressed a concept that has surely been unchanged for centuries. Your objection to something because it is all of 14 years old makes us seem less like the Catholic church and more like the Church of Last Thursday.

“Grabs from teaching?” You mean like, all the previous catechisms? All the previous popes? All the Fathers? That sort of thing?

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