Would the death penalty be justified in this case?

Duh! :banghead:

No, they are not. They are killings but not all killings are murder. JPII made that distinction very clear when he said in Evangelium Vitae: *"‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value when it refers to the **innocent *person.’" A person who has murdered another is not innocent.

Why is it that that taking the life of an embryo is “murder”, but taking the life of an adult is not? Where is the consistency? Abortion = murder; capital punishment = murder.

The former is innocent while the latter is guilty of a great crime.

Okay, I see that I have to explain my comment to you, too. My comment “Just ask Jesus” should not have been taken literally. Of course, Jesus has been dead for 2000 years, and none of us can **literally **ask Him anything. It was a metaphor, insomuch as Jesus, Himself, was a victim of capital punishment. It was a literary device. Get it now?

Did you not understand that the passage from Gn 9:6 was God himself speaking? It was not a literary device or a metaphor of some kind; it was a decree.

When I asked pnewton for a chapter and verse, it was because **he **said that Jesus said that capital punishment was permitted in the book of Exodus. Still with me? Of course, Jesus said no such thing in Exodus or anywhere.

True, he did not. God, however, did say such a thing. Is it irrelevant that God said it and not Jesus?

Now, just because God has undertaken such killing as punishment, retribution or whatever, does not mean that **we **are permitted to do so.

Really? This is not what the church teaches.*And thus that which is lawful to God is lawful for His ministers when they act by His mandate. It is evident that God who is the Author of laws, has every right to inflict death on account of sin. For “the wages of sin is death.” Neither does His minister sin in inflicting that punishment. The sense, therefore, of “Thou shalt not kill” is that one shall not kill by one’s own authority. *(Catechism of St. Thomas)

You are perhaps unaware that it is the church that cites this Scripture passage. I reference it only because the church does.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). (Dulles)

(CCC 2260)* The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God’s gift of human life and man’s murderous violence:
[INDENT] For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning… Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. *[Gn 9:6]

  • The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. This teaching remains necessary for all time.*

I would agree that it is justified for this person or for any one who is a threat to innocent people. Some people are too far gone to ever be saved.

We are not killing this person as individuals, but making a decision as a group that this person has no place in our society.

It might be a sin to kill someone, but it is also wrong to allow an evil person to continue harming people and do nothing.

Papal encyclicals are not dogma:

As for the binding force of these documents it is generally admitted that the mere fact that the pope should have given to any of his utterances the form of an encyclical does not necessarily constitute it an ex-cathedra pronouncement and invest it with infallible authority.

Hmmm. How are you defining “innocent” and “guilty”? How do you know that all unborn babies are “innocent”? Even serial killers started out as embryos. Would 6 million Jews not have been better off if Hitler’s mother had had an abortion?

I did not say that the referenced biblical passage was a literary device or metaphor. I was saying that about my own post. Did you not understand this? And anyway, wouldn’t an executioner be “shedding man’s blood”?

Yes, God said those words, but it is man who may be interpreting them incorrectly.

  1. You didn’t address my example from Exodus.

  2. Summa is not Church teaching proper. Aquinas had a lot of nice ideas, but some of his stranger ones have been “debunked”, if you will, by subsequent Church teachings. We have no guarantees that what he’s written about executions is correct.

  3. I’ve noticed that no one is categorizing Jesus’ death as capital punishment. Why is that? That was the whole point when I said “Just ask Jesus” or did you not get that?

This is: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, fairly tried and found guilty of a crime punishable by death (Baltimore Catechism)

How are you defining “innocent” and “guilty”? How do you know that all unborn babies are “innocent”?

I don’t have a personal definition; I use what the church uses.*I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an **innocent *human being. (JPII, Evangelium Vitae)
And this assertion, by the way, is doctrine (You can tell by the “I declare…” part).

And anyway, wouldn’t an executioner be “shedding man’s blood”?

Yes, but that right is granted to the state and the executioner as ministers of God.

Yes, God said those words, but it is man who may be interpreting them incorrectly.

Well it really isn’t all that difficult to understand that sentence. The church in any event has always taken it to mean just what it (clearly) says.

  1. You didn’t address my example from Exodus.

What example? That the book contains no comments from Jesus? Does that really need to be addressed?

  1. Summa is not Church teaching proper. Aquinas had a lot of nice ideas, but … We have no guarantees that what he’s written about executions is correct.

What he wrote is in accord with virtually everything the church said on the issue prior to 1995. But if you want more proper church teaching here is the Catechism of Trent on the subject:*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. *

  1. I’ve noticed that no one is categorizing Jesus’ death as capital punishment. Why is that? That was the whole point when I said “Just ask Jesus” or did you not get that?

Was there some doubt about that fact? He was executed by the state. I’m pretty sure everyone understands that was an act of capital punishment.


Right now, I’m only going to address one part of your last post.

Here’s the thing. The Baltimore Catechism—which I learned about in first grade 50 years ago—is only valid now, post Vatican II, insomuch as the statements in it have not been supplemented by other, newer Church teachings.


So, goodbye to the Baltimore Catechism on the subject of the death penalty, since the CCC—which was altered specifically in 1995 to include Pope John Paul II’s teachings in Evangelium Vitae—now supplants it.

Now, I’m so glad you brought up Evangelium Vitae. You certainly cherry-picked, though. Pope John Paul II made it very clear that the death penalty should not be used unless it was absolutely necessary to protect the public from imminent danger.

In §9, JPII quotes St. Ambrose who said:

“God, who preferred the correction, rather than the death, of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide."

From §27:

In the same perspective, there is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of “legitimate defence” on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform. Humanity is difficult when our hearts are clouded by anger and pain.

In §40:

Of course we must recognize that in the Old Testament this sense of the value of life, though already quite marked, does not yet reach the refinement found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is apparent in some aspects of the current penal legislation, which provided for severe forms of corporal punishment and even the death penalty. **But the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person. It culminates in the positive commandment which obliges us to be responsible for our neighbour as for ourselves: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (*Lev ***19:18).

And from §56:

This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter, there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is “to redress the disorder caused by the offence”. Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and 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.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person”.

I think that the Holy Father left no doubt about where he stood on the issue of the death penalty.

“Supplants it.” Do you mean that the church was wrong about capital punishment before but finally got it right only in 1995? The thing is that I could have cited any of a half-dozen catechisms prior to 1995 and they all said basically the same thing. Are you claiming that Evangelium Vitae corrected an error in church teaching that had existed for nearly two millennia?

Now, I’m so glad you brought up Evangelium Vitae. You certainly cherry-picked, though.

I am familiar with what it says and understand it, so I have no need to cherry-pick among its statements.

Pope John Paul II made it very clear that the death penalty should not be used unless it was absolutely necessary to protect the public from imminent danger.

Actually, he expressed his prudential judgment that it ought not be used. He did not alter the traditional teaching of the church (as it was expressed in e.g. the Baltimore Catechism).The Pope and the bishops, using their prudential judgment, have concluded that in contemporary society, at least in countries like our own, the death penalty ought not to be invoked, because, on balance, it does more harm than good. (Cardinal Dulles)

In §9, JPII quotes St. Ambrose who said:…

This was in reference to God not striking Cain dead, but this only shows that there are exceptions to the use of capital punishment, not that capital punishment should not be used. St. Ambrose also said (referring to capital punishment):*You see therefore both what power your commission gives you, and also whither mercy would lead you; you will be excused if you do it, and praised if you do it not. *(Letters, #25)

From §27:

This is an assertion about the penal capabilities of modern societies. If this isn’t a prudential judgment it would be hard to imagine what is.

In §40:

Even as we read that we must have “*respect for the inviolability of physical life” *we know that this is not the overriding concern or there could be no such thing as a just war.

And from §56:

There is a bit of strangeness here in that EV 56 points to CCC 2267 to justify its position while 2267 points right back to EV 56. It should be clear that there is nothing in the prior teaching of the church that supports the position it lays out.

I think that the Holy Father left no doubt about where he stood on the issue of the death penalty.

True, I think we are all agree that he personally opposed it. That is not the same thing, however, as saying the church has deemed its use immoral except when necessary for protection.


No need for nastiness. You said, “Just ask Jesus,” to answer your first question. As far as chapter and verse, here is one:

21:12“Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death."

Easier said than done. The death of Jesus was capital punishment. It stands as proof that capital punishment can be unjust.


Oh, and Evangelium Vitae? This encyclical is pretty compelling that capital punishment in our day should not be happening any more. It is still an issue that may be debatable. Capital punishment is not murder, but it may still be immoral. The case given in the first post is one of the few cases that might still have merit.

Not gonna lie, I’m a Catholic and I do support Capital Punishment. Here is the thing… We should take all precautions to preserve innocent life, even if that means taking life in the process. Same concept with self-defense. It’s an unfortunate fact that not all prisons in the world have great security or safety precautions; especially in third world countries, it’s really bad.

Aside from protecting innocent guards and prisoners that wish to be released and be productive members of society after learning from their mistakes, do y’all realize how much money it costs to feed people? How much money it costs to provide prisoners with living expenses? We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars per prisoner, per year. And the best part, is that it comes out of our taxes :thumbsup:

Even if it is murder, what’s wrong with that? Sometimes wars have to be fought to better the world, and if I remember correctly, the Catholic Church used to burn heretics at the stake. I just don’t think that all murder is wrong. Especially when these criminals put themselves in that situation.

It’s hard to get the death penalty. It really is. They don’t just pass it out lightly. You have to be a real badass to get it. If you do get it, you most definitely deserve it.

*“There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty” *(Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004)

“Nastiness”? :confused: Whatever.

One more time. When I said “Just ask Jesus”, I meant it METAPHORICALLY, NOT LITERALLY. If you still don’t understand, PM me.

Hi, Gospel. There is a difference between murdering someone and killing someone. The fifth commandment says “Thou shalt not murder.” I believe that the Scripture scholars can help you out here, because I think the Hebrew word for “murder” was used in the Bible instead of the Hebrew word for “kill”. Self-defense or fighting in “just wars” would be “killing” and technically permitted.

I’m not claiming anything. The Church has modified its former beliefs. Why else would she have changed the CCC?

But you did, Ender, and it’s fairly obvious.

But the Church altered the CCC 9/8/97 to incorporate John Paul’s position as expressed in EV:

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. **Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party. **

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 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 with 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 definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are rare, if not practically non–existent.” (NT: John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56)**

[LEFT]From the Catholic Education Resource Center:


For its part, theological reflection has generally affirmed the legitimacy of capital punishment, though this was not so from the beginning. In the first centuries of Christianity the Mosaic precept against killing was interpreted literally and without exceptions. Capital punishment was considered irreconcilable with the faith, and such occupations as judge and soldier were excluded from licit professions for Christians, in order to avoid having to pronounce or execute the death sentence. Among those who taught in this vein were Lactantius, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and St. Ambrose. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, St. Cyprian writes: “A homicide committed for private interests is a crime; committed in the name of the State it is a virtue.”

We could go on and on quoting saints. Let’s call this one a wash.[/LEFT]

This is also an assertion that capital punishment is no longer necessary.

What do you think the “overriding concern” of §40, then? Not quite sure I know what you’re saying. Could you clarify?

Again, I need clarification. In your second sentence, to what does the second “it” refer?

Which is never. No, the Church has not yet deemed capital punishment “immoral”, but it’s just a matter of time. The USCCB leans pretty heavily towards JPII’s position, and since the US is one of the last remaining holdouts in favor of the death penalty, it may be sooner rather than later. One can only hope.

Hi Blaskoman,
in case you are Catholic or Christ of any confession you should be aware of the fact that a Christ is never allowed in any case to take away life.
We as the Catholic community can’t have years and years of discussion against abortion on the one hand and on the other hand kill prisoners.

Catholic theology allows for a person to take life in a just war, as well as for self-defense.

Definite NO, there is not a single line in the new testament. If Jesus is your role model than you are not allowed to take away life.

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