Q. 1. What is the Catholic teaching regarding the death penalty, also known as Capital Punishment? Does the Church approve of it?
A. 1. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (C.C.C.), we read:
"The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender. " (C.C.C. # 2266)
"The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor." (C.C.C. # 2267)
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should 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." (C.C.C. # 2267)
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.' " (C.C.C. # 2267)
As stated above, the Catholic Church, as mentioned in the Catechism, “does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” At the same time, it is stated that such examples today “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”
In it inspired wisdom, while the Church has not denied its traditional position that the state has the right to employ capital punishment, many Catholic bishops, together with Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, have spoken against the exercise of that right by the state.
As the United States Catholic bishops have stated, "Increasingly, our society looks to violent measures to deal with some of our most difficult social problems... including increased reliance on the death penalty to deal with crime.... Violence is not the solution; it is the most clear sign of our failures... We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing." ("Confronting a Culture of Violence")
I wish to point out that through "the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed." (C.C.C. # 1285)
How can Catholics spread and defend the faith for the purpose of saving souls if they support the death penalty? They cannot! You cannot save a soul when you condemn to death a person who is in a state of mortal sin. Such a person is eternally damned. You may say that such a person deserves to be eternally damned. Have you forgotten that Jesus came to save those who were lost, not those who were already saved? Should you not follow the example of Jesus? Have you forgotten that on Judgment Day, you will be measured by the same measure that you judge others? If you cannot forgive the murderer, than you will not be forgiven of your sins! Such are the Sacred Words of Jesus.
Did you know that there are more prisoners who are saved than non-prisoners who have no time in their lives for Jesus and repentance. For the prisoners have plenty of time to reflect upon their sins. In their solitude, they are able to open their hearts to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit that condemns them and converts them to Christ by the grace of the Heavenly Father. The sinners who live in the world do not enjoy the gift of solitude that transforms the soul.
It is wrong to apply the death penalty when such can lead to the eternal condemnation of the soul.
It is wrong to determine the moment in life when one should die. He who does so, he places himself on an equal to God. For God alone has the right to give life and take it at the moment that He decides. Those who take the life of a human being at a predetermined moment, as takers of life, they consider themselves equal to God. Satan also considered himself equal to God; that led to his downfall.
It is wrong to apply the death penalty when it has been proven over and over than innocent persons have been convicted of crimes committed by others. How many innocent persons are you prepared to condemn to death? By supporting the death penalty, you are guilty of murdering innocent people!
It is wrong to apply the death penalty when it is the fruit of hatred, revenge and irrational fear.
In many places, the death penalty is a stepping stone towards demanding the killing of those who commit other crimes such as rape, paedophilia, drug pushers, repeat offenders of any crimes, including theft, etc... Where does it all stop? In some muslim countries, in the name Mohammed, the leadership executes prostitutes, homosexuals, lesbians, adulteress (not the cheating males), thieves, etc...
These supporters of executions , many calling themselves Christians, demand the death penalty while seeing no wrong in the murder of the unborn through the abortion(s) that they have committed. They see no wrong in euthanesia which is the murder of the elders, the handicaps, such a sin including the individual's suicide that is condemned by the Catholic Church. They see no wrong in having a "Living Will" that states if certain conditions are present, the necessity for life should be withheld from them so they can die without honor. Such a death is also suicide!
Jesus did not die with honor. He was treated as the worst of criminals and nailed on a wooden cross as a criminal. Jesus died in shame so that you may be saved. Your salvation depends on your willingness to forgive the worst of the worst sinners so that the grace of God may touch them and lead to their repentance.
Don't play God with the life of another person!