Pope Francis Opposes Capital Punishment; Calls Life Sentences for Violent Criminals “A Hidden Death Penalty”

Pope Francis Opposes Capital Punishment; Calls Life Sentences for Violent Criminals “A Hidden Death Penalty” October 25, 2014

Speaking October 23 to a delegation from the International Association of Penal Law, Pope Francis called life sentences “a hidden form of capital punishment.”  

The Pope expressed his hope that believers will oppose life-long incarceration, just as they oppose capital punishment. He said:

All Christians and men of good faith are therefore called upon today to fight, not only for the abolition of the death penalty—whether it is legal or illegal, and in all its forms—but also to improve the conditions of incarceration to ensure that the human dignity of those deprived of their freedom is respected.

And this, for me, is linked to life sentences. For a short time now, these no longer exist in the Vatican penal code. A sentence of life (without parole) is a hidden death penalty.”

The Vatican Information Service, in reporting on the Pope’s remarks, said this of his view regarding capital punishment:

“He reiterated the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is rejected by Christians.”

*     *     *     *     *

Say what?  The report sent me running to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to see what the Church actually teaches about capital punishment.


Section 2267, under “Legitimate Defense”, says the following (emphasis mine):

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, however, 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 to 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 definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

So what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches is that capital punishment is to be used rarely.  It does not, though, teach that it is “sinful” (as The Guardian claimed in its report today), nor does it “absolutely condemn” capital punishment in certain situations.

In a nutshell, the Church asserts that:

  • The State has a right and responsibility to protect the human rights of its citizens, and to preserve the common good.
  • Legitimate public authority (a police force) may inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.  This penalty serves the purpose of redressing the disorder, and—as much as possible—should help in restoring the offender.
  • In certain situations (such as during wartime), when capital punishment is the only practical way to defend human lives against the aggressor, it is not wrong to employ the death penalty.
  • However—and this is most important—if bloodless means are available to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means.
  • In contemporary American society, when the option of secure imprisonment is available, cases of absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

Capital punishment does nothing to restore the victims to life; but it does potentially impede the action of God in the heart of the offender.   When we are injured, Jesus asks that we turn the other cheek; likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church insists that capital punishment not be used unless there is no other recourse.

The Church hopes with Christ that the sinner—even the very great sinner—will freely repent and be reconciled with Christ.  To forcibly take the life of a criminal, thereby taking from him the opportunity for repentance, would be wrong.

 *     *     *     *     *


Now on this other matter, the imposition of mandatory life sentences: I realize that Pope Francis, when he speaks, addresses a world in which there exist a plethora of problems.  There are, indeed, nations in which penal codes are too harsh, or torture is exercised, or excessive sentences are imposed to achieve political ends. Here in the United States, however, there is strong evidence to support the necessity for life sentences for certain violent crimes. A case in point:  On October 12, just days before the Pope’s well-intentioned admonition against life sentences, a convicted murderer in New Jersey killed his 64-year-old mother only two days after his release from prison.  His family had just thrown him a large welcome-home party to celebrate his release from prison.  He had already argued with his aunt, and returned to fight with his mother, shooting her in the face and shoulder.  Had this violent individual remained in jail, his mother would be alive today. Studies by the Bureau of Justice Statistics have revealed high rates of recidivism (repeat offenses) among released prisoners. One study of nearly 405,000 prisoners in 30 states who were released from prison in 2005 found that:

  • Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
  • Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
  • Of those prisoners who were rearrested, more than half (56.7 percent) were arrested by the end of the first year.
  • Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 82.1 percent of released property offenders arrested for a new crime compared with 76.9 percent of drug offenders, 73.6 percent of public order offenders and 71.3 percent of violent offenders.

We should support programs to rehabilitate offenders.  However, in cases where the criminal is likely to repeat his crime, it is both the right and the  responsibility of civil government to protect society from further crimes by keeping the individual behind bars. Life sentences should remain one of the tools in government’s arsenal to aid in creating a safe society.

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  • Sanctus 3

    Maybe Walter Kasper is still feeding him lines.

  • I’d guess/hope what he’s thinking is something like Norway where there is officially no life sentence but you can essentially end up serving life if you are still seen as a threat.

    Or he’s just a really kindhearted guy, like many Popes, who just can’t imagine that some people are almost impossible, or just are impossible, to rehabilitate.

  • Magdalene

    Do you suppose we could also have some strong language to protect the lives of unborn persons too?

    • AugustineThomas

      According to Jorge, to not teach leftist beliefs as truth would make one like the Pharisees.

    • kathyschiffer

      Magdalene, you know that he has, in fact, made some very strong statements against abortion, right? (I was going to post one here; but there are so many–Just google “Pope Francis, abortion”. The fact that he doesn’t in this particular speech should not lead you to think for a minute that he isn’t strongly and vocally pro-life; so please don’t spend any more time worrying about this!

  • Thomas Sharpe

    I’m exhausted from having to explain everything this Pope says. Can he please… begin to speak with CLARITY and Charity? But maybe, maybe, we’re the ones with the problem; there seems to be a lot pope adoration these days, the pope is the pope, the Bishop of Rome. I’m beginning to think that modern daily news and communications have obscured things.
    There’s no need to hinge on “everything” the pope says.
    Maybe that’s part of what God is telling us with Francis(?)

  • Laureen

    In the USA, there is ample time for a death-row convict to repent of his/her sins & come to Christ. The imposition of the death penalty does not impede this, for as long as most of the condemned spend on The Row appealing their sentences.
    I oppose the death penalty for several reasons:
    a) those who have been freed from it by being exonerated by DNA or other evidence (Kirk Bloodsworth of MD is a prime example of this–read his book, “Bloodsworth,” it’s excellent) shows that the “system” in this nation is far from foolproof in not convicting the innocent;
    b) it takes way too long to execute, & is far too expensive for the taxpayer who foots the bill for convicting, appealing, & executing the condemned–FL spent $2.16 million to execute Ted Bundy, & AZ’s spent >$2.5 million just on the defense of Jodi Arias, so far—these funds could be put to far better use than putting a convict in the grave, where life sentences never approach these sums, & prisons are sufficiently secure to prevent escape where the offender could commit further crimes against society.
    c) God is the Author of all life–let Him decide when someone should decease, whether incarcerated or not.
    d) the uneven-ness of trying- & sentencing someone to death–there are people serving life sentences whose crimes are far more horrendous, atrocious & cruel, (than those of some on death row) who escaped the death penalty by jury refusing to sentence, or the criminal pleading to a lesser crime. It’s just too unpredictable as to the outcome of not-/guilty & then whether the jury will sentence death. There are some ex-death-row inmates who are walking the streets after having been awarded parole, after having gotten their death sentences overturned, & then paroled. I find this most unjust to some on death row, whose crimes are somewhat “lesser” in terms of “heinous, atrocious & cruel” & will be executed, as some already have been.
    I disagree w/the Holy Father on life sentences w/o possibility of parole–there are plenty of people who, if released, will commit more crimes. They deserve to spend the balance of their lives incarcerated for their propensity for criminal behavior. These people DO exist, & I don’t know how any psychologist could ascertain definitively that if X were released, s/he would be law-abiding…there;s just no test for this.

    • Micha Elyi

      Get back to me, Laureen, after you’ve served ten years or so as a prison guard at a death-row lockup. Same goes for Jorge.

      Prison guards are people too. The dreamers who think life imprisonment is a cheap and easy solution that will let them skip making a hard decision hold the lives of prison guards and their families cheap.

      • Laureen

        What are you talking about? My opposition to death sentences & support for life terms for the incorrigible criminal (who has never been, or will be, a law-abiding member of society) has 0 to do with prison guards/their families. If you don’t like your job, resign & find something else to do. My comments have NOTHING to do w/you or any other guard. You were nowhere on my mind when I wrote this–stop being thin-skinned anytime the mood strikes you, OK?
        It is a FACT that convicting, sentencing & executing a criminal costs the taxpayers many, many times more than convicting & sentencing to life w/o poss of parole. I have to wonder if those taxpayers in death-penalty states realize this. I contend that that money saved by abolishing capital punishment could be better spent in other sectors of society where it is needed.
        Pray tell, what does this, or my previous comments above, have to do with prison guards? It’s a field of endeavor that you chose–no one’s forcing you to put that uniform on & go to a prison to work!

      • That’s more of an engineering problem. If I can, at my favorite sushi restaurant, get dinner without ever interacting with another human being, then surely we have the technology to imprison a criminal without putting guards at risk.

  • C.Caruana

    ‘A sentence of life (without parole) is a hidden death penalty’. This is the kind of statement , no doubt well intentioned, that is making this Pope so problematic for me and thousands of other Catholics. First of all, I am under the impression that in most European states, a life sentence is not for life. Secondly it underestimates the reality of evil: there have always existed, and will continue to exist, people who have , consciously or unconsciously, renounced their own humanity to embrace and identify themselves with pure evil. While we cannot give up hope for their potential redemption in this and the next life, in practical terms society is morally bound to keep them under lock and key if they have shown no signs at all of rehabilitation, if they remain compulsive recidivicists and pose a real and constant threat to the life and property of other law abiding citizens. Not to speak of serial killers, some of whom have openly admitted that if released they would re -commit the same crimes. What about mafia bosses, against whom Pope Francis has rightly thundered, especially those who are still commisioning murders from inside their prison cells, is a life sentence a hidden death penalty for them too, and would their release not be a manifest death sentence for their victims? Please Pope Francis, could you please clarify once and for all what you mean exactly by Mercy, and its relation to the Truth of Divine and human justice, as well as to the realities of evil and Hell? This is not mere rhetoric, but a cry from the heart.

    • Brother McPatrick

      Actually, a life sentence is not a hidden death penalty but an actual death penalty: life imprisonment until death. However, such is legitimate punishment, especially since the person guilty of a capital crime has now forfeited the right to be among law-abiding citizens. Contrary to what the Pope or others may say, a life sentence is an extraordinary form of mercy that helps prevent the guilty person from committing another crime, it gives that person the opportunity to repent and grow closer to the Lord in this life, and so on. It also keeps the door open to the possibility of releasing people wrongly found guilty of a capital crime. It does no good to apologize, etc., if DNA evidence, etc. exonerates a person already dead from being put to death. A life sentence exercises proper justice and is the wisest course to follow.

  • This fits the rest of the mercy without repentance attitude that has been pushed as of late. All mercy for criminals, zero mercy for victims.

    It’s a part of the God of Surprises: Surprise, you just got murdered by a violent criminal who should have still been in jail.

    • So much for the Pope being the Vicar of Christ, eh?

      • kathyschiffer

        Isherwood, let’s take a step back from the edge: The Pope IS the Vicar of Christ. Popes are infallible ONLY when speaking ex cathedra (from the chair) on matters of faith and morals. Who’s going to win the soccer game? He can be as wrong as you.

        • Do I hear you saying that the Pope’s talk about “The God of Surprises” means nothing more than drivel about a soccer game?

      • Many Popes have failed to live up to that title, it does not make the title less true

        • The first sentence phrase is true. Your second sentence phrase is a non-sequitur.

          • It is not if you understand that the Vicar is NOT the King.

          • Vicariously, he is.

          • But only Vicariously- which means within the limits of the authority given.

          • The Mere Pope, safe to ignore, says Theodore. 😉

          • Only safe to ignore when the Vicar and the King disagree. More that this statement isn’t infallible by the definition of infallibility.

            Which is about to be destroyed by liberals and conservatives alike anyway, so i’m not sure why I’m in mourning about it.

          • Do you mind if I take your anti-pope skepticism to its fullest conclusion?

          • Yes, I mind, because I’m unsure that I’m taking it to its fullest conclusion yet.

            The fullest conclusion will come November 2015, when we find out if this Pope is going to attempt the destruction of a sacrament.

            I say attempt, because in Canon Law, Papal Infallibility has limits- and this is one of them that to cross, would mean the destruction of Christianity itself, including Protestantism.

          • A religion that hinges so heavily on the opinion of a single man seems rather underwhelming. Such fragility is a consequence of centralized planning.

          • That’s the point, it doesn’t. Papal infallibility is officially limited by what GK Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead”- the tradition lived by all the generations that went before us.

            Even the Pope can’t change anything. And that’s what I am most afraid of- breaking the system.

          • Were you being overdramatic with how one man can destroy all of catholic and protestant christianity?

          • Only partially I am afraid. There are forces outside of Christianity that are present in the modern world that were not present at the time of say, the Borgias. A Pope who rejects Vatican I ‘s definition of Papal Infallibility is all they need to fire up the gas chambers against those evil traditionalists.

          • Gas chambers now? Are you suggesting Pope Pius XII was a progressive like Francis?

          • Except he saved people from the gas chambers- 860,000 of them:

            Pope Francis seems on the verge of simply giving up. I don’t see the push to save anybody. Kind of like if Pius XII had, instead of saving all those Jews, just turned them over to the Nazis.

          • You can’t even assign the
            slightest guilt to a fellow who stood with Hitler, but continue your “gas chamber” smears against a standing pope. Such moral whoopdewhirls amaze me more than the inscrutable dogmas like transubstantiation.

          • Except, of course, as the link proves, that was a ruse on the part of Pope Pius XII.

          • Aaaaaand the dog at my homework—I too have one of the world’s widest selections of excuses for behaving badly, well-honed from middle school daze.

          • Your dog ate 860,000 Jews?

          • It was a ruse, I tells ya!

          • Scooter Livingston

            The person on the right is actually Dudley Sharp…

  • I don’t believe in an absolute abolition of the death penalty either to be honest. But I do think many of the reasons in the past for the death penalty are no longer relevant and it’s okay to limit it to extreme cases.

  • Brother McPatrick

    The best source to check for Pope St. John Paul II’s position is indeed set forth in Evangelium Vitae instead of “media verbal” statements. Check section 56 for a much needed correction to your characterization of “total opposition” to the death penalty. It can still be used but only when necessary, and the Pope cites section 2267 of the 1992 catechism in this regard, so you need to correct your assumptions in this regard as well.

  • AugustineThomas

    Don’t go bother NewChurch and Pope Frank the Hippie with the actual teachings of the Church.. To actually believe anything the Church teaches makes you a follower of fads and like the Pharisees! (The leftist beliefs of the moment make up the laws of NewChurch.)

  • bill bannon

    That should read Rom.13:4 not 3:4

  • Micha Elyi

    I see that our bishops care not for the lives of prison guards and their families.

    • J. Boanerges

      Bureau of Justice recorded that in the span of 11 years (approximately 2001 to 2012), there were over 500 homicides (just homicides) nationwide within the walls of prisons. Will he champion their cause too?

      • Sounds like we need a redesign of the prison system to take better advantage of modern technology.

        • J. Boanerges

          First, personal and professional experience has demonstrated that “technology” is not the answer. Willing people have always learned to defeat the latest “technology”. The answer is not “more or better”,

          Second, the answer is God and obedience to His laws. God was never against the death penalty. There is no commandment “Thou Shalt not Execute a Capital Criminal”. By His Divine Will He allowed His only Son to be executed.

          • Do you have a link to a naked human being being able to escape from a welded steel box?

            I was unaware that the latest technology had even been tried- solitary confinement in welded steel buildings, food delivered by robot, spiritual and psychological treatment delivered by video conferencing technology. NO physical contact between prisoners and guards.

            After all, the John Paul II argument was based on humanity finally reaching a level of technology that physical separation without mental separation was possible.

            Do you have a link to such a level of security being tried and defeated?

          • J. Boanerges

            Turkish prisons…

          • Welding yes, robots no, and Turkish prisons have a notoriously low escape and violence rate to begin with.

            Also, I don’t know of a single Turkish prison using video conferencing technology to allow the prisoners to be bombarded with secular and spiritual training to reform.

            So good on two points, fail on two points. Got another?

          • J. Boanerges

            I’m afraid you assume too much. You may not know of any, but do you have proof? More to the point; “naked” prisoners in “welded steel” boxes smacks of inhumane treatment. And given the climate of the culture, even with “video”, I wonder if even St. JPII would approve?

          • My point is more that before you dismiss technical solutions, we should at least try them. The idea of a naked human being being able to dig his way through 1/8th” steel plate is ludicrous, but it is a ludicrous example needed to show a crazy idea, actually treating prisoners like prisoners.

            Perhaps inhumane people need to be treated inhumanely to protect everybody else; but I suspect that with modern communication tools, one could avoid the reasons life in solitary has been called inhumane in the past (such as the tendency of a human being with no other human to talk to and no mental stimulation at all to go irrevocably mad after a month or so).

  • Micha Elyi

    Q. Why did Pope Francis stop wearing the traditional red shoes on his feet?

    A. They taste bad.

  • Joan

    I guess Pope Francis has not read Thomas Aquinas.

    • Antiphon411

      Was this your first tip off?

  • I wrote this over at Rebecca Hamilton’s post on the same subject, so I might as well copy and paste. Here:

    I’m flabberghasted. Perhaps I shouldn’t be. I predicted this as a political development, not from the Pope, though I shouldn’t be surprised there either. One of Liberal’s arguments against the death penalty has always been that life in prison is an even harsher sentence. So end the death penalty and institute life in prison without parole. I knew that once the death penalty was abolished the very next bleeding heart Liberal activism would be to end life in prison. I’m not for or against the death penalty as to whether it is harsher or not. I’m for the death penalty because it is the appropriate penalty to reach a sense of justice for the crime they committed. And that’s not to say all murders reach a death penalty level. Other ,murders might reach a life in prisonment level, some with and some without the possibility of parole. And don’t ask me here to distinguish which crime fits the penalties. That’s a long complicated discussion and requires societal evaluation. But no way will I support the Holy Father’s call on this.

  • J. Boanerges

    He is definitely NOT a follower of Aquinas…that much is evident.

  • Brother McPatrick

    What were his exact and complete statements and context in the examples you cite? I have a suspicion you might be leaving out some important points like you did earlier, thereby setting up some easy straw men to knock down. Also note that you have not corrected your reference to the 1992 catechism quoted favorably in Evangelium Vitae. Methinks you might also be cherry-picking and leaving out important details to satisfy your desire for blood in this regard. Your reference to Cardinal Dulles and the OT is of little value. Note how many things in the OT are no longer an obligation thanks to the NT and other forms of Christian revelation, and thank God this is the case. Try imposing restrictions and other rules set forth in Leviticus. Your personal sin/crime distinction is also meaningless regarding the point at issue.
    In any case, as mentioned in my previous offering, the written statements always carry more weight. I’ll stick with Evangelium Vitae, the Magisterium, and the Catechism, and you can stick with your personal interpretations of verbal statements and the scriptures. Good luck.

  • Brother McPatrick

    No contradiction involved. Hoping and praying for the end of the death penalty does not contradict his other claims and what he cites in the catechism. He prayed for the bloodless means to be available throughout the world to render justice, and if so, then the death penalty could be abolished. Re-read the precise statement (section 2267) in the catechism and pray for guidance. Also consider a superb Catholic commentary on the Scriptures and/or submit your concerns to a solid Catholic bible scholar like Scott Hahn to help you, especially in how the Church applies the NT to the OT. Your personal interpretations are simply inadequate and off the mark. They do not apply in the way you are trying to force them to in order to aid your erroneous position.

    Lastly ask yourself the following: “How is it possible that I, Bill Bannon, can see so many contradictions and errors, but millions of faithful Catholics are simply duped? Why am I clearly wiser than so many?…or am I?”

  • gregoryvii

    And in the original edition of the Catechism, we have this: 2266; “Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason 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.”

  • Brother McPatrick

    My previous posts reflect authentic Catholic teaching. That’s good enough for me. Sorry it’s not good enough for you.

    Good luck.

  • Brother McPatrick

    Such a good thing that Church doctrine does not rely on opinion polls. I’ll stick with my previous posts and the authentic teaching of the Church. Once again, good luck with your personal interpretations.

  • Brother McPatrick

    An ongoing misleading/inaccurate reference to the 1992 Catechism. To assist others, section 2267 of the 1992 edition also needs to be read in the context of the issue being discussed, and it states the following:

    “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and 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.”
    As Catholics, we cannot play the Luther game of ignoring something or declaring it to be an “epistle of straw” because it does not follow lockstep with our personal ideology that does not accept authentic Church teaching.
    As for the development of doctrine, there is no time constraint, plus it is extreme hubris to assume that if one is not aware of various considerations for X amount of time, somehow these things didn’t take place, and they only take place when one is aware of them.

  • Brother McPatrick

    More personal interpretations by B. Bannon out of context. Very, very sad.

  • Brother McPatrick

    One more straw man argument from you to avoid reality yet again, and to also set forth another red herring off point. There is absolutely no claim by yours truly that everything a pope says is authentic teaching, and so to purposely re-characterize what I said is not only a straw man argument, it’s also a malevolent lie to try to support your misguided and untenable positions.
    I sincerely hope that the imaginary windmills of your own creation will soon evaporate so you can stop your destructive tilting at them that might lead others astray in the process.
    Good-Bye and God Bless.

  • dudleysharp

    Current Problems: Catholic Death Penalty Teaching:
    Most recent Catechism (last amended 2003)

    Any good Catholic may disagree with the Church’s newest teaching on the death penalty (1) and remain a Catholic in good standing (1) and can find that (a) the primary and eternal purpose of sanction is justice and/or redress, as confirmed in this latest CCC, and that (b) justice should not be and cannot be subjugated by a secondary purpose of sanction, the important concern of “defense of society” and that (c) the death penalty offers a greater degree of protection for society and individuals (2) , that being the protection of the potential innocents harmed, now spared, and potential repeat unjust aggressors, also, now spared, by preventing them from harming even more innocents and , thereby, putting their eternal lives more at risk (3&4).

    Saint Pope John Paul II (SPJPII) made a prudential judgement, within Evangelium Vitae (EV), and such judgement was factually and rationally in error and then those errors were placed within the CCC.

    1) The first sentence from CCC 2267, being:

    “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.”

    Response from two Catholic scholars:

    “The most reasonable conclusion to draw from this discussion is that, once again, the Catechism is simply wrong from an historical point of view. Traditional Catholic teaching did not contain the restriction enunciated by Pope John Paul II”.(5)

    “The realm of human affairs is a messy one, full of at least apparent inconsistency and incoherence, and the recent teaching of the Catholic Church on capital punishment—vitiated, as I intend to show, by errors of historical fact and interpretation—is no exception.” (5)

    SPJPII states that we can use the death penalty only “when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.”

    Not only is this a rational error, it conflicts with 2000 years of Catholic teaching.

    As taught in this very same CCC, redress, justice and just retribution are primary and eternal. Public defense is secular and utilitarian and, therefore, must always be secondary to the primary, eternal truth of justice.

    Yet, both the CCC and SPJPII are stating that we must replace eternal truths with secular utilitarianism. Obviously an error.

    Furthermore, SPJPII, somehow, only lists one of the Catholic Church’s four foundations for sanction (defense) neglecting all others – another error. Justice, redress, just retribution are always primary.

    A significant rational error is that SPJPII attempts to erase execution, if it is not the “only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings”. There is nothing within reason or Catholic teachings that says we must either include or exclude a method of sanction, because there may be another “practicable way to defend the lives of human beings”

    Our obligation is to find the “best way to defend the lives of human beings”, which, in many cases, means the death penalty, which better protects innocents than do lesser sanctions, in three ways (3), and is a sanction which more corresponds with justice, the primary function, in some cases.

    Both the utilitarian and eternal truths of capital punishment are in conflict with SPJPII’s pronouncements. SPJPII would have us sacrifice more innocents, by sparing more guilty murderers, putting more innocents in peril, just as he puts more unjust aggressors in greater eternal peril, as detailed (2-4).

    2) The middle sentence within CCC 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.

    Flannery and Remick’s comments (5) apply, here, as well.

    The traditional, philosophical and eternal teachings remain the same, that the Church has and does recognize that the imposition of the death penalty is based upon the sanctity of life and is in conformity with the dignity of the human person (3), both innocent murders victims and guilty unjust aggressors/murderers.

    Then, of course, we have this, demonstrating how completely bizarre this new teaching is:

    Also within the same CCC as 2267, we have CCC 2260: “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.” “This teaching remains necessary for all time.”

    SPJPII says if “bloodless means are sufficient” than we must shun the death penalty.

    SPJPII chose his dependence on wildly varying secular criminal justice systems (4), defense of society, over this eternal commandment.

    In addition, SPJPII choses to leave all unjust murderers, alive, with the well known outcome, guaranteeing many more innocents will be murdered (2-4), putting many more unjust murderers at greater eternal risk, as we know so many will murder or, otherwisew, harm, again (2-4).

    If his concern is protection of innocents, SPJPII would have said, “We will use that sanction which best protects the innocents”, but he didn’t. He only used a “sufficient” standard, when he should have used a “best” standard, if protecting innocent lives is your primary concern and if a sanction commensurate with the crime which, in many cases, both by utility and justice, will be the death penalty (2-5).

    3) Factually, we know that the last sentence from CCC 2267 is false:

    “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.’ [John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 56.]

    “In fact”, the overwhelming evidence is that, given all known realities of the State’s actions to repress known unjust aggressors, that the proper protection of innocents from unjust aggressors is, extremely often, not the case (5), as we all know (5).

    “Putting more innocents at risk, by repeat harm from known unjust aggressors and putting those same known unjust aggressors at greater eternal risk, by allowing them to harm more innocents, as we know many will do.(2-4)” is the result of this newest EV and CCC teaching.

    The factual support for this is overwhelming, as detailed (4), and as both CCC and EV avoided.

    In addition, sinners do not redeem “themselves”, a truly bizarre statement. Redemption comes from the grace and mercy of God.

    Flannery and Remick’s comments (5) apply, here, as well.


    These newest death penalty teachings, within EV and the CCC, occurred at the exact time when SPJPII and the Church were involved in the horrendous priest sex scandal, worldwide, which so clearly demonstrated the human error of allowing unjust aggressors to harm innocents, over and over, again. The Church had the “means” to protect the innocent. She just didn’t . . . and it took years of lawsuits and heartbreak for the Church to, finally, wake up and become honest.

    It is as if the Church never got the message, now repeating that same horror, over and over, again.

    In the course of human affairs, with the priest sex scandal, , for anyone who wants to learn, what we think is “sufficient” is, often, a disaster – evidently a lesson lost within EV and CCC and, now, repeated, with Her newest death penalty teachings.

    Tragic and incomprehensible.

    1) From Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict, then Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

    (paragraph 3) “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.”

    from Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. General Principles, part of memorandum sent by Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick, made public July 2004.

    2) The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter? A Review of All Innocence Issues

    3) The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation

    4) Catechism & State Protection

    5) “Capital Punishment and the Law”, Ave Maria Law Review, 2007 (30 pp), by Kevin L. Flannery S.J., Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (since 2002) and Ordinary Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome); and Mary Ann Remick Senior Visiting Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics andCulture (University of Notre Dame)

    • Scooter Livingston

      Dudley has cut-and-pasted the answer above on at least three different places. He’s like an old record album that keeps getting stuck….

      • dudleysharp

        Thank you.
        Correct and detailed truths, which can be, independently, verified are a good and should be distributed.
        Thank you.

        • Scooter Livingston

          Here is a correct and detailed truth…

        • Scooter Livingston

          Here is a correct and detailed truth

  • dudleysharp

    Pope Francis: How Wrong on the Death Penalty?
    Dudley Sharp

    In a speech to the International Association of Penal Law (1), Pope Francis denounced the death penalty and life imprisonment, continuing the Church pattern of errors in criminal justice matters.

    1) Pope Francis condemned “a ‘ penal populism’ that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.”

    Do any leaders say that “we must solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.”?

    Of course not. I can see no reason why the Pope would have said it.

    2) Pope Francis says, “It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor”.

    “Impossible to imagine” is poor reasoning, nor does it have any biblical, theological or traditional support.

    On this serious topic, reality, not imagination, should be the rational guide.

    The issues are what represents justice and how can we best protect the innocent from unjust aggressors, within the reality of man’s criminal justice systems.

    Would anyone say: “It is ‘impossible to imagine’ that the Church would not protect innocents from sexual predator priests.”

    Of course not. Deal with reality.

    Reality says that the death penalty protects innocents to a greater degree than does LWOP (2) and both protect innocents better than lesser sanctions. (2).

    “Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm.” (CCC 2265). Clearly, the death penalty and LWOP do that better than any other sanctions.

    The Pope’s suggestion is to spare more violent criminals, putting their eternal souls more at risk, and to sacrifice more innocents.

    3) Neither the last 3 Popes, nor Evangelium Vitae nor the recent CCC have addressed, or even acknowledged, the huge problems that we have with all criminal justice systems, worldwide (3) – how common it is for criminal justice systems to allow known unjust aggressors, to harm over and over again (3).

    Never. Possibly, Pope Francis might consider:

    (To paraphrase the Pope)

    “All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to show their love and support for those innocents harmed by known violent unjust aggressors and out of respect for the human dignity of those innocent persons, who have been deprived of their safety, their lives and/or their property, to make sure that it will be “impossible to imagine” not protecting those innocents to a higher degree than we have in the past and, thereby preventing unjust aggressors from harming, even, more in the future, not only causing more harm to innocents, but also more harm to those unjust aggressors’ eternal future.”

    4) The Pope may have defined why the last 3 Popes have been such a disaster on criminal justice issues.

    Pope Francis calls sanctioned guilty criminals “sacrificial victims”, a true insult to actual innocent crime victims, a stunning moral error, with the last four decades of Church horrors staring him in the face.

    Hard to comprehend.


    1) Pope Francis calls for abolishing death penalty and life imprisonment, 10/27/2014,

    2) The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter? A Review of All Innocence Issues

    3) Catechism & State Protection