Church Teaching Now Says the Death Penalty is Inadmissible in all Cases

Church Teaching Now Says the Death Penalty is Inadmissible in all Cases August 2, 2018
The map is from 2012. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by m01229

Mark Shea has the story. 

S0 does Deacon Greg. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church nows teaches that the death penalty is “inadmissible” under any circumstance. This changes the centuries old teaching that the death penalty was admissible after a fair trial.

The reasons given for the change are that “new systems of detention have been developed” that allow governments to provide for the public safety without imposing the death penalty, and that the Church itself has developed in its understanding of human dignity. This last point may surprise and even anger some people who base their faith on the idea that the Church was perfect from its beginning.

However, I find it consistent with what Jesus taught in the Gospels when He told us that the Kingdom of Heaven was like leaven in bread or a mustard seed that becomes a tree. The Gospel itself is the leaven and the Holy Spirit is the water which activates the leaven, and stimulates the tree to grow. Christianity is also the leaven for all of humankind, elevating us slowly out of the pit.

Christianity is the force that has moved Western civilization toward its acknowledgement of the rights of the individual, and that has then spread this Gospel message to the whole world. This is a slow and imperfect process of change because it is organic.

The message contained in the Church’s expansion of its teachings concerning the sanctity of human life as it applies to the death penalty is very welcome at this trying time. I feel heartened to see that, even in the midst of this latest manifestation of the on-going clergy sex scandal, the Church is still moving the chains forward in advancing the Kingdom.

I know there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in certain quarters about this. But I think it is a powerful testimony to the prophetic voice of the Catholic Church.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

19 responses to “Church Teaching Now Says the Death Penalty is Inadmissible in all Cases”

  1. I disagree with the Pope. There are certain crimes that, to me, should justify the death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous that using the death penalty is the only way to achieve justice.

        • Sorry, missed answering this apparently.

          The death penalty cuts off both the possibility of regretting one’s actions, and allows the criminal to escape any real repentance and restitution for his crime.

          You’ll never achieve equity, because the criminal has only one life to give; and usually, has taken away far more than that from his victims.

          • Thanks for responding. Figured you would do so when you could. As for the possibility of regretting one’s actions—-many on death row are there for years and years due to appeals etc. That is plenty of time, IMO to regret the action. Some never do regret their action, from some things I have heard/read. I’m not for immediate execution—-all deserve appeals etc. In some cases, they are found either not guilty or maybe given life without parole. Equity won’t be achieved—I agree. However, I can’t help but say that the murder victim deserves justice—and this is just my opinion—the convicted person really doesn’t deserve to continue to have a life—cruel and unfeeling as that may sound. I do not make those decisions—-juries do that etc. Hope you have a good weekend!

  2. I have trouble accepting this change. Let me be clear, I accept it, but my conscience has reservations and doubts. There are, as pagansister stated, some crimes that are so heinous that anything short of the death penalty seems unjust. In my mind, the crime that justifies the death penalty is treason in a time of war. It is difficult to conceive how betraying one’s nation in a way that results in the deaths of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of men and women during a time of war could be justly punished by anything short of execution of the traitor.

    And what about countries where suitable systems of detention do not exist? I think of Mexico, where escapes of notorious drug cartel members and leaders have happened not infrequently. What happens if, in a national crisis, a country that thought it had adequate systems of detention turns out not to have those systems? Can they go back to the death penalty?

    I concluded long ago (after research, reflection, and prayer) that the death penalty is unfairly applied in this country and that the death penalty could safely be abolished given our detention system. For the reasons outlined above, though, I am not sure that all countries can or should do that, and I am unsure that the death penalty should be eliminated for treason committed in time of war.

    • Child rape/ murders have happened both here and in India…in case after case.
      Those men should be taken to chapel daily for several months in order to repent and then be shot painfully…not given drugs.

      • You’re new here so I’m going to allow this in order to make a point. I understand you emotions. But the call to violence against other people is not acceptable here. I don’t want to, but I will have to delete further comments that say such things.

  3. Actually, the doctrine hasn’t changed: The technology HAS.

    Any crime so heinous that the death penalty is just for, is also so heinous that the death penalty is way too merciful for.

    There are better ways to do this. My suggestion is that the Church needs to get into the act, and build confessional cells that are both escape proof, and allow the penitent to choose to do penance and repent of their sin.

    Something like the old Anchorages, but forced.

      • No, but a confession is the second step. There are traditionally five steps I’m aware of to achieving forgiveness for everything other than the unforgivable sin:
        1. Realize what you did is a sin a regret it.
        2. Confession
        3. Receive absolution and penance
        4. Do the penance- publically if the sin affected other people.
        5. Reconcile with all you have done harm to.

        It’s those last two steps that people forget, and the entire point of a Penitentiary was to provide a place and time to do #4.

        In the case of murder, that can easily be a life sentence. Maybe it should be for clergy abuse too.

        Historically though, penitentiaries have not been that good at the task. We have better tools now to make the penance both public and truly repentant.

  4. I’m not sure why this is giving people a ton of angst at a religious level. The death penalty used to basically be justified as societal self-defense. In most 1st world countries and a rather large number of the rest of the countries, we are more than capable of defending society via a prison system (and have been for decades or longer) and so it cannot be justified any more.

    At a political level, I do understand, because too many people have forgotten that theology is not actually meant to support anyone’s politics.

    • You’re imagining that. You can google the actual figures. Catholic northern Latin America is the worst large region murderwise on earth and is non death penalty.
      In a recent year, Brazil had 61,238 murders and Mexico had 31,000 both with no death penalty…but China with a death penalty used quickly….had 11,000 murders despite having three times the population of Brazil/Mexico ( the two largest Catholic countries). If you google…homicide by country wiki….it leads to world murder rates by country. Two things produce safety. Affluence and non diversity: Austria 45 murders and no death penalty. Secondly where hundreds of millions of poor people live, execution done expeditiously saves tens of thousands of lives…Asia versus northern Latin America. Exceptions? Guatemala even if it had a death penalty, would still be murderous because they only convict murderers in 4% of murders. Low budget for police etc. Somalia or Sudan…similar. There is large tracts of desert countries where police never go. The caribbean islands have high murder rates due to large stretches of unpatrolled jungle etc. The US Virgin Islands are about fifth most murderous small region on earth though I suspect natives not tourists are being murdered…or the travel agents would be facing law suits.

  5. It’s advancing the death of murder victims on the absurd premise that there are safe prisons outside Europe and Canada and several other mildly affluent areas.
    The two largest Catholic countries are Brazil and Mexico. Their prisons are mostly hell holes with 80 inmates killed by other inmates in one Brazilian prison in the beginning of January 2017…google it.
    They are non death penalty and unlike Europe, Canada, and usa states with no ghettoes…they both have millions of poor. So does China but her murder numbers are 7 times smaller than those of Brazil and Mexico combined and China has three times their combined populations. China’s murder rate is (point 67 per 100,000) while Brazil is (27 per 100,000 no decimal prior to 27). If you could transfer China’s murder rate to Brazil, you would save 50,000 murder victims PER YEAR. This is a Catholic disaster that 500 years from now, Catholic scholars will be apologizing for…like the inquisition but with a weird twist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.