Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Death Penalty and the Catholic Church

If one is unaware of Catholic teaching in its fullness, there may seem to be a contradiction when it comes to the death penalty. On one hand, the pope, especially the previous one, was very much against the death penalty, in fact, often writing to lawmakers and judges to have execution sentences commuted, in places such as the United States and other developed nations. The previous pope even said that in today's day and age, death sentences should almost never take place. This may seem to contradict the official teaching of the Church that the death penalty is not morally wrong in all cases. To understand the seeming disparity between these statements, it is important to understand the extent to which the death penalty is morally possible.

In his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" (The Gospel of Life) issued March 25, 1995 after four years of consultations with the world's Roman Catholic bishops, John Paul II wrote that execution is only appropriate "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 immprovement [sic] in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (From PBS.org)

In other words, the death penalty should only be used in the case that if it wasn't, society would be at a serious risk, for instance of someone murdering many innocent people. This is very rarely the circumstance in developed nations such as here in Canada, or in the United States. It is possible that in our fallen human nature, we may at times wish to have someone pay the ultimate price, but we must look not at what we want, but what God wants, and ultimately God wants us to forgive those who hate us, and that all people no matter what their sins, seek forgiveness and attain salvation.


  1. hi i am catholic. It rocks!

  2. i think that the death penalty is right because if someone is that destructive they should be killed but at their expense, not the states. The Deathly Penalty should tell people to not be vicious or they will be killed.