Death Penalty

Understanding the Catholic Church’s position on the death penalty

In August 2018, it was announced that Pope Francis approved a new revision of paragraph number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which now teaches, “the death penalty is inadmissible,” and arranged for it to be translated and inserted in all the editions of the Catechism.

At the same time, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a ‘Letter to the Bishops,’ signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, which explained the reasoning behind the revision, and stating that “the new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.”

Unfortunately, not only do many Catholics reject this teaching, but many prominent Catholics, particularly in the United States, refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the teaching at all. We have discussed this issue many times at Where Peter Is in order to help our fellow Catholics understand why this teaching is both valid and binding on Catholics today. We also respond to many of the criticisms of the teaching and explain why the teaching is consistent with the Catholics faith.

You can find the revised teaching below, followed by a selection of our articles on the death penalty.

The death penalty

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

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[1] FRANCIS, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017, 5.


Articles

Slavery, the death penalty, and doctrinal development

Catholics work for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide

Reintegrated, inside or outside

The Seamless Garment is the Catholic position

Simply Inadmissible

Being pro-life requires the faith to see “both/and”

Breakfast of Scandals: Chaput adds to Barr fiasco

Is Catholic teaching against the death penalty optional?

Willing the Good: A survivor’s call for restorative justice

Slavery, the death penalty, and doctrinal development

Breaking News – Pope Changes Church’s Teaching on the Death Penalty

Francis changes the Catechism: Death penalty now “inadmissible”

The death penalty and the mystery of mercy

Death penalty – A Catholic nation’s experience

Death Penalty – continuity or hardness of heart?

Human life and dignity: our maturing teaching

Dr. Peters’ deer & hunter: death penalty & the inversion of roles

Death penalty – The Gen 9:6 objection

The Death Penalty, Doctrine or Personal Opinion?

Cardinal Burke: “This is an opinion of Pope Francis as a man”

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