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Capital Punishment

"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."  Catechism 2267

Bishops Conference Supports Efforts to Abolish the Death Penalty worldwide, Statement by Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) Public Policy Director, Jeremy Stuparich, November 2015

The Canadian Government Must Oppose Capital Punishment, Letter from Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2007

 

Abolition of the Death Penalty, National Council of the Churches, 1968

"Briefly Noted (Death Penalty Opposed; Ecumenical Conference)." The Christian Century 118, no. 1 (2001): 12-23.

Capital Punishment, National Association of Evangelicals, 2015

The Christian Argument Against the Death Penalty, Father Nakombo Frederic, National Secretary of Justice and Peace, FIACAT, June 2019

Melton, J. Gordon. The Churches Speak On: Capital Punishment: Official Statements from Religious Bodies and Ecumenical Organizations. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.

Murray, John C. "Capital Punishment: Official Statements from Religious Bodies and Ecumenical Organizations." Journal of Ecumenical Studies 27, no. 1 (1990): 117.

 

Books

Bernardin, Joseph, and Thomas A. Nairn. The Seamless Garment: Writings on the Consistent Ethic of Life. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2008.

Derrida, Jacques, Geoffrey Bennington, M. 1962- Crépon, Thomas Dutoit, and Peggy Kamuf. The Death Penalty. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Jacquette, Dale. Dialogues on the Ethics of Capital Punishment. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.

Kramer, Matthew H. The Ethics of Capital Punishment: A Philosophical Investigation of Evil and Its Consequences. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Marazziti, Mario. 13 Ways of Looking At the Death Penalty. A Seven Stories Press 1. edition. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2015.

Owens, Erik C., John D. Carlson, and Eric P. Elshtain. Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2004.

Schieber, Vicki., Trudy Conway, and David Matzko McCarthy. Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2013.

Sorell, Tom. Moral Theory and Capital Punishment. Oxford, OX, UK ; New York, NY, USA: B. Blackwell in association with the Open University, 1988.

Wanger, Eugene G., and Michael L. Radelet. Fighting the Death Penalty: A Fifty-year Journey of Argument and Persuasion. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2017.

 

Journals

Barbieri, William A. "The Morality of Killing E. Christian Brugger: Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition. The Review of Politics 66, no. 3 (2004): 542-544.

Bedan, Hugo Adam. "Capital Punishment: Morality, Politics, and Policy." Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice 1 (2002): 125-133.

Bones, Paul D. C. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: An Exploration of Religious Forces on Support for the Death Penalty." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 57, no. 4 (2018): 707-722.

Bruenig, Elizabeth. "The Catholic Church Opposes the Death Penalty. Why Don’t White Catholics?" Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection 2017.

Brugger, E. Christian. Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003.

Hoose, Bernard. "Moral Theology and Capital Punishment." Law & Justice 156 (2006): 11.

Latkovic, Mark S. "Capital Punishment, Church Teaching, and Morality: What Is John Paul II Saying to Catholics in Evangelium Vitae?" Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 5, no. 2 (2002): 76-95.

Norko, Michael A. "The Death Penalty in Catholic Teaching and Medicine: Intersections and Places for Dialogue." Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online 36, no. 4 (2008): 470-481.

Pfeil, Margaret R. "Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty. Edited By Vicki Schieber, Trudy D. Conway, and David Matzko McCarthy. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013. Xxi + 225 Pages. $18.95 (paper)." Horizons 42, no. 2 (2015): 489-490.

Santoro, Anthony. "Religion and Capital Punishment in the United States." Religion Compass 8, no. 5 (2014): 159-174.

Sisson, Jordan Otero. "Did Pope Francis Really Change Catholic Teaching on The Death Penalty? Not Exactly." Hartford Courant (Online) 2 Aug. 2018.

Unnever, James D.  “Images of God and Public Support for Capital Punishment: Does a Close Relationship with a Loving God Matter?” Criminology 44, no. 4 (2006): 835-866.

Wildes, Kevin Wm. 1954-, and Alan C. Mitchell. Choosing Life: A Dialogue On Evangelium Vitae. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1997.

 

PART THREE
LIFE IN CHRIST

SECTION TWO
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

CHAPTER TWO
"YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF"

ARTICLE 5
THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT

You shall not kill.54

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, "You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment." But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.55

2258 "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being."56

I. RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE

The witness of sacred history

2259 In the account of Abel's murder by his brother Cain,57 Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand."58

2260 The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God's gift of human life and man's murderous violence:

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.59

The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life.60 This teaching remains necessary for all time.

2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill,"62 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.63 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.64

 

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.