The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a statement on the death penalty (revised in 2018) as follows:

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, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

In earlier years, the Church accepted that the death penalty may have been the only option to protect people against an unjust aggressor. However, further development of this teaching clarified that such instances were “very rare, if not practically non-existent” (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 56).

Crossroads photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

Rev. Dr Paul Connell, 8 November 2021

Bishop Shane Mackinlay, Bishop of Sandhurst, 8 November 2021

8 November 2021