Thread: Ask a Catholic
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Old November 4th, 2017, 01:59 PM   #3
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Join Date: December 29, 2014
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Default Re: Ask a Catholic

The Church teaches that the state can legitimately have recourse to the death penalty when it is necessary to protect society from criminals.

Whether it is necessary in modern conditions, whether or not it deters crime (and whether or not that is a valid consideration), and other questions regarding it are hotly debated topics among theologians. The most common opinion used to be that its necessity was clear, now the opposite is the most common opinion. This change has occurred relatively recently, over the last fifty years or so.

"Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment* is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord." - Catechism of the Council Of Trent - The Fifth Commandment

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." - Catechism of the Catholic Church #2267

"While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty" - Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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