There was a recent article in the National Catholic Register about the April 29th execution in Oklahoma that seemed to go awry, leading to a comment from an Archbishop: “But Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City condemned the execution and said the news story “really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether.”
Retrieved May 17, 2014 from http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/death-penalty-debate/
Unfortunately, this highlights the great confusion of Catholics around this issue, which compelled me to write a book about it, in which I wrote in the forward:
“This book is a defense of the scriptural and traditional Catholic position of support for capital punishment as expressed in the two universal catechisms, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, published by Pope Pius V in 1566, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published by Pope John Paul II in 1992 & 1997 (First & Second Edition), in response to calls for its abolition.
“Based on scripture and tradition, calls for abolition are premature, though the call has generated a renewed focus on not only the magisterial history of this most ancient of teachings, but also its theological resonance within the expression of that teaching by the Fathers of the Church—ancient and modern—who most deeply reflected on it.
“While Catholic social teaching has always supported capital punishment, it has been opposed by some in the Catholic hierarchy as an unnecessary criminal justice tool, with current criminal justice technology being presented as providing adequate protection of the innocent against the aggressor, meeting the criteria established by the Holy See (1997): “2267 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 # 2267)
“Regarding the new restriction embedded in the traditional support, Flannery (2007) responds. “It is true, of course, that traditional Catholic teaching does not exclude recourse to the death penalty; however, among traditional authors, it would be hard to find expressed the restriction, “when this is the only practicable way to defend lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” (p. 414)
“Though other examples of the inadequacy of current penal technology to protect the innocent will be noted later, it was dramatically witnessed in these recent cases reported by Witte (2009): “Prisons around the nation are grappling with rising problems from prison inmates using cell phones to coordinate criminal activity. Officials are backing legislation to change the law to allow states to use cell phone jamming technology to render cell phones useless in prison. Texas State Sen. John Whitmire, whose life was threatened by a death row inmate with a cell phone, said cell phones smuggled inside prisons are the fastest growing and most alarming development in prison contraband in Texas. He said corrections officials are in “a war” and need the jamming tool. …The dangerous and far-reaching aspects of prisoner cell phone use were illustrated in Maryland two years ago, when a Baltimore drug dealer used a cell phone to plan the killing of a witness from the city jail. In May, Patrick A. Byers Jr. was convicted of murdering Carl S. Lackl Jr., who had identified Byers as the gunman in a previous killing. (n.p.)”
“Capital punishment as a way of protecting the innocent is one of the central issues in the social teaching of the Church, but the ambiguity about it—particularly in the United States—over the past several decades after two millennia of certainty, places the credibility of the teaching itself at risk, and that negatively impacts the Church’s social teaching as an effective tool for criminal transformation, further risking the immortal souls of those who are lost and whose being found largely relies on the constancy of the teaching of the Catholic Church, on eternally walking the eternal talking.” (pp. 9-11)
David H. Lukenbill (2009) “Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support”. Sacramento, California: The Lampstand Foundation. Available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Capital-Punishment-Catholic-Social-Teaching/dp/0979167078/ref=