The Catholic Church has always supported capital punishment as is clear throughout the history of the Church; a point I made in my book Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support.
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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,…
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.
My personal thinking on capital punishment has gone through three phases.
As a former criminal—thief and robber—and having served twelve years in maximum security federal and state prisons where I gained an intimate knowledge of unrepentant evil, I was initially a supporter of capital punishment, especially for capital crimes against innocent women and children, crimes professional criminals always associate with its just use.
When I was becoming a Catholic, I moved in opposition to it, after being taught during the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) that the Church was in opposition to it, and it was very important to me to think with the Church in all things.
After becoming Catholic and conducting my own study, I returned to a position of support when I learned that the Church’s teaching did not oppose it, only the improper use of it. My position has become more certain as I realized how deeply support for capital punishment is woven into Church doctrine as an important aspect of the protection of the innocent against the murderer, “for all time” as the Holy See (1997) in the Catechism notes:
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. (Genesis 9:5-6)
The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. (Leviticus 17:14) This teaching remains necessary for all time. (#2260)
Lukenbill, (pp 9-13)
A story from Catholic News Agency reports on new efforts by Catholic Bishops to abolish capital punishment.
Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2015 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops in the U.S. have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to re-examine death penalty protocols, and have called for the abolition of the death penalty.
“We pray that the court’s review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ pro-life activities committee, said Jan. 27.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who chairs the committee on domestic justice, said recent executions have shown “how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will consider the case Glossip v. Gross, brought by three Oklahoma death row inmates, Richard Glossip, John Grant, and Benjamin Cole.
The inmates’ lawsuit asks the court to reject the three-drug protocol used in Oklahoma executions, saying it can cause extreme pain that violates constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment. Among the drugs in the cocktail is midazolam, a sedative.
The case was filed in response to the botched April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, which took more than 40 minutes. Although sedated, his body writhed and he breathed heavily as he was being killed. He eventually died of a heart attack.
Retrieved January 29, 2015 from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishops-use-supreme-court-case-to-call-for-death-penalty-abolition-81973/