17 June, 2010

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: What does the Catholic Church Teach?

In 1966 less than half of the American Population supported capital punishment. Today, 75% of Americans support the death penalty. Controversy over whether or not capital punish is moral, should be legal or not, and if it is legal when it should be applied splits America. Unfortunately Catholics in the pew are also split on the issue.

The official teaching of the Church states that in theory, capital punishment is the ultimate legitimate sanction available to the state, but must be applied only under very strict guidelines and only for self-defense of society when no lesser sanctions will be effective.

Recent popes while affirming this traditional position, have said again and again that, "only for self-defense of society when no lesser sanctions will be effective," must be seen in view of modern society's ability to administer justice and protect society through "lesser means," as, for example, using, "life in prison without parole."

Those identified as moderate or liberal Catholics are strong supporters of the Church's position and the pope's teachings on Capital Punishment.

What about Conservative or Reactionary Catholics? One might expect them to be more supportive of capital punishment as political conservatives are.

One site claiming to be "truly Catholic" exemplifies the most extreme reactionary position I have seen on this issue. It tries to accept the brief, general statements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. However,  this site, absolutely opposes the recent popes' teaching. They exaggerate a sound theological principle that there is a distinction between an infallible papal statement and other  papal statements that must be taken seriously by reducing the popes' statements on capital punishment to "just his opinion."

You, dear reader, owe it to yourself to read  the argument made on this site and form your own opinion.

No one will deny that Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Network represents a Conservative Catholic source of information and teaching. There is an article on this  "conservative" site that is very well written, logical, easy to understand, and it presents the teaching on capital punishment that any bishop or liberal catholic will find acceptable.  Read it. Compare it to the first statement.

If nothing else this post (especially the last link) should present the official teaching of the Catholic Church on Capital Punishment and show the diversity of thinking going on during these "culture wars."

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