Death Penalty

In 2018 the Vatican released a statement that Pope Francis has approved a revision of paragraph number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, according to which "a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state,"  thus “the death penalty is inadmissible."

The Supreme Pontiff Francis, in the audience granted on 11 May 2018 to the undersigned Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has approved the following new draft of no. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, arranging for it to be translated into various languages and inserted in all the editions of the aforementioned Catechism.

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 an explanatory letter to bishops, Cardinal Ladaria (prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) states the change is an ‘authentic development of doctrine,’ building on the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Read National Catholic Register article here.

Read entirety of letter from Cardinal Ladaria here.

Pope_JP_II_prayer.jpgPope St. John Paul II on the Death Penalty

"The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary." — Pope John Paul II, St. Louis, MO, January 1999

"Punishment cannot be reduced to mere retribution, much less take the form of social retaliation or a sort of institutional vengeance. Punishment and imprisonment have meaning if they serve the rehabilitation of the individual by offering those who have made a mistake an opportunity to reflect and to change their lives in order to be fully reintegrated into society."

— Pope John Paul II, Jubilee Homily to Prisoners, Rome, July 2002

Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin, now Archbishop of
New Orleans, speaks on the death penalty 



Additional Resources:

Pastoral Letter from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
On October 10, 2016 the TCCB released a statement calling for the abolition of the death penalty, denouncing its effects not only on victims and others immediately affected, but also on society. “Capital punishment vitiates our hearts’ capacity for mercy and love,” the bishops write, noting that “the death penalty not only does not correspond to the common good, it actually does great harm to it.”

Catholic Mobilizing Network
In collaboration with the U.S. Bishops, proclaims the Church’s pro-life teaching and prepares Catholics for informed involvement in the public debate to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice

The Mercy Project
Initiative of the Texas Catholic Conference to inspire collaboration and raise public awareness on the issues of criminal justice and the death penalty

Death Penalty/Capital Punishment 
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops death penalty resources 

End the Use of the Death Penalty 
The Texas Catholic Conference death penalty facts

Death Penalty Q&A
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops answers questions on the death penalty 

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) 
TCADP is a statewide, grassroots membership organization working to end the death penalty in Texas