Catholic Pro-Life Committee


Saving Lives, Healing Hearts and Building Families

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Death Penalty

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, remains a definitive source of recent authoritative Catholic teaching on capital punishment" - 
-The Gospel of Life and the Sentence of Death: Catholic Teaching on Capital Punishment, by Rev. Augustine Judd., O.P.

It states:

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.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2267 (emphasis added), quoting Evangelium Vitae 56.

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:

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