New Campaign Against Death Penalty
The website includes this passage from The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:
#405. "The Church sees as a sign of hope 'a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of "legitimate defense" on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform' (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 27).
"Whereas, presuming the full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the guilty party, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude the death penalty 'when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2267), bloodless methods of deterrence and punishment are preferred as 'they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person' (Ibid). The growing number of countries adopting provisions to abolish the death penalty or suspend its application is also proof of the fact that cases in which it is absolutely necessary to execute the offender 'are very rare, if not practically non-existent' (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 56; cf. also John Paul II, Message for the 2001 World Day of Peace, 19, where recourse to the death penalty is described as 'unnecessary.'”
A Penitent Blogger, of course, humbly supports the efforts of the bishops and the Holy Father to inject Catholic values into this important debate. To be sure, if and when the death penalty truly ‘is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor’ is a matter of prudential judgment and therefore something that can and should be debated respectfully within society.
Sadly, political arguments and legal structures both for and against capital punishment (as well as politics and policies on crime and punishment in general) are too often based on emotion and not sufficiently grounded in responsible prudence, Catholic teaching, or both.