At the heart of Catholic teaching on the death penalty is the belief that “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end…” (Catechism,No. 2258).
Regarding the death penalty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church 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 with 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 definitively 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 non-existent” (#2267).
Facts & Figures
Educational Materials on Church Teaching
Respect Life Programs
Respect Life 101 Presentations
Death Penalty: Presentation / Facilitator Notes
USCCB: Death Penalty
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): Death Penalty
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): Respect for Human Life
Leadership & Volunteer Opportunities
If you or your organization has expertise or an interest in the topic of the death penalty, or if you would like to learn how you can assist in the life-saving work of the Respect Life Office by becoming a resource for information on the Church's teaching on the death penalty, please contact us.