Despite the efforts of some to claim that Catholic teaching allows for the possibility of capital punishment, anyone who has taken the time to read the Church’s position on this will quickly learn that capital punishment — in all practical instances — goes against the Church’s call to proclaim a “gospel of life” and is forbidden. (See below.)
Why is it, then, that the four Supreme Court Justices who seem to have no problem with States wanting to expand the use of state-imposed executions are all Catholic? In the 5-4 decision reaffirming current U.S. law that allows the State to take a human life only when the individual being executed has also taken a life, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito joined Chief Justice Roberts in dissenting from the majority.
One wonders why these jurists — whose “Catholicity” is often made note of — are not called to task by those prelates who have no problem witholding the Eucharist from politicians with equally questionable commitment to the Gospel of Life.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (# 2267) 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.'”