Evolution of the death penalty in the catechism of the Catholic Church

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“Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a privileged relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning to its end: no one can in any circumstance claim for oneself the right to directly destroy an innocent human being. “

Aug 10, 2018

original version from 1992

# 2266. Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor incapable of doing harm. This is why the traditional teaching of the Church has recognized as founded the right and the duty of the legitimate public authority to punish wrongdoers with penalties proportionate to the gravity of the crime, without excluding, in cases of extreme gravity. , the death penalty. .

# 2267. If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and personal security, public authority should be limited to such means because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good. and are more in keeping with the dignity of the human person.

1997 revision

# 2266. The State’s efforts to curb the spread of behavior prejudicial to the rights of individuals and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. The legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to impose a penalty proportionate to the gravity of the offense. The primary purpose of punishment is to correct the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is accepted voluntarily by the guilty party, it takes on the value of atonement. Punishment therefore has, in addition to defending public order and protecting the safety of people, a medicinal purpose: it must as much as possible contribute to the correction of the culprit.

# 2267. Assuming that the identity and responsibility of the culprit is fully determined, the Church does not exclude the use of the death penalty, if this is the only possible way to effectively defend human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect the security of persons against the aggressor, the authority will be limited to such means, because they are more in conformity with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the person. human.

Today, in fact, because of the possibilities that the State has of effectively preventing crime, by rendering those who have committed an offense incapable of causing harm – without permanently removing the possibility of redeeming themselves – the cases where the l The execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “is very rare, if not practically non-existent”.

Revision 2018

# 2266 No change

# 2267. The use of the death penalty by the legitimate authority, after a fair trial, has long been 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 a growing 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 importance of state-imposed criminal sanctions. Finally, more effective detention systems have been developed, which ensure the fair 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 the dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition. in the whole world.


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