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Old 23rd June 2009, 05:51 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Default the death penalty

This is an excellent article which summarizes the teaching of Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium on the death penalty:
Avery Dulles
http://www.firstthings.com/article/2...-punishment-21

Here are links to some of his other articles:
http://www.firstthings.com/onthesqua...ulles-19182009

I'll add my comments on Dulles' four purposes of punishment by civil authority:

1. Rehabilitation - prisons represent a kind of society behind bars; a habitual criminal who next commits a very serious offense and is given life in prison might not repent and be rehabilitated (interiorly) because he views this sentence as merely a way of living in a community of like minded persons. But if a criminal is given a death sentence, the time that he spends awaiting that punishment, usually apart from the general prison population, gives him good reason to consider his choices in life and to repent. And so the death penalty, for some serious crimes, may offer an impetus to repentance and interior rehabilitation that a life sentence does not.

2. Defense against the criminal - some criminals given long sentences have been able to continue to commit crimes while in prison. Most often this happens by prisoners committing crimes against other prisoners and against guards. Use of illegal drugs is common in prisons, as are crimes of violence of one prisoner against another. Some criminals in prison have been able to commit crimes against persons in general society. They communicate with other members of their criminal organization, issuing orders to kill one person, or to commit some other crime. This has occurred even from supermax prisons.

Therefore, the death penalty, even in modern society, offer a defense against further crimes which even a life sentence cannot offer.

3. Deterrence - the Bible teaches that the death penalty is an effective deterrant.

[Deuteronomy]
{13:9} Instead, you shall put him to death promptly. Let your hand be upon him first, and after that, let the hands of all the people be sent forth.
{13:10} He shall be killed by being overwhelmed with stones. For he was willing to draw you away from the Lord your God, who led you away from the land of Egypt, from the house of servitude.
{13:11} So may all of Israel, upon hearing this, be afraid, so that nothing like this will ever be done again.

4. Retribution - not revenge, but retribution, which is a particular just punishment proportional to a particular crime. Some crimes are so serious that it is just to put the criminal to death. Thus, the death penalty is prescribed by Sacred Scripture for a number of different offenses.


A Catholic may hold that, in the current circumstances in society, it is better for the State not to exercise its right to give the death penalty to persons convicted of serious crimes. However, a Catholic may not hold that the death penalty is immoral, or that the civil government has no such authority to put guilty persons to death.
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Old 23rd June 2009, 10:34 PM
Rob Rob is offline
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It's a very well written and clear article
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Old 25th June 2009, 12:34 AM
Arax Arax is offline
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Ron,

Thank you for this post. I've tried to discuss this issue with people before, but I haven't gotten very far. I've often mentioned the idea that a prisoner might be a danger to the prison population, just as they are to the citizenry at large. Just because prisoners are in jail doesn't mean that they don't have a right to be protected from another criminal who might injure or kill them.

All of the points you mention are important considerations.
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