Robert asked:

I am pro-life and Catholic as are my Catholic friends ... when it comes to capital punishment they believe in it and I don't ... I believe that no one has the right to take our lives except when our creator calls us home. Is there a Church teaching about capital punishment?

Dr. Delgado replied:

"It is against the moral law to kill an innocent person ... The unborn is always an innocent person."

"The state has a duty to protect the citizens of the country ... One of the means at the disposal of the state is that criminals who have committed sufficiently severe crimes can be executed ... If there is no better way to protect the citizenry ... If you were in a country were you couldn't guarantee that a vicious mass murderer could be kept under lock and key, then capital punishment would be an acceptable alternative."

Mark's take:

I've heard another apologist use this example as a defense for capital punishment. Think of a primitive civilization, perhaps a small group of people who live in a remote jungle environment. What if one of the people in this group started killing some of his own people? You know for a fact he's the one whose doing the killing, yet he won't stop. You have no way to banish him from your group and ensure he doesn't return, and you have no way of containing him to ensure no one else gets killed. The group would be justified in killing this person for the greater good of protecting everyone else's life.

Source material:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 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 to 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 definitely 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 nonexistent."


Catholic Answers, "Pro-Life Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

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Show air date: August 28, 2013

Name of show: Pro-Life Open Forum

Guest comments by: Dr. George Delgado

Question appeared in show: 40:49

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