Rooted in both scripture and the rich tradition of our faith, Catholic Social Teaching is a guide for how to live as a people of justice and mercy. Catholic Social Teaching brings the teachings of Jesus and his call to discipleship to the larger societal conversation of social justice. Catholic Social Teaching has 7 major themes: Dignity of the Human Person; Call to Family, Community and Participation, Rights and Responsibilities; Preferential Option for and with People who are Poor; Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Solidarity; Care for God's Creation.
The death penalty violates several of these core themes of Catholic Social Teaching, first and foremost being the belief in the inherent dignity of the human person. It is this core tenet of our faith that informs Church teaching on the death penalty. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes reference to this glaring violation in its section on capital punishment:
“Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good. Educate. Advocate. Pray.
Today, however, there is an increasing 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 significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection oaf 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 dignity of the person,' and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide." (CCC 2267)
Download this helpful guide to learn why the death penalty is incompatible with Catholic Social Teaching.