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Andrew wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Can you give me an argument why capital punishment is OK when human life is sacred?
  • And, when in the history of the Church did we see a good reason for murdering a criminal?

I would say: Never.

  • What do you say?

I think the whole idea of murdering criminals is stupid but the Church seems to have another opinion. I want to be Catholic so I must accept, intellectually, that some form of murder is good.

Please help me understand how I can understand this confusing Catholic teaching. The Church talks a lot about abortion and euthanasia as bad and I agree . . . but Tim Staples of Catholic Answers seem to argue that capital punishment is not a bad thing in itself.

I am a bit confused.

  • We don't live in the Old Testament times anymore, do we?


  { How can the Church view capital punishment as sometimes acceptable when human life is sacred? }

Paul replied:


The Church is against capital punishment with the rare exception of when it is necessary to protect the innocent.

Read section No. 2267 under Legitimate defense

Also, understand that there is a difference between killing and murder.

  • Murder, by definition, is the intentional killing an innocent human being.
  • Killing is permitted if necessary to protect the innocent from an unjust aggressor, which falls under the principle of legitimate defense.

See # 2264 on the same section. Because there may be rare times, at least hypothetically, when capital punishment could be legitimate, it is not intrinsically evil like abortion and euthanasia. No possible situation or circumstances could ever justify those acts, which are the killing of the innocent.



Mike replied:

Dear Andrew,

This is a common question; it's even in our searchable knowledge base:

There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try.

I searched the knowledge base for you and found these web postings that should answer your questions.

Hope this helps,


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