Catholic Dictionary




Punishment by or involving death, inflicted by legitimate civil authority for crimes regarded as seriously harmful to society. The traditional doctrine of the Church is that capital punishment is not opposed to the divine law, nor is it required by this law as absolutely necessary. the grounds supporting this position are revelation, history, and reason. The Bible regularly attributes to civil authority the right to take the life of a criminal (Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:22-25: Romans 13:4). Moreover, in all stages of civilization humanity has considered capital punishment in keeping with the moral law. And, as by now experience shows, to exclude capital punishment is to call into question the malice of even the most heinous crimes and thus expose, by implication, the lives of good citizens to the gravest danger.