Capital Punishment - with Apology

Capital Punishment - with Apology

John Gallagher


I draw readers' attention to a letter on capital punishment published in the April AD2000 (page 16) under the name of John Gallagher. Prior to its publication, I had phone discussions with Mr Gallagher about possible edits and additions to his letter in order to make it, in my view, more credible and more in line with current Church teaching. Mr Gallagher agreed to the addition of a passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

However, Mr Gallagher has since indicated that he is displeased with some of the edits to his letter which did not in fact reflect his view of the Church's stance. I therefore apologise to him and in fairness publish his original letter below, unchanged.


Capital punishment

Bishop Christopher Saunders, writing in relation to the execution of Saddam Hussein (Catholic Weekly, 28 January 2007), refers to 'the pointlessness and obscenity of the death penalty.' We may not characterise as obscene a practice sanctioned and even mandated by God Himself.

In his authoritative Catechism Pope St Pius X proclaims: 'It is lawful to kill ... when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment for a crime' ('the Fifth Commandment,' Question 3).

Dr Leslie Rumble MSC states: 'But by both the natural moral law and God's positive enactments the State is expressly authorised to safeguard social welfare by sentencing to death those guilty of capital crimes ...' (Questions People Ask, Question 619).

Father John Hardon SJ affirms: 'It is certain from Scripture that civil authorities may lawfully put malefactors to death ... Among the errors of the Waldenses condemned by the Church in the early 13th century was the proposition that denied the lawfulness of capital punishment (Argentre Collectio de Novis Erroribus, 1, 86) ... St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) defends capital punishment on the grounds of the common good' (Modern Catholic Dictionary, page 81).

Clearly this teaching of the authentic Magisterium, that remains 'unchanged and unchanging', overrides all contrary personal opinion.

Armidale, NSW

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