This letter is being written regarding the recent letters to the Herald concerning the death penalty. First of all, the imposition of the death penalty in the U.S. is no longer a major issue or problem and hasn’t been for quite a while. Many states have outlawed the death penalty; other states still have it on the books but they rarely use it and often go decades without implementing it.
However, all states have the right and the responsibility to make and enforce laws to protect their citizens, including, if necessary, under rare and extreme circumstances, imposing the death penalty. Read Romans, chapter 13, verses 1-7, concerning the authority of the state, to punish wrongdoers. Also, in almost all cases, criminals who were executed have committed very violent crimes, usually murder and/or rape.
While some studies have suggested that states that have the death penalty haven’t seemed to have a beneficial effect, as far as the death penalty and deterring capital crimes being committed, that could be misleading. We’ll never know how many individuals who otherwise may have committed capital crimes didn’t do so, because they know if they did and were arrested, tried and convicted they could be executed. All we know for sure is if someone is executed, that individual will never be able to harm innocent people again and so, in that sense anyway, the death penalty indeed acts as the ultimate and final deterrent, for society and the protection of society at large.
Lastly, concerning one letter to the Herald about the death penalty, an individual wrote the pope didn’t change Church teaching concerning whether or not it was morally permissible. That is simply untrue, as the pope has changed, or at the very least is trying to change Church teaching, on this subject. In conclusion, I’d like to quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning the imposition of the death penalty.
In No. 2266, the catechism states: “Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by mean of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.”