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Is there really a definitive teaching of the Church on capital punishment? Catholic World Report » Is there really a definitive teaching of the Church on capital punishment? Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. Pope Francis’ recent statements on capital punishment. I can understand why he would be concerned about Pope Francis’ recent teachings. If, though, the Magisterium has never set forth the legitimacy of capital punishment in a definitive, infallible way, then all of Prof.
Feser’s concerns about undermining the deposit of faith and papal error vanish. In what follows, I will try to explain my position—and that of the Holy Father—in a question and answer format. Does not Scripture affirm the moral legitimacy of capital punishment? How can a Pope contradict Sacred Scripture? The Bible provides some passages that support the death penalty but it also contains other passages that argue against it.
Thomas Aquinas ST I-II qq. Moreover, God did not always insist that the death sentence be carried out for crimes that deserved it. John Paul II singles out Genesis 4:15 as a sign that even the life of a murderer is sacred and worthy of protection from death. Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this. God, who preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide. John Paul II sees in Genesis 4:15 God’s original wish to preserve the life of even a murderer.