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Capital Punishment

What percentage of Catholics are pro death penalty?


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September 05, 2007 5:10AM

A 2004 Zogby poll says that 48% of Catholics support the death penalty. This is slightly below national opinion poll numbers supporting the death penalty. A 2007 poll sponsored by the Death Penalty Information Center shows about 47% of Catholics believe that they would be disqualified from a captial jury. This seems a very odd question/statistic that doesn't really answer any relevant question... I would probably be disqualified from such a jury because of my Catholic faith, but I would agree with the position, at least on a theoretical level, the death penalty can and sometimes should be used to defend a society. Reference: The Church has a very nuanced position on the death penalty which cannot be served up very well in a sound bite. It is not simply a matter of opinion or conscience, but there are proper (Catholic) ways to think about the matter. The death penatly cannot in any case be used in vengance and must be an option of last resort when the safety/good of society demands it. "Deterrence" would not be an acceptable argument. In reality, the need of carrying out the death penalty in a modern society such as the United States should be essentially "none". But can there be a situation which demands such a severe penalty as death? Perhaps an inmate who murders while in custody and remains unsafe to staff and other inmates despite best efforts? A mob boss who, despite the best efforts of prison officials, is still ordering crimes in society from prison? Would there have been any way to hold a Sadaam Hussein in a domestic prison without undue threat to local communities through terrorist acts of his associates? I don't know if these are situations which measure up to justifying the premeditated act of taking a life, but society does have the reasonable and just expectation to be protected from these evils, even if that requires the death of an unjust agressor as the unintended secondary effect. That's essentially the same standard for self-defense for countries at war and individuals in street crime. This is an expectation of justice supported by natural law while at the same time being informed by the Christian gospel of love and redemption. In the end, iit doesn't really matter what public opinion polls say. These polls tell us more about Catholics than about what the Catholic faith teaches.