Catholic teaching offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment. It begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victims and offenders. It affirms our commitment to comfort and support victims and their families. It also acknowledges the God-given dignity of every human life, even those who do great harm.
The Church has long acknowledged the right of the state to use the death penalty in order to protect society. However, in recent years, Pope John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and statements from bishops have more clearly insisted that the state should forgo this right if it has other means to protect itself. John Paul II stated, "modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform."
The death penalty in our land is deeply flawed. Since 1973, 139 people in 26 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. The death penalty is unfairly applied due to many factors, including where a crime is committed, the race of the victim and offender, and the quality of defense.
For more information on the Catholic Church and the death penalty visit the following site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty