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Chapter 29. Fifth Commandment: Promote the Culture of Life • 395

quence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively

preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an

offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking

away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases

in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity

“are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” (CCC, no. 2267,

citing EV, no. 56)

When dwelling on legal and moral arguments concerning the death

penalty, we should do so not with vengeance and anger in our hearts, but

with the compassion and mercy of our Lord in mind. It is also important

to remember that penalties imposed on criminals always need to allow

for the possibility of the criminal to show regret for the evil committed

and to change his or her life for the better.

The imposition of the death penalty does not always allow for one

or both of the purposes of criminal punishment to be achieved. “Our

nation’s increasing reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified. We

do not teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill others. Pope

John Paul II has said the penalty of death is ‘both cruel and unnecessary’

(Homily in St. Louis, January 27, 1999). The antidote to violence is not

more violence” (USCCB,

Faithful Citizenship

[Washington, DC: USCCB,

2003], 19).


Blessed John XXIII wrote that peace is a gift from God:

So magnificent is this aim [for peace] that human resources

alone, even though inspired by the most praiseworthy good

will, cannot hope to achieve it. God himself must come to man’s

aid with his heavenly assistance, if human society is to bear the

closest possible resemblance to the Kingdom of God. (

Peace on



Pacem in Terris

], no. 168)

The best way to avoid war is to safeguard peace by letting go of the

anger and hatred that breed war and by eliminating the poverty, injus-

tice, and deprivation of human rights that lead to war. Disarmament

needs to be encouraged. “The arms race is one of the greatest curses on