current3You will find the Church's teaching on punishment for crime and capital punishment on several web sites and in several publications.

On the Australian sites, you will find a focus on criminal justice and the prison system. On sites in the United States, where the death penalty is still in use, you will find a focus on the elimination of the death penalty.

Each year, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference publishes a statement on Social Justice Sunday (usually in September). Find the 2013 statement here

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council also has some documents. Click on Publications and then on Position Papers and you will find a list.

Why the ACSJC Opposes the Death Penalty sets out simply and clearly the reasons why the ACSJC is opposed to the death penalty, provides quotes from Church teachings on the issue, a list of resources, and suggestions of actions. Click on Catholic Social Justice Series Papers and you will find a list of publications that include The Death Penalty, Why Catholics Should Oppose It, by Michael Costigan, published in 2000. It is No. 40 in the Catholic Social Justice Series. Note that these papers must be purchased from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.

You will find a clear statement on the death penalty in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 2266 - 2267 under the heading Legitimate defence in the chapter on Respect for Human Life.

Pope FRancis added his voice to those calling for the abolition of the death penalty last year. You can find his thoughts here.

You might like to search the Vatican web site under capital punishment or death penalty. Look for Evangelium Vitae - The Gospel of Life. Paragraph 56 in Chapter III states the church's teaching:

[Respect for human life] is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God's plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offence". Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

The web site of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has a number of documents on capital punishment. Click here.

This material was prepared by Elizabeth Delaney sgs, Information Officer, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Copyright © .