Capital Punishment as a Social Injustice


Human life and dignity have always been considered as assets that should not, by any circumstance, be taken away from an individual. The point is especially emphasized in the Christian teachings that cherish mutual love and respect. However, while some people do their best to build a strong and caring community, others feel that they obtain a sense of superiority over the lives of their neighbors. These individuals are capable of hurting many people, frequently even feeling the urge to decide when one’s life should be terminated. Such behavior should be punished for a person to analyze his or her actions. The issue here, however, lies in the fact that the judicial system and Catholic social teaching have a fundamentally different point of view on the responsibility one should bear as a consequence of some actions.

In the course of this research paper, an attempt will be made to examine how capital punishment can be regarded as a social injustice through the prism of Catholic social teaching. The emphasis would be placed on the notion of capital punishment in the context of the modern American judicial system. At present, the US is one of the major states where the perception of the death penalty is still controversial to such a great extent.

Social Injustice Definition

Social justice and equality have now become central notions in terms of 21st-century society. However, with every hour, today’s world is challenging its fellow residents to face issues that completely distort one’s perception of a bright future. As a result, people are struggling with a series of seemingly unjustified issues interfering with their desires to live for the generations to come. One of the vivid examples of such an injustice is how today’s governmental bodies deal with the notion of the death penalty across the globe and in the US, in particular.

Briefly speaking, capital punishment can be defined as a process of termination of one’s life as a punishment for some illegal actions justified by the court. A few decades ago, the death penalty was quite widespread across the world, but the human aspect of this conviction has now been discussed to prove its violent methodology to execute power. According to the latest statistics, in 2019, at least 657 executions were recorded across 20 countries (Death Penalty Information Center). However, the issue concerns the fact of how justified were the decisions to terminate the lives of these individuals considering the flawed judicial system in the world and the US, in particular. Hence, this social injustice example requires further studying to define how it should be handled in the future.

Social Injustice Portfolio

The history of death penalty execution can be traced back to the 11th century when William the Conqueror was to establish a set of limitations in terms of murder enforced by the law. Throughout almost ten centuries, the issue of capital punishment was exclusively handled by the government until the Catholic church started making explicit statements on the subject in 1991 (Death Penalty Information Center). Hence, this year marked the beginning of the church’s intervention in the process of death penalty abolition.

Although nowadays the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) acts in favor of the death penalty elimination from the court system, its path toward such a position was quite ambiguous. In the first edition of CCC released in 1992, it was estimated that terminating one’s life for the sake of the common good was completely acknowledged by the church (Gomez). Such a religious factor at the time served as a promoter in favor of capital punishment. At the time, Catholic theologians and philosophers reached a consensus in favor of capital punishment with similar argumentation (Dulles). Five years later, in 1997, the final edition of CCC claimed that the church would agree with the necessity of the death penalty in cases when there is no chance of defending the community. Such cases, however, in their opinion, were practically non-existent, making the death penalty not an exhaustive option to execute justice (Gomez).

The latest CCC edition released in 2018 claimed that modern society had a variety of opportunities to feel safe without committing murder. The guilty, thus, was to be sent to the places of deprivation of liberty with a chance of redeeming. Given this timeline, it became clear that religious factors are now pushing this injustice to the path of abolition by providing people with the opportunity to find salvation in blessing to preserve their lives.

Moreover, Catholic social teaching, being a lighthouse for the religious people claims the death penalty to be incompatible with one of the major themes considered in terms of teaching – human dignity (“Catholic Social Teaching & the Death Penalty”). However, the governmental actions, even though implicitly, still push this injustice by their actions. The justifying of capital punishment is quite controversial due to the attitude of the law system towards justice in the world. World history is replete with cases of false accusations and corruption, putting the system at a disadvantage when deciding throughout one’s life. Hence, it would be more reasonable to appeal to the position of CCC considering all the mistakes executed by the court over centuries.

Geographical Distribution

As it was already mentioned in the paper, the latest statistics have shown that execution was established in 20 states in 2019. However, when considering the locations where the death penalty is still a legitimate punishment, it is important to take into account the governmental systems of the countries involved. Hence, the highest rate of capital punishment cases was recorded in China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Iran (Death Penalty Information Center). Although capital punishment can be considered completely unacceptable in the context of today’s world, the aforementioned countries have quite authoritarian executive power, making the death penalty within a state comprehensive.

On the other hand, the US has seemingly become an unofficial symbol of democracy in the world, presenting an infamous notion of the “American dream.” Hence, it is quite peculiar for the death penalty to be still legitimate in 29 American states, having executed 22 individuals over the last year (“Death Penalty Fast Facts”). Thus, while constituting a minor part in the overall amount of death penalty cases, the US, by all means, obtains major attention in terms of its liberal attitude to social issues.

Solutions and Future Implications

The idea of capital punishment has become so deeply integrated into the world’s culture that there is little possibility to resolve the matter on the shortest notice. The possible outcomes, however, can be divided into local and global contexts. When it comes to the US, fellow residents at an increasing rate change their attitude in favor of death penalty abolition. Thus, in 2019, 42% of Americans claimed to be unsupportive of the idea of capital punishment (“Opinion of US Citizens on the Death Penalty 1936-2019″). By combining such data with the radical church’s perception of the idea, it is evident that the only solution to this issue is to eliminate the possibility of the death penalty from the law enforcement system.

Speaking of the global context, it is important to note that many countries that perform the process of capital punishment have completely different from the US perceptions of justice. Moreover, the aforementioned countries have various cultural and religious backgrounds that constructed social position in terms of the concept. Hence, in the case of these death penalty examples, there is no definite answer, as there are many details to consider when coming up with a solution. Based on this, the future implications of the research may concern religious peculiarities of death penalty execution leaders to conduct a full-scale contrastive analysis of the religion and punishment correlation.

Non-Governmental Organization Portfolio

Given the worldwide resonance over the death penalty, there exists a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that act to make the law abolition happen. Among all the possible unities, there is the most recognizable one, pooling together more than 150 NGOs all over the world. The World Coalition Against Death Penalty has been fighting to stop the execution of capital punishment for almost 20 years now, uniting NGOs and organizations of any social groups and religions. Having been launched in 2002 in Rome, the organization’s major aim is to achieve the universal abolition of the death penalty (The World Coalition Against Death Penalty). To fulfill this goal, the coalition focuses on the support of the local NGOs and, hence, advocates international policy towards death penalty abolition.

The coalition is focused on the social aspect of combating the issue with a considerable desire to eradicate the notion of capital punishment from the global law enforcement system. In such a way, it tries to make humanity believe in other humans who made a mistake. For instance, it was the coalition’s achievement to make the 10th of October an International Day Against Death Penalty, raising social awareness of the matter. However, in the process of the fight, the organization itself has faced many complications concerning universal abolition. Many states do not feel the urge to create new ways of justice as long as the proposed way works for common safety. Today’s world is mostly divided into those who, by no means, consider the death penalty a legal option and the ones who see no other outcome of a severe crime. Hence, although the idea behind the World Coalition Against Death Penalty is quite impressive, it should consider the smaller but more realistic steps towards the abolition of the death penalty.


Capital punishment has now become one of the most discussed issues in terms of violation of human rights and God’s will. Being less widespread than a few centuries ago, the death penalty is still considered a legitimate way to punish a criminal in some states. This research paper aimed to examine capital punishment in terms of social injustice and Catholic teachings as well as to discuss an NGO dealing with the issue. Hence, it was estimated that after long years of hesitation, the Catholic church has recently made its choice in favor of death penalty abolition. Thus, it is now a matter of time for people to start questioning the relevance of such a procedure in the rapidly developing world of the 21st century.

Works Cited

“Catholic Social Teaching & the Death Penalty.” Catholic Mobilizing Network, n.d.

“Death Penalty Fast Facts.” CNN, 2020.

Dulles, Avery Cardinal. “Catholicism and Capital Punishment.” Catholic Education Resource Center, 2001.

“Opinion of US Citizens on the Death Penalty 1936-2019.” Statista, 2019.

Death Penalty Information Center. “Executions Around the World.” Death Penalty Information Center, n.d.

Death Penalty Information Center. “The History of the Death Penalty: A Timeline.” Death Penalty Information Center, n.d. Web.

Gomez, Fr Fausto. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Death Penalty – From Acceptance to Abolition.”  2019.

The World Coalition Against Death Penalty. “Presentation.” The World Coalition Against Death Penalty, n.d. Web.

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