Catholic Social Teaching and the Role of the Prosecutor

28 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2020

Date Written: June 8, 2020


Prosecutors wield a tremendous amount of power. As the community’s chief law enforcement officials, their investigatory, charging, and trial decisions have a direct impact on the liberty of the criminal defendant on the other side. Catholic Social Teaching, among other important values, seeks to uphold the dignity of all human persons—dignity which includes the freedom to shape one’s life. Therefore, the sweeping power that prosecutors exercise through their prosecutorial discretion at least raises the question: Is being a prosecutor consistent with the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching?

In this Article, I argue that the answer is a resounding “yes.” While the Catholic Church has clearly defended the State’s legitimate power to punish criminals through the judicial system, the Catholic Social Teaching literature has not directly explicated the prosecutor’s legitimate duties and attendant responsibilities within the State’s criminal justice apparatus. This Article undertakes that task. Building upon and synthesizing the Church’s views on the personalist principle, the inherent value of work, and the legitimate power of the State in fostering peace and justice, this Article shows that despite—and in fact, because of—the immense power and discretion that prosecutors hold, prosecutors can be a true force for the common good within the Catholic Social Teaching framework.

Keywords: Catholic social teaching, criminal law, jurisprudence, punishment, prosecution, dignity

Suggested Citation

Pohlman, Zachary B., Catholic Social Teaching and the Role of the Prosecutor (June 8, 2020). 54 Creighton Law Review, 2021 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Zachary B. Pohlman (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

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