Current debate on the death penalty in public and professional spheres is seen as divisive in nature, disallowing the possibility of common agreement. The history of views of the death penalty within the Catholic Church illustrates centuries of tensions and ambiguities as well as a current posture that manages to hold these tensions while advocating a strong position. That history of church views itself contains allusions to and intersections with medicine. There is something tangible to be gained in understanding religious views on the death penalty, in the debates both within medicine and in the public sphere. An argument is made for sufficient overlap of contemporary purpose between the goals of church and medicine to warrant further dialogue in enhanced and deliberative democratic processes.