News

Pope Declares Death Penalty 'Inadmissible'

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
3 Aug 2018

From The Tablet

Pope Francis has ordered a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, asserting that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person".

He has committed the Church to working for its abolition worldwide.

The catechism's paragraph on capital punishment, 2267, had already been updated by St John Paul II in 1997 to strengthen its scepticism about the need to use the death penalty in the modern world and, particularly, to affirm the importance of protecting all human life.

The latest change builds on the development of Church teaching against capital punishment.

Announcing the change yesterday, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "The new text, following in the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes."

Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) was St John Paul's 1995 encyclical letter on the dignity and sacredness of all human life.

The catechism now will read: "Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

"Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.

"In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.

"Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption," the new section continues.

Pope Francis' change to the text concludes: "Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that 'the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,' and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide."