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October 23, 2014

Pope Francis now advocating for total abolition of LWOP sentences as well as the death penalty

As reported in this story from the Catholic News Service, the leader of the Catholic Church can now be added to the list of persons vocally advocating against life without parole sentences.  Here are the details:

Pope Francis called for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a "penal populism" that promises to solve society's problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.

"It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples' lives from an unjust aggressor," the pope said Oct. 23 in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.

"All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment," he said. "Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty." The pope noted that the Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, cited by Pope Francis in his talk, "the traditional teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor," but modern advances in protecting society from dangerous criminals mean that "cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."...

The pope denounced the detention of prisoners without trial, who he said account for more than 50 percent of all incarcerated people in some countries. He said maximum security prisons can be a form of torture, since their "principal characteristic is none other than external isolation," which can lead to "psychic and physical sufferings such as paranoia, anxiety, depression and weight loss and significantly increase the chance of suicide." He also rebuked unspecified governments involved in kidnapping people for "illegal transportation to detention centers in which torture is practiced."

The pope said criminal penalties should not apply to children, and should be waived or limited for the elderly, who "on the basis of their very errors can offer lessons to the rest of society. We don't learn only from the virtues of saints but also from the failings and errors of sinners."

Pope Francis said contemporary societies overuse criminal punishment, partially out of a primitive tendency to offer up "sacrificial victims, accused of the disgraces that strike the community." The pope said some politicians and members of the media promote "violence and revenge, public and private, not only against those responsible for crimes, but also against those under suspicion, justified or not."

He denounced a growing tendency to think that the "most varied social problems can be resolved through public punishment ... that by means of that punishment we can obtain benefits that would require the implementation of another type of social policy, economic policy and policy of social inclusion." Using techniques similar to those of racist regimes of the past, the pope said, unspecified forces today create "stereotypical figures that sum up the characteristics that society perceives as threatening."

October 23, 2014 at 04:06 PM | Permalink


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I understand, the Church is slow. Has it ever apologized or denounced the Inquisitions it conducted for 700 years,and which funded the building of the Vatican?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 24, 2014 5:22:03 AM

Scalia is on the phone and is not impressed.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 24, 2014 9:33:27 AM

Joe, that's a bigoted comment.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 25, 2014 11:15:45 AM

bigoted -- "having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one's own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others"

Without more, my quip, which I believe does reflect Scalia's own beliefs (which I did not disparage -- I just stated them), does not appear to me to be "bigoted."

Posted by: Joe | Oct 25, 2014 6:37:46 PM

Face it, Joe, your comment makes a note of Scalia's religion in a disparaging way. It's ugly and offensive. Why don't we start by getting that right, you bigot.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 26, 2014 9:56:39 AM

Federalist, STFU. It is completely legitimate to note that someone who is very publicly Catholic seems to hold views completely at odds with the Pope's. That's not disparaging his religion, or the Pope.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 26, 2014 3:16:37 PM

Aw, anon, did I upset you? Bigotry is just that--bigotry. If the issue were just an apparently disagreement between the Pope and Scalia on a bit of Catholic doctrine, then I guess it's ok, although I'd wonder what the point is. One can easily make a much stronger point about Justice Sotomayor, whose views on abortion are far from Church doctrine.

But that's not what Joe did--his comment mocks Scalia's beliefs--but I guess it's ok when a conservative Catholics get their beliefs mocked.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 26, 2014 9:19:33 PM

My blog was linked via my comment here. Again, my quip did not "disparage" religion in a way that was bigoted. I'm not going to say STFU or anything, but it didn't.

The suggestion I'm selectively mocking religion is tedious, especially since I find myself ("someone is wrong on the Internet!") repeatedly challenging those actually showing arguably some bigotry of religion since religion itself advances good and bad.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 11, 2015 11:49:42 AM

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