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August 2, 2018

Pope Francis official changes Catholic teachings on death penalty to work for abolition worldwide

As reported in this CNN piece, "Pope Francis has declared that the death penalty is never admissible and that the Catholic Church will work towards its abolition around the world, the Vatican formally announced Thursday." Here is more:

The change, which has been added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, makes official a position that the Pope has articulated since he became pontiff.  The Church now teaches that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and states that it will "work with determination towards its abolition worldwide," the Vatican said.

The Catholic Church's teaching on the death penalty has been slowly evolving since the time of Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005.  In his Christmas message in 1998, he wished "the world the consensus concerning the need for urgent and adequate measures ... to end the death penalty." His successor Benedict XVI, in a document published in November 2011, called on society's leaders "to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty."

Francis then wrote in a letter to the President of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty in March 2015 that "today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned's crime may have been."  He added that the death penalty "entails cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" and said it was to be rejected "due to the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of judicial error."

August 2, 2018 at 10:05 AM | Permalink


Easy for the Pope to talk big. The Vatican is protected by Italian authorities.

In 1998, the Commander of the Swiss Guard and his wife were murdered by a young Guard. The murderer then committed "suicide."

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 2, 2018 11:44:15 AM

Catholic Catechism 2266

Capital Punishment

2266 The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.[67]

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.' [68]

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 2, 2018 11:55:53 AM

An important decision and announcement reflecting a changing world and evolving understanding of the capabilities of modern times which renders the Death Penalty obsolete and an anachronism. The Catholic faith and Christianity (amongst other religions) are infinitely older than the US Constitution yet more able, it seems, to recognize these truths. Time for the Justices to sit up, wake up, and act to eliminate the Death Penalty from the shores of the United States. Instead of permitting obscene lethal drug experimentation on fellow human beings, end this now for all time.

Posted by: peter | Aug 2, 2018 12:05:14 PM

Does anyone know what he actually did? Did he speak "ex catherda"? Or is this more hyperventilation by people ignorant of Catholicism.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 2, 2018 4:11:48 PM

It is part of journalism ethics to provide both sides of a story. Not a word about murder victims from this unethical journalist. Priests, like the Pope, are advocate, and may be dismissed.


Posted by: David Behar | Aug 2, 2018 8:46:09 PM

"Introibo ad altare Dei...."

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Aug 2, 2018 11:21:52 PM

Sorry clause, the news coverage was not a point / counterpoint article, or a debate of any kind. The news merely reported the fact that the Pope has ordained that the death penalty is now unacceptable to the Catholic faith. Further, any "victims" are not the "other side of the story." Rather, it's the punishment to be assessed in modernity to substitute for the death penalty, I doubt that anyone is advocating that those who commit murder should not be punished.

Posted by: Mark M. | Aug 2, 2018 11:45:07 PM

Mark. We are on our way. If the murder victim is black, only 40% of the murderers are arrested.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 3, 2018 1:08:12 AM

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