Faith

Pope Changes the Catholic Church’s Position on Death Penalty

Most extreme of punishments 'is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,' says faith leader

Pope Francis, the leader of approximately 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world, has directed the Catholic Church to forbid the death penalty in all cases.

The Vatican’s change to the catechism, the church’s guidance on interpreting Holy Writ (the Bible), was approved in May and published Thursday, as Yahoo News and other outlets reported Thursday.

“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,” Catechism No. 2267 reads.

“Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes,” it continues. “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 church also teaches that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” and that it “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

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The text is from Pope Francis’ address to a gathering organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization back on Oct. 11, 2017, and was obtained by the Catholic Herald.

Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, explained that the pope’s directive is an evolution of the church’s teachings in a letter to all bishops around the world, noted the Herald.

“If, in fact, the political and social situation of the past made the death penalty an acceptable means for the protection of the common good, today the increasing understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes,” Ladaria said.

St. John Paul II directed the first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church back in 1992, as Catholic News reported. It stated it was “the well-founded right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.”

Related: Why Catholics Are Still Unclear About the Pope’s Agenda

The catechism’s language was formally changed after St. John Paul II’s pro-life encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” in 1997, Catholic News pointed out: “Since then, the catechism has specified that the use of the death penalty is permissible only when the identity and responsibility of the condemned is certain and when capital punishment ‘is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.'”

Pope Francis has become a controversial figure due to his many changes to Catholic Church doctrine. Francis has engaged in climate change activism, taught the acceptance of same-sex unions and divorce, and preached absolution for abortion.

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Kyle Becker is a content writer and producer with LifeZette.

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