The Roman Catholic Church on Thursday formally changed its teaching to declare the death penalty inadmissible in all circumstances.
The Vatican said it had changed its universal catechism to reflect Pope Francis’ total opposition to the death penalty.
Previously the catechism, a summary of Church teaching, had allowed the death penalty in rare cases.
The 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church has allowed the death penalty in extreme cases for centuries, but the position began to change under the late Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.
The Vatican said it had changed its universal catechism, a summary of Church teaching, to reflect Pope Francis’ total opposition to capital punishment.
According to the new entry in the catechism, “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, it said, citing an address by Pope Francis.
The new provision is expected to run into stiff opposition from Catholics in countries such as the United States, where many Catholics support the death penalty.
The change was enacted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine.
NAN reports that in a programme on October 11, 2017 commemorating the especial event of the silver jubilee of CCC, Pope Francis pronounced a powerful speech and spoke of “the progress made in the meantime,” that is, in the CCC since 1992 onward.
On this occasion, Pope Francis proposed another change in no 2267: the death penalty “ought to find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a more adequate and coherent treatment.” Truly – Pope Francis affirms – the death penalty is never an absolute necessity, nothing can justify it, and therefore should be condemned absolutely.
Reasons? Capital punishment, Pope Francis argues, is inhuman: it “heavily wounds human dignity”; “it is “an extreme and inhumane remedy.
“It is necessary, therefore, “to reaffirm that no matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.
“In past centuries, “the death penalty appeared to be the logical consequence of the correct application of justice.
Moreover – as Pope Francis had said earlier and quotes in his speech now – the death penalty is “per se contrary to the Gospel because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor.
“No man, “not even a murderer, loses his personal dignity” because God is a Father who always awaits the return of his children who, knowing that they have made mistakes, ask for forgiveness and begin a new life.
The Pope adds: “No one ought to be deprived not only of life, but also of the chance for a moral and existential redemption that in turn can benefit the community” (cf Pope Francis, Letter to the President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, on March 20, 2015).
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