Historic Change to Catholic Catechism, Death Penalty is "inadmissible"


Pope Francis in March 2013


Casa Rosada (
Argentina Presidency of the Nation) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

In a historic moment in church history, Pope Francis has approved a revision to the catechism of the Catholic Church to commit the church to work toward the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

105 countries have already abolished the death penalty for all crimes, yet it still remains a hot topic, particularly in Africa and Asia.  Last year alone, 23 countries performed executions.

In Africa, there are several countries that still use the death penalty. Chad abolished the death penalty in 2014, but reintroduced it for acts of terrorism in 2015. Egypt, Botswana and Nigeria are just a few of examples of African countries that still execute people. Most recently, Burkina Faso repealed the death penalty in 2018.

Death Penalty Worldwide.PNG
Image via Wikipedia

Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the announcement today (2 August 2018) saying that “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.”

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.

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.”