“In an accompanying letter explaining the change, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office said the development of Catholic doctrine on capital punishment didn’t contradict prior teaching but rather was an evolution of it — a defense to fend off critics who have already accused the pope of heresy for challenging past doctrine on capital punishment.”
(Nichole Winfield – AP) Pope Francis has decreed that the death penalty is “inadmissible” under all circumstances and that the Catholic Church must work to abolish it, changing official church teaching to reflect his view that all life is sacred and there is no justification for state-sponsored executions.
The Vatican said Francis had approved a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the compilation of official Catholic teaching — to say that capital punishment constitutes an “attack” on the dignity of human beings.
Previously, the catechism said the church didn’t exclude recourse to capital punishment “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” Previous popes have upheld that position, while urging an end to the practice.
The new teaching, contained in Catechism No. 2267, says the previous policy is outdated, that there are other ways to protect the common good, and that the church should instead commit itself to working to end capital punishment.
“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,” the new text reads.