Written on: August 8, 2018
“The church always hopes that a sinner will repent and ask for forgiveness. An execution cuts off the time available to the sinner for repentance.”
Pope Francis has called for a substantive change in the Church’s official teaching on the death penalty. He has taken two actions: 1) Clarifying in the Catechism of the Catholic church that the death penalty is “inadmissible” and, 2) asking the Bishops to find ways to support this position in countries, like the United States, where the death penalty is still in existence.
In part, the new text of the Catechism 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,” the new section continues.
Pope Francis’ change to the text concludes: “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.”
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart have long opposed the death penalty as a miscarriage of justice. Helping people to understand that the death penalty is no longer necessary given the modern penal system, as well as potentially misguided, has been one of our main advocacy efforts.
While we uphold all Life issues, we advocate for a repeal of capital punishment since it is often not viewed in the same way as the other life issues. Having Pope Francis take a more definitive stance in the Catechism, brings great hope for Catholic unity on this topic.
Below are links to recent articles about this clarification of the Church’s position. We hope you will take the time to read the articles thoughtfully and open your heart to forgiveness.
From NCR (National Catholic Reporter): “Francis is going beyond merely teaching that capital punishment is wrong. He is committing the church to working with determination for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.” Catechism Revision on Death Penalty.
From Catholic Mobilizing Network: “In addition to papal proclamations, Catholic bishops in every state that has the death penalty have taken stands to see an end to this practice. Today’s action further clarifies any remaining ambiguity about the Church’s teaching against the death penalty and strengthens the global resolve to bring an end to this practice,” asserted Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Executive Director of CMN. Pope Francis speaks against capital punishment
From Commonweal: An interview with Sister Helen Prejean, “Pope Francis has now established a foundational principle that no matter the severity of the crime, (capital punishment) is never legitimate.” “What Francis Did is Just Huge.” (Link) Click here for .pdf version: Interview with Sr Helen Prejean