Pope Francis changes Catholic teaching on death penalty

Pope Francis changes Catholic teaching on death penalty”

The Vatican announced Thursday that the pope had written a letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterating his words during a speech in October that capital punishment is "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person".

The change addresses several lines of the catechism, the compendium of Catholic teaching, but it sharply amplifies the church's opposition against one of the world's most debated policy practices.

"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", reads the new text, which was approved in May but only published Thursday.

2267. Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

In his 1995 encyclical letter Evangelium Vitæ, John Paul had enumerated among the signs of hope for a new culture of life "a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of "legitimate defense" on the part of society", the letter notes.

Francis has for years been a vocal critic of the death penalty, calling it an "inhuman measure", but his latest move places the issue toward the forefront of his efforts to overhaul and modernize the Roman Catholic Church, even as it struggles to contend with a new wave of sexual abuse allegations.

He added that human life is "is always sacred in the eyes of the creator", the AP reported.

"In past centuries, "the death penalty appeared to be the logical effect of the correct application of justice".

The new text of the relevant number, 2267, recognizes that recourse to the death penalty "was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good". In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.

In a letter sent to bishops from the Vatican's doctrine office, Cardinal Luis Ladaria noted that the church's stance on the death penalty stemmed from a "new understanding" of modern punishment, which should aim to rehabilitate and socially reintegrate those who have committed crimes. India also retains death penalty and now has 400 prisoners under the sentence of death, shows a project report by the National Law University, Delhi.

The pontiff argues that a person's dignity "is not lost even after committing serious crimes." . During a 2015 trip to the United States, where the death penalty is legal, he told Congress that "from the beginning of my ministry", he has advocated for it to be abolished.

Amnesty International, which has long campaigned for a worldwide ban on the death penalty, welcomed the development as an "important step forward".

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