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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Pope Francis changes teaching of the Church on the death penalty

Por Jade

Pope Francis has approved the modification of the Catholic Catechism to declare the death penalty "inadmissible" and has shown the commitment of the Church to encourage its abolition throughout the world, as reported by the Holy See on Thursday. The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Ladaria Ferrer, said in a statement that he has been authorized by the Pontiff to introduce the new position before the death penalty, contained in article 2.267 of the Catholic Catechism. The change, dated August 1, 2018, will come into force with its publication in the official newspaper, L'Osservatore Vaticano, and in the Apostolicae Sedis Act, which includes the official texts of the Holy See.

Through a phrase pronounced by Francis in October 2007 for the 25th anniversary of the Catechism, the new wording of this article indicates that "the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that 'the death penalty is inadmissible, because it attempts against the inviolability and the dignity of the person". In addition, the new wording affirms that the Church "commits itself with determination to its abolition (of the death penalty) throughout the world." The new article 2267 of the Catechism explains that "for a long time the recourse to the death penalty by the legitimate authority, after a due process, was considered an appropriate response to the gravity of some crimes and a permissible means, although extreme, for the protection of the common good ".

However, "today is increasingly alive the conscience that the dignity of the person is not lost even after committing very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has been extended about the meaning of criminal sanctions by the State." Finally, he recalls that "more effective detention systems have been implemented, which guarantee the necessary defense of citizens, but which, at the same time, do not deprive the inmate of the possibility of redeeming himself definitively."

In an explanatory letter addressed to the bishops, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, points out that this new wording of the Catechism is the culmination of a process begun by Saint John Paul II and continued by Benedict XVI destined to fix the commitment of the Catholic Church with the abolition of the death penalty. He assured that the new text follows the steps of the teaching of St. John Paul II in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. In this regard, he recalled the words of Pope Francis in the letter to the president of the International Commission against the Death Penalty in March 2015, in which he affirmed that "today the death penalty is inadmissible inasmuch as the crime of condemned". According to the Holy Father, the death penalty "implies cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." In coherence with these statements, the Pontiff, as Cardinal Ladaria affirmed, asked for "a revision of the formulation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty." In this way, "the new wording of n. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved by Pope Francis, is situated in continuity with the preceding Magisterium, carrying forward a coherent development of Catholic doctrine."

On the affirmation of the new wording of the Catechism that "the suppression of the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it threatens the dignity of the person, dignity that is not lost even after committing very serious crimes ", The Cardinal points out that "this conclusion is reached also taking into account the new understanding of the penal sanctions applied by the modern State, which must be oriented above all to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the criminal ". He also recalls that "given that today's society has more effective detention systems, the death penalty is unnecessary for the protection of the lives of innocent people."

In the previous redaction of the article 2267 of the Catechism approved in 1992, and modified now, it was indicated that "the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, supposed the full verification of the identity and the responsibility of the guilty, the recourse to the punishment of death, if this were the only possible way to defend human lives effectively from the unjust aggressor." However, "if the unbloody means are enough to protect and defend the aggressor's safety, the authority will be limited to those means, because they correspond better to the concrete conditions of the common good and they are more in line with the dignity of the human person".

"Today, in effect, as a consequence of the possibilities that the State has to effectively repress the crime, rendering harmless to the one who committed it without definitively taking away the possibility of redemption, the cases in which it is absolutely necessary to suppress the offender, 'they happen very [...] rarely [...], if indeed there are any already', the previous version pointed out. For a long time, Francis has protested against the death penalty, insisting that it can never be justified, no matter how atrocious the crime is. He has also made the prison ministry a pillar of his vocation. In almost all trips abroad, Francis has visited the inmates to offer words of solidarity and hope, and still remains in contact with a group of Argentine inmates whom he ministered to during his years as archbishop of Buenos Aires.