Pope Changes Church Teaching on the Death Penalty, Says it Is Never Justified

Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square, March 14, 2018. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Pope Francis declared the death penalty unjustifiable in all cases Thursday, shifting a long-held church doctrine that allowed the practice in rare instances.

The Vatican announced Thursday that Francis approved a change to the catechism, the official collection of Catholic doctrine, to forbid the death penalty in all cases, a departure from an earlier church teaching that permitted capital punishment “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

Now, the Church says, the practice has become outdated as more humane ways of shielding society from the criminally violent have emerged.

“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 teaching on capital punishment says.

“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,” it concludes.

Francis, who serves as a spiritual leader to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, spoke out against capital punishment during a 2015 address to Congress.

“Every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes,” he said at the time.

The pontiff also routinely meets with prisoners while traveling the world and has made criminal justice reform a mainstay of his social teaching.

NOW WATCH: ‘Pope Francis Officially Says Death Penalty Is ‘Never Admissible’ In Catholic Church’

Most Popular


‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Theater of Trolls

As a boy, I used to watch a television show with a weekly gag titled “MasterJoke Theatre.” A pompous egghead smoked a pipe in a leather-bound chair in a richly appointed library, told a joke, and got a pie in the face for his trouble. What the Democrats launched on the Hill this week is their own variant, ... Read More
White House

The Russian Conspiracy That Won’t Die

The Mueller report accomplished nothing. Whether you thought that the two-year, $32 million investigation was warranted or not, the report promised to establish a factual record that both sides could accept, especially on the explosive charge that Donald Trump had conspired with the Russians to win the ... Read More