Where we were
John Paul II promulgated, in the last version of the Catechism, 25 years ago, the “very rare cases” in which the death penalty is justifiable and legitimate.In fact they are so rare that they are almost practically nonexistent.
If “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”
However, a few days ago, the Supreme Pontiff, during his meeting commemorating the quarter century anniversary of the last Catechism, took it a step further by saying that the death penalty is always unacceptable. :
“However serious the crime committed may have been, the death penalty is inadmissible because it undermines the inviolability and dignity of the person.” POPE FRANCIS
He said the topic of the death penalty should have “a more adequate and coherent space” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“(the topic) cannot be reduced to a mere memory of a historic teaching” without taking into account the works and teachings of recent popes, he said, adding that it must also consider the “mutual awareness of the Christian people, who refuse a consensual attitude toward a penalty which seriously undermines human dignity.”
“It must be strongly confirmed that condemning a person to the death penalty is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity.”
“(the death penalty) is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it is voluntarily decided to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of which God only in the final analysis is the true judge and guarantor.”
Pope Francis regretted that even the Papal State utilized the death penalty in the past and said the Church today assumes responsibility for the mistakes and apologizes for the bad decisions of those in power years ago.
“Unfortunately, this extreme and inhumane remedy was also used in the Pontifical State, neglecting the primacy of mercy over justice. We assume responsibility for the past, and we recognize that those means were guided by a mentality more legalistic than Christian.”
“However, to stay neutral today in the face of the new demands for the reaffirmation of personal dignity, would make us more guilty.”
“harmonious development of doctrine” requires that new treatments on the death penalty “leave out positions in defense of arguments which now appear decisively contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth…It is necessary to reiterate that, no matter how serious the crime committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attempt against the inviolability and dignity of the person.”