Catholic World News

Death penalty never justifiable, Pope says

October 11, 2017

In an October 11 address marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said that “it must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.”

The Pope mentioned the Catechism‘s teaching on capital punishment as a topic that requires “a more adequate and coherent treatment.” St. John Paul II had already altered the text to say that situations justifying execution today “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” But the Catechism still upholds the traditional Catholic teaching that “does not exclude recourse to the death penalty.”

In more general comments on the Catechism, Pope Francis said that the Church’s teaching “develops and grows because it is aimed at a fulfillment that none can halt.” He said that “doctrine cannot be preserved without allowing it to develop, nor can it be tied to an interpretation that is rigid and immutable without demeaning the working of the Holy Spirit.”


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  • Posted by: grateful1 - Oct. 13, 2017 8:45 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis's view that a murder victim's life is always and under all circumstances worth less than his killer's strikes me as awfully... what's the word?...rigid.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Oct. 12, 2017 11:56 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis ignores that we can't confine some criminals to protect society. This was proven in two high profile cases in Mexico and the US.

  • Posted by: Erusmas - Oct. 11, 2017 8:09 PM ET USA

    I wonder if a copy of the Roman Catechism can still be found in the Vatican. The article on the Fifth Commandment contains a clear paragraph on "The Execution of Criminals." When the world awaited Pope Paul VI's pronouncement on artificial contraception, many hoped for a radical departure from the traditional teaching of the Church. Yet wiser men knew Pope Paul could not contradict Pope Pius XI's Casti Connubii. Who knows what Pope Francis might do?

  • Posted by: feedback - Oct. 11, 2017 5:37 PM ET USA

    "The death penalty... abases human dignity." Sin leading to eternal damnation abases it even more than physical death.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 11, 2017 4:47 PM ET USA

    St. Vincent continues: "Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself[;] alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, increase and make...progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning."