Pope declares death penalty wrong, changing Church's position

Posted on AUG 04, 2018

The change makes official a position that the Pope has articulated since he assumed leadership.

Pope Francis has declared that the death penalty is never admissible and that the Catholic Church will work towards its abolition around the world, the Vatican formally announced Thursday.

The change, which has been added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, makes a position that the Pope has articulated since he assumed leadership official, CNN reported Thursday.

The church now teaches that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and states that it will "work with determination towards its abolition worldwide," the Vatican said.

The declaration by Pope Francis, who is spiritual leader to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, may have particular influence in the United States, where capital punishment remains legal in 31 states and as a federal punishment.

The change announced Thursday was "important" but should not come as a surprise, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told CNN.

"It was expected for a long time, starting with John Paul II," he said. "He had a document, 'The Gospel of Life,' in which he said it is essentially the conditions (that) were once considered OK for allowing the death penalty have basically disappeared.

"The key point here is really human dignity," Burke said. "The Pope is saying that no matter how grievous the crime, someone never loses his or her human dignity.

"One of the rationales for the death penalty in Catholic teachings historically was to protect society. Obviously, the state still has that obligation," he said. "That is not being taken away here, but they can do that in other ways."

Francis in a 2015 speech to the US Congress said that human life must be defended "at every stage of its development."