October 21, 2017
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY —– The death penalty, no matter how it is carried out, “is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.
Marking the 25th anniversary of catechism of the Catholic church at the Vatican October 11th, Pope Francis said the catechism discussion of the death penalty, already formally amended by St. John Paul II, needs to be even more explicitly against capital punishment.
Capital punishment, he said, “heavily wounds human dignity” and is an “inhuman measure.”
“It is, in itself, contrary to the gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, and the last analysts, only God can be the true judge and guarantor,” the pope said.
The death penalty, he said, not only extinguishes a human life, it extinguishes the possibility that the person, recognizing his or her errors, will request forgiveness and begin a new life.
The Church’s position on the death penalty, he said, is one example of how church teaching is not static, but grows and deepens along with a growth in faith and in response to modern questions and concerns.
In the past, when people did not see any other way for a society to defend itself against serious crimes and when “social maturity” was lacking, he said, people accepted the death penalty as “a logical consequence of the application of justice.”
In fact, he said, the Church itself believed that, and the death penalty was a possible punishment in the Papal State. It was only in 1969 that Pope Paul IV formerly banned the death penalty, even though it had not been imposed since 1870.
“Let us take responsibility for the past and recognize” that use of the death penalty was “dictated by a mentality that was more legalistic than Christian, Pope Francis said.
The development of the church teaching, Pope Francis insisted, is not the same as contradicting or changing Church teachings.
“The word of God,” he said, “cannot be saved in mothballs as if it were an old blanket to protect against insects.”