Death penalty catechism change: internationally important

Pope Francis has changed the catechism to ensure the church’s opposition to the death penalty is clear.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is of universal importance to Catholics, the change will spread the church teaching about capital punishment throughout the world. It will also require Catholics to work towards abolishing the death penalty.

The decision to alter Paragraph 2267 of the CCC was announced last week by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a ‘Letter to the Bishops.’

The letter was signed by the Congregation’s Prefect, Cardinal Luis Ladaria.

Ladaria says the death penalty revision “expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.”

The change in the CCC has been developing over the past 25 years or so, with St John Paul II asking for the teaching on the death penalty to be reformulated.

Francis’s changes continue the work initiated by St John Paul and takes into account concerns expressed by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

Ladaria says St John Paul’s aim was for the CCC to better reflect the development of the doctrine that centres on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life, which affirms:

“Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.”

Ladaria said that in many occasions St John Paul intervened for the elimination of capital punishment describing it as “cruel and unnecessary.”

However, at the time, some in the Vatican were concerned about how the church would explain its change in teaching.

As a result, St John Paul altered the CCC to say the death penalty was permitted only “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

It goes on to say cases requiring the execution of the offender “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

Ladaria says Benedict’s contribution to the change included appealing for “the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.”

He encouraged “political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order,” Ladaria says.

Vatican News

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News category: World.

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