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Catechism: Death Penalty "Inadmissible" as Attack on Human Dignity

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August 2, 2018

The following statement is from Edward “Ned” Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, on the news today that Pope Francis has directed that the Catechism of the Catholic Church now teach that the death penalty is “inadmissible”:

"The news that the Catechism of the Catholic Church will now call the death penalty “inadmissible” is very welcome by the faithful in California and around the world who have been working for decades to eliminate the use of this unnecessary and inhuman punishment.  We are very grateful that Pope Francis has again elevated the dignity of the human being to its proper level, proclaiming that all of us have an inherent worth that comes only from God.   The California Catholic Conference of Bishops have worked for many years to abolish the death penalty and this clarification of Catholic teaching will energize their efforts even further."

The new text:

The death penalty

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.  In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.  Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide”.