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Change on the Death Penalty

How did Pope Francis recently change the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty?

On August 2, 2018, he amended Number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to read: “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,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. ”

The quote in the final sentence above comes from his speech on October 11, 2017, to participants at a meeting sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

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