Cardinal Ladaria said the change does not contradict previous Church teaching

By Staff Reporter, Catholic Herald, Thursday, 2 Aug 2018

Pope Francis has changed the Catechism to say the death penalty “inadmissible”.

The Vatican announced the change to Canon 2267 on Thursday. The text now reads:

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 third paragraph is taken from Pope Francis’s address to participants in the meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization held on 11 October 2017.

The announcement was accompanied by a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to all bishops around the world.

It says the revision is “in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine,” citing the Pontifical Biblical Commission which in 2008 spoke of a “refinement” in the moral positions of the Church.

“The new text, following the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in Evangelium vitæ, affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes,” the letter adds.

“This conclusion is reached taking into account the new understanding of penal sanctions applied by the modern State, which should be oriented above all to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the criminal. Finally, given that modern society possesses more efficient detention systems, the death penalty becomes unnecessary as protection for the life of innocent people.”