Pope Francis, who personally opposes capital punishment in any instance, has taken steps to change the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty, likely leading to an absolute prohibition on capital punishment in Church teaching, America magazine reported Thursday.
“[H]e has set up a commission to review the question and the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to amend” its current wording, America reported.
“Right now the catechism does not exclude the use of the death penalty in extreme situations,” explained the Jesuit publication, adding that “the historical record shows there was considerable discussion around this issue during the drafting of the new catechism,” which was published in 1992.
“Some wanted the abolitionist stance recognized, but that did not happen,” America magazine explained, adding that both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI “appealed for a global consensus to end the death penalty” during their respective tenures as the head of the Catholic Church. “Francis, however, has moved beyond his predecessors’ positions and advocates abolition from convictions of faith.”
In a pre-recorded video message on Wednesday to the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty, Francis reiterated his condemnation of the death penalty as contrary to Christian ethics, the Catholic News Agency reported.
“Nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person,” Pope Francis said, insisting that capital punishment “contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice.”
Two years ago, Pope Francis criticized not only the death penalty but life sentences as morally indefensible. “Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty,” the pontiff told the International Association of Penal Law in October 2014.
“All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment,” the Catholic News Service quoted the pope as saying.