- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2017

Pope Francis has hinted that a revision to the official catechism of the Catholic Church could be coming that would essentially declare the death penalty to be, in any instance, unacceptable and sinful.

“It must be strongly stated that condemning a person to the death penalty is an inhumane measure,” the pope said Thursday, reported CNN, noting that the bishop of Rome hinted a change in teaching by saying “[d]octrine cannot be conserved without allowing it to progress.”

The occasion for the remarks, CNN said, was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the publication of the catechism, disseminated during the papacy of John Paul II.

As it stands now, the catechism holds that the death penalty is not in and of itself wrong, but that in practice it is “very rare, if not practically nonexistent” where capital punishment is “absolutely” necessary for the interests of justice.

Unlike abortion, described in the catechism as “gravely contrary to the moral law,” and seen by Catholic theologians as an “intrinsic evil,” under current teaching, a Catholic voter or political officeholder’s stance on the death penalty is considered a matter of “prudential judgment” that may differ among the faithful based on conscience.

It is unclear what impact, if any, a change in the wording of the catechism will have on binding the conscience of lay Catholics regarding the death penalty as a matter of public policy.

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