Vatican changes teaching to oppose death penalty in all cases

Vatican changes teaching to oppose death penalty in all cases

Vatican changes teaching to oppose death penalty in all cases

The previous policy allowed for the death penalty "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor". The previous doctrine was fine with the death penalty in extreme circumstances when society couldn't protect people from criminals.

Although more than two-thirds of countries around the world have abolished or suspended judicial killings, the human rights organization Amnesty International has recorded at least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries and almost 1,000 executions in 2017 alone, excluding those unreported in China.

However, the new provision is expected to receive stiff opposition from Catholics in the United States and other countries where capital punishment is legal and where many believers support it.

Although the House passed a bill reviving the death penalty for major drug offenses in March 2017, it has remained at the committee level in the Senate.

She hit out at the "judgmentalism" of this teaching and the "uncompromising harshness of the language" which she said were not assuaged by Pope Francis's more conciliatory statements. "There isn't any loophole for you to wiggle through now".

President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is Catholic, as are Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor.

Ladaria said that the church's new teaching aims to "give energy" to a movement that would "allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect".

The bishops said they have publicly expressed in recent years that the "death penalty is no longer needed or morally justified in Nebraska".

Troy Hinkel and his son Nicholas told KCUR they oppose taking another life for punitive or vengeful reasons
Troy Hinkel and his son Nicholas told KCUR they oppose taking another life for punitive or vengeful reasons. Credit Laura Ziegler KCUR 89.3

The Vatican's change in teaching on the death penalty has been some time coming.

Ladaria said the change "centers principally on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life". "Is practicing birth control a mortal sin?"

"Dead Man Walking" was made into a 1995 film that starred Susan Sarandon as Prejean and fueled the debate in the USA over capital punishment. Among Americans as a whole, 54 percent are in favor and 39 percent opposed. In 1952, Pope Pius XII said it was not a violation of the universal right to life.

She said the abuse "crisis now threatens to engulf his papacy and do lasting damage to Francis's own reputation". Faulhaber says the change is a minor, but important one.

"It was expected for a long time, starting with John Paul II", he said. "John Paul II and Benedict laid the groundwork; he's taking the next logical step". Previously, the Church permitted the death penalty if it was necessary to save the lives of others.

But in spite of his definitive statement, Pope Francis' act will probably only deepen the debate about whether Christians can support capital punishment.

"But, politically, the problem has been that more conservative Catholics have been more willing to support the death penalty because of that exception in the catechism and vice versa, that liberal Catholics have been willing to challenge the Church's teaching on abortion nearly as a base of dissent from the official teaching".

Some on social media questioned the timing of the announcement, given that the Vatican and the Catholic Church are under extraordinary fire over clerical sex abuse and how bishops around the world covered it up for decades. "There is no margin for disagreement". Four countries account for 87 per cent of global executions: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

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