How do you explain Pope Francis' revision of Cathechism regarding death penalty to non-catholics?


Personally, i view these changes like how the church dealt with slavery in the early centuries. Maybe i can have more insights from all of you on how i can explain this to non catholic christians. Thank you


Here’s what the Catechism said:

What has the Pope changed?


Here is the link:


It’s a social teaching that obviously depends upon the social standing of the society.
His “change” is just more definite.

In terms of slavery, I think the Church had long opposed unjust slavery.
Some say this does not disallow just slavery, which is an owning of the goods and not the person.


Right. If the Church at any point taught that slavery was just, I’m sure non-Catholics would have thrown that in our face long ago.


I rejoice to see this moment. I wrote of the commission’s work in posts on this forum over a year ago.


The problem with the death penalty is that we’ve had innocent people on death row and it doesn’t always go as planned.

A lot of people who are pro-choice or virtue-signal on behalf of pro-choice politicians and family members like to draw a false equivalency between the death penalty and abortion so they can vote for certain politicians and maintain social cred.

They’re looking for an excuse to avoid the Truth.


I explain it by saying obviously infallibility can be stretched so far as to be basically meaningless as a guide to the common man.


Our guide as laity is the living magisterium of the here and now… not our personal interpretations of tradition.


I think it wise to consider this false equivalency, which is a real tactic to justify pro-abortion politics, and still see the two issues as Church teaching.


“Marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the Vatican on October 11, Pope Francis said the catechism’s discussion of the death penalty, already formally amended by St John Paul II, needs to be even more explicitly against capital punishment.”

If I read the article correctly, it does not say that the Catechism has been revised by Pope Francis. It says that the pope thinks the Catechism needs to be even more explicitly against capital punishment. It’s a proposal, not a completed action.


Thank you Jim, so his words isnt really a formal revision?


Apparently not yet anyway.


Exactly my point. Which makes one wonder why we’re told to read the concilliar documents or the catechism or the writings of the saints or even the Bible. Apparently there is no ability for the laity to understand a single word of it and thus no reason for us to read it.


First let me say I have not in favor of capital punishment, not on moral grounds, but because we don’t do it consistently and fairly and I doubt we will ever be able to, so we shouldn’t do it at all. Also, I don’t think it works to deter crime, give closure to victims or even to punish. To my mind, life in a maximum security prison would be worse. But I think this new stance of the church is hypocritical.

We believe that Our Church is Apostolic. That means we are taking credit for an unbroken line of Popes’ succession from Jesus on Earth. It follows then, we also have to take the responsibility for what that unbroken succession has done. It is not enough to apologize for it, we have to own it, or it’s hollow.

Sadly, Our Church has been responsible for an extraordinary amount of capital punishment over its two millennia, many times for lesser crimes than capital punishment is used for now. The Church has caused people to be put to death for heresy, witchcraft, etc. And The Church has caused people to be put to death in more horrible ways: Burning, torture. etc. If we distance ourselves from that past, we also distance ourselves from the claim of Apostolic succession. If bishops who supported the Crusades and the Inquisition elected Popes, which they did, how can those Popes be the successors of Christ? If they are not, there goes Apostolic Succession. If they are, then this Pope is being duplicitous.

Also, I think this new direction of The Church is a step over the line of separation of church and state. Capital punishment, unlike abortion and euthanasia, is a political thing because governments do it, not individuals. So while the Pope may have a strong opinion about it, he has no power over it. Governments don’t go to Confession.


I think a comparison can be made to slavery in the following sense. Slavery is defined as title to all the services one person could reasonably render to another for his lifetime. It is morally acceptable if title to the services (not title to the person) is acquired justly and the slave is treated with the proper dignity due him as a person.

However, the human experience ultimately demonstrated these conditions are so rarely met, slavery is also almost always accompanied by other moral ills, and other forms of employment proved more fitting to the proper freedom and dignity of the human person, that it became best to completely proscribe slavery, which the Church did–in fact, the word “slavery” acquired the meaning of the evil kind only and the justified kind was generally referred to as “theoretical slavery” since it mostly existed in theory. Here are a couple good articles on the background of this:

Ethical Aspect of Slavery
Slavery and Christianity

The Church has also always taught that the death penalty is permissible provided certain conditions are met.

I think the argument that would need to be made is that these conditions are so rarely met, and other means of punishment have proven better in keeping with the proper dignity of the person, and that this punishment is generally accompanied by other ills, that it should also be left to the realm of the theoretical.


“There are two fundamental theological questions that arise in Catholic discussions of capital punishment. First, is capital punishment legitimate at least in principle? Or is it always and intrinsically wrong? Second, is capital punishment advisable in practice? Or are there moral or other reasons for the state to refrain from inflicting the death penalty, even if in theory it has the right to do so?”

Edward Feser, Yes, traditional Church teaching on capital punishment is definitive.


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