The Death Penalty - Church Teaching


Thank you Pope Francis for the teaching on the Death Penalty. It is clear that the Church’s teaching has developed and the Death Penalty is now inadmissible!


There is a thread on this. Amen , I agree with you


This is wonderful news!


For the record, it is not a new teaching… this advancement is a deepening of Saint JPII’s teaching in Evangelium Vitae and is in perfect accord with the Church’s 2000 year tradition of a living magisterium.


I don’t buy that. Sorry. It reminds me of the argument that the US Constitution is a living document, and hence the right to abortion was excavated from it after lying undiscovered for 200 years.

Late Edit: Just like the US Constitution was designed to be modified by a well defined legal process (which isn’t used when you can find a sympathetic judge almost anywhere to push your views), the magesterium had a process as well. And the process is not just “Well, whatever happens to pop into the current Pope’s head at any particular time.”


I’m sorry that you don’t 'buy it, but the Church teaches that its magisterium is living; reference Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s essay on development.

Your point falls apart when you say ‘whatever happens to pop into the current Pope’s head’- that is not what we are talking about. Pope Francis’ teaching today is but a development of Saint John Paul II’s teaching in Evangelium Vitae, not a stream of consciousness. Here are the St Pope’s words in 1995.

56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is “to redress the disorder caused by the offence”. Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

The Constitution is a living document. It was never meant to be an all encompassing document. Amendments for things that were previously not contemplated started almost right away. The Abolition of Slavery was almost 100 years in, prohibition of denial of the right to vote based on race (1870) based on sex 1920. All legitimate developments -so I thank you for that comparison as it only strengthens the legitimacy of the Pope’s action today.


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