Within the course of the past 24 hours, many have come forward with varying accusations regarding the revision, chief among which is the claim that the revision flies in the face of the historical Church, the Old Testament, etc. In order to adequately refute these claims, it is necessary to turn first to the letter issued by the CDF to the bishops, and then to the revision itself:
If, in fact, the political and social situation of the past made the death penalty an acceptable means for the protection of the common good, today the increasing understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes, and the development of more efficacious detention systems that guarantee the due protection of citizens have given rise to a new awareness that recognizes the inadmissibility of the death penalty, and, therefore, calling for its abolition.
This passage tells us quite explicitly that the inadmissibility of the death penalty in today’s society is linked to the development of effective ways of keeping criminals away from society. Because we are capable of locking criminals away for the remainder of their lives, and because we are capable of preventing their escape (for the most part), the death penalty is not only unnecessary, it is inadmissible. However, this very passage recognizes the fact that this has not always been the case, and that our predecessors were not wrong for taking the measures that they took, because there was no way of guaranteeing the safety of society from the offending persons. Moving on:
- Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, while extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
This recognizes the fact that the death penalty has historically been accepted.
In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection citizens, but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.
This passage here reinforces the point I was making earlier, namely that what was acceptable in the past is no longer valid because we have developed to the point where execution is unnecessary for the protection of human lives.
Consequently, the Church teaches, in light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.
The Church is committed to the abolition of a practice which she has deemed no longer necessary for the public good. She has not condemned its usage in history, but has instead acknowledged its place in time, and cemented its acceptability under those circumstances.