BALTIMORE — At their June 11-13 meeting in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops are reviewing what the U.S. Church teaches its adult members about the death penalty, and they will vote to add a revised passage to the U.S. Adult Catechism on the subject. .
The proposed project is the work of the Episcopal Committee for Evangelism and Catechesis, chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles. On the first day of the bishops’ spring assembly in Baltimore, Bishop Barron said June 11 that the plan emphasizes the dignity of all and the misapplication of capital punishment. The discussion on the proposed revision is not meant to be a debate on the death penalty as a whole, he added.
The material given to the bishops on the additional passage points out that last year the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the pope’s revision of the teaching on the death penalty in the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In response to this action, the Bishops’ Committee for Evangelism and Catechesis has planned to replace its current text in American Adult Catechesis with a revised statement, provided that such revision is approved by a two-thirds majority of the bishops. and receives approval, or “recognitio,” from the Vatican.
The goal of the proposed revision is to “keep our treatment of the death penalty in the American Catechism for Adults in alignment with the Revised Universal Catechism,” Bishop Barron said.
He said he cites Pope Francis’ addition extensively. Its main features would also emphasize “the irreducible dignity of all people, even those accused of terrible crimes” as well as the practical non-necessity of the death penalty due to the evolution of civil society and of the danger of a “flagrant misapplication of this penalty.”
Bishop Barron reiterated that the bishops are not debating changing the universal catechism itself or even the overall issue of capital punishment, but simply deciding whether the revision added to the adult catechism adequately reflects recent revisions to the catechism.
The proposed project, he said, provides a context and rationale for the development of this teaching on the death penalty that values the dignity of the human person. He also emphasizes the continuity of Catholic teaching on this subject by quoting St. John Paul II’s encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” and earlier statements by American bishops.
The bishop noted that the Universal Catechism change has yet to be released, and if the U.S. bishops make a similar change to the American Adult Catechism, they would not release the revised version until the Universal Catechism change is released. not published.
Last year, the pope ordered a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to state that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and that the he Church is committed to working for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.
The catechism paragraph on capital punishment had already been updated by Saint John Paul II in 1997 to reinforce his skepticism about the need to use the death penalty in the modern world and, in particular, to affirm the importance of protecting all human life.
The draft proposed by the bishops on the death penalty states that “today it is no longer just or reasonable to apply the death penalty”, stressing that it is not necessary to protect society and that its application is “unfair and erroneous”.
The draft also affirms that the death penalty does not promote a culture of life and, citing the universal catechism, adds that it is “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and that the Church will work “with determination for its abolition throughout the world.”