In his 1998 Christmas Message, calling for both respect for human dignity and the common good, Pope John Paul II called for an end to the death penalty.
In his January 27, 1999 homily at the Trans World Dome in St. Louis, Missouri, he repeated, “A beacon of hope is the growing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of somebody. who has done great harm. Modern society has the means to protect itself, without definitively depriving criminals of the possibility of reforming themselves. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.
Pope Benedict XVI, during his general audience on November 30, 2011, wished a group of the faithful that “your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and continue the substantial progress in the conformity of criminal law both with the human dignity of detainees and with the effective maintenance of public order”.
Pope Francis, in his March 20, 2015 letter to the President of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, reaffirmed that “today the death penalty is unacceptable, however serious the crime of the condemned may be”. The death penalty, regardless of the means of execution, “implies cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” the pope wrote.
Moreover, it must be rejected “because of the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of a miscarriage of justice”.
It is in this light that Pope Francis has called for a revision of the wording of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” on the death penalty in a way that affirms that “regardless of the gravity of the crime that has been committed , the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of persons.
“The new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”, according to the Letter to the Bishops of February 8, 2018 from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “wants to give energy to a movement towards a decision decisive. commitment to fostering a mentality that recognizes the dignity of all human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions allowing the abolition of the death penalty where it is still in force.
Father Joseph Quindlen is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Plymouth Meeting.