Pope Francis is strengthening the Catholic Church’s stance against the death penalty, opposing it unconditionally as a matter of church law. “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” the Vatican said in a statement Thursday.
The Vatican pointed to “increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes,” and noted that “more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.” The church also said that it would work “with determination” for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.
While the church’s catechism has allowed for the death penalty in some instances, Catholic officials, including Pope Francis and his predecessors, have often campaigned against its use, including in 1999 when John Paul II convinced then–Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan to spare a condemned inmate.
Francis hinted at a more substantial change in 2015, when he said that the death penalty was “contrary to the Gospel” and that the death penalty was “inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.”