Pope Francis has said that the death penalty is “contrary to the Gospel.” The Pope said this in a major talk on Oct. 11 to an audience of cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns, catechists, and ambassadors from many countries on the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the catechism.
He said that “however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.”
He affirmed that there has been a development of doctrine in the church and a change in the consciousness of the Christian people on the question of the death penalty. The pope’s comments and the timing of them suggest that a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church may be forthcoming to reflect this new development in the church’s understanding.
“One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out. And [it] is, of itself, contrary to the Gospel, because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator, and of which, in the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor,” Pope Francis said.
Reiterating an observation in his Letter to the President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, March 20, 2015, Francis said that “No man ever, not even the murderer, loses his personal dignity, because God is a Father who always awaits the return of the son who, knowing that he has done wrong, asks pardon and begins a new life.” For this reason, he said, “life cannot be taken away from anyone” and there must always be “the possibility of a moral and existential redemption that will be to the favor of the community.”
It is not the first time the Pope has made it clear that he is opposed to to the death penalty. He has done so in his speech to the U.S. Congress and to the United Nations in September 2015. But today he took a much greater step than any of his predecessors by declaring publicly on a solemn occasion, directly related to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that the death penalty is “contrary to the Gospel” and “inadmissible,” making clear that the catechism must address the question in this more complete way.