A state crime

Pope Francis doubles down on death penalty, calls it a lingering value of bygone centuries when “the instruments available to us for the protection of society were lacking”

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple in St. Peter’s Basilica, Feb. 2, 2015. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The death penalty is always a rejection of the Gospel and of human dignity, and therefore must be rejected by all countries, Pope Francis told the Delegation of the International Commission against the Death Penalty on Monday.

In his meeting with the delegation at the Vatican, the Pope set aside his prepared remarks and gave an impromptu address.

In his prepared text, which was then handed out to the delegation, Francis said he has prioritized the abolition of the death penalty throughout his ministry because of the great harm it does to human dignity.

The Pope in August ordered a revision of paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, calling the death penalty “inadmissible” and urging its elimination. The Pope called for the changes in May, the final draft of the new paragraph was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Catechism previously taught that the state had the authority to use the death penalty in cases of “absolute necessity,” though with the qualification that the Church considered such situations to be extremely rare.

In his address on Monday, Pope Francis said the change in the Catechism expressed a “progress of the doctrine of the most recent Pontiffs as well as the change in the conscience of the Christian people, which rejects a penalty that seriously harms human dignity.”  

The death penalty was a lingering value of bygone centuries, Pope Francis said, during which “the instruments available to us for the protection of society were lacking and the current level of development of human rights had not yet been achieved.”

It hearkens to a time when legal values were extolled over Christian ones and justice prevailed over mercy, he added.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.


  1. The pope is wrong. Ever wonder why this pope is so soft on serious crime but crushes religious orders that prefer the TLM?

  2. I find this consistent with the teaching that all life is sacred. I believe this is the basis for the teaching on birth control and abortion. Does that not apply to the end of life? Yes, a murderer committed a grave sin. But I also recall something about vengence belongs to God, not the secular government.

    • But not for the first 2000 years of Church history? Not for Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, St. Pius V, Pius the IX and XII, and the the rest? Just fo Francis, eh?

  3. “. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here
    I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation
    they find themselves. ” from paragraph 297 of Amoris Latitia. The context is not directed toward one’s eternal destiny, but this gives one pause to think that many other things might in Francis’ mind might also be contrary to the logic of the gospel, such as life imprisonment, imprisonment of any significant length, borders, purgatory or hell. Funny how greater minds than his didn’t understand how wrong they were.

    • While you say para 297 is not directed toward one’s eternal destiny does it not follow if there is nothing one can do in this life to deserve the death penalty how can someone offend God to the extent he is condemned to eternal death, Hell. this appears to deny the existence of hell.

  4. He’s such a Communist.

    • Don’t you know that there will be more mercy on the Day of Judgment for an atheistic Communist who has never heard the Gospel, that for someone who claims to be Catholic and yet disobeys, disrespects, and dissents from the Magisterium, such as from its legitimate teaching on the death penalty? Folks, listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life!

    • Your Fellow Catholic says

      Every communist regime I’m aware of has or had an active death penalty, without even pretending they are executing people lawfully.

      • Great point. I can only wonder if these regimes will convert and actually follow the living Magisterium about which Jon writes, as right now they are busily tearing down churches and making miserable the lives of the Catholic Christians who were faithful to the past Magisteriums. Add to it all the murdering of Holy Innocents by abortion. Quite frankly, many of them HAVE heard the Gospel from loyal Catholics. Perhaps the very fact that many men in China no longer have a woman to marry, since they destroyed so many of them, will prick their consciences enough some day for a change of heart, but people’s lives usually end as they lived.

  5. Kevin Williams (Arkansas) abused a young coed in front of her boyfriend, then robbed and shot them. She died. At his sentencing he taunted the girl’s family as he dodged the death penalty.

    A month later he got a pass to attend religious services (oh the irony), but instead slipped into a kitchen barrel of slop and escaped. He robbed and murdered a senior, stole his car, and killed a young father in a crash during a police chase.

    This time he got Death. He also got religion, acknowledged his just deserts, and cleared his conscience which included owning to a murder not originally attributed to him. At his execution, he again apologized and asked the forgiveness of his victims’ families. He requested communion as his last…

  6. Asia Bibi, a courageous Catholic woman who has faithfully witnessed for Christ, fears for her life in Pakistan. The Vatican (the Pope) refuses to help her through asylum, even though he’s very fond of telling other countries to let in refugees. When Asia is murdered by enraged Muslims, the Vatican will say, “So sorry,” and will maintain that her murderers should not be sentenced to death because the death penalty is intrinsically evil, nor should they be in prison for life because that’s almost like a death sentence. This is a pontificate that is pro-life? Actions (or non-action) speak louder than words.

    • FALSE! The Church has never said that the death penalty is intrinsically evil as you falsely claim. Another falsehood you claim is that the Church didn’t do anything for her. WRONG! Pope Benedict and Pope Francis implored that the charges against her be dismissed. People, if you’re going to dissent from the magisterium’s teaching about the death penalty, at least have the conscience to tell the truth. Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life!

      • If its not intrinsically evil, why are you screaming at your disputants?

        • Who’s screaming? However the falsehoods and misinformation that is being thrown out there that the Church has said something she didn’t ought to incite in you Tom Byrne outrage.

          • Well, no, that would be confusion and frustration. The Church has spoken on the death penalty for two thousand years (and I note you say it’s not intrinsically evil). It’s said largely the opposite of what Francis now insists. All those saints and popes versus Francis. That’s my issue.

            See, I’m a scientist. The world operates according to fixed rules neither you nor I can change. So does (this Catholic believes) the moral universe. We may understand some to the rules better now, but this change proposed by Francis is beyond development: it is a reversal of field. At least acknowledge that and explain why a pope can make a change like this without casting aspersions on all his predecessors for being so horribly wrong all…

  7. St. Christopher says

    The Pope speaks outside the Catholic deposit of faith. Perhaps it is not so astonishing after all, given that the Church elected, through Paul VI, to eliminate the TLM as the Mass to be offered Catholics every day. Not content with this, the institutional Church then elected to re-write virtually everything in the Church dealing with ordination, the sacraments, the Rosary (sorry, JPII, Mary did not include the Luminous mysteries among those provided to St. Dominic), and now the Our Father. In doing this, Francis essentially represents the hubris and Man-centered 1960’s. To many, this period marks the beginning of Man’s end, as there is no longer acceptance of a supernatural God, or of His Church. What counts is what we say and how we…

    • “SC” is incorrect. The Holy Father most definitely speaks WITHIN the Church’s deposit of faith. The inadmissibility of the death penalty has been the teaching since Pope St. John Paul II. “SC’s” false, tired, sad, sorry narrative is just that: false, tired, sad, and sorry. The fact remains folks that Our Lord entrusted to the apostles the governance of the Church, which includes oversight over liturgical life and prayer. This means for instance, that if the Magisterium legitimately allows the Luminous Mysteries (and there is nothing wrong with them), then Heaven itself recognizes it for Our Lord Himself has said, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”…


        jon, I’d be careful of using “proof-texting” [using a snippet from Sacred Scripture to prove a doctrinal position]. Sometimes it is stretched to “prove” too much. Take the quote at the end of your post, for example. “,,,,[W]hatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. Does it really justify loosing WHATEVER? Would it justify abortion? Murder? Suicide? Best to leave Scriptural interpretation to trained Scripture scholars.

        • Fr. James Martin, LGBTQSJ thinks the church will loosen up on homosexual unions and coitus. It can never do that, of course, because they are objectively gravely immoral under all circumstances. But that doesn’t stop people from believing it. Same with the death penalty, just because some people say we’re so evolved now that we don’t need it anymore doesn’t make it true.

        • One doesn’t have to be a trained Scripture scholar to learn that the way that the Church has always interpreted Mt. 16:19 is that it is the Scriptural and traditional basis for the magisterial and governing authority of the popes and the bishops.

      • Larry Northon says

        Any proposition which “has been the teaching since Pope St. John Paul II” cannot be an infallible doctrine of the Church, because those must be traceable all the way back to Jesus and the Apostles. As you say, the “binding and loosing” applies to the governance of the Church, including liturgical life and prayer. The death penalty, abortion, and all other matters involving the Commandments are not within the liturgical and prayer life of the Church. They are part of the moral law, which Jesus said will never change in the slightest.

    • Folks, these dissenters disobey from what the Church teaches concerning the liturgy and on faith and morals; they did not like Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis. Folks, the Devil has succeeded in detaching their hearts from the only legitimate shepherds of the Church, in such a way that whatever the Church teaches as binding, they rebel. They believe in lies and they come up with sorry and tired narratives like “SC’s.” What’s their religion? It’s called “traditionalism.”

    • The Rosary is not, strictly speaking, part of the deposit of faith.

  8. Pope Francis’ Remarks on Death Penalty Incoherent and Dangerous:
    “Pope Francis uses the term ”inadmissible” to describe the death penalty, although it has no theological substance, and by avoiding words such as “immoral” or “wrong”, inflicts on discourse an ambiguity similar to parts of Amoris Laetitia. The obvious meaning is that capital punishment is intrinsically evil, but to say so outright would be too blatant. He also calls all life “inviolable,” a term which applies only to innocent life and has no moral warrant otherwise.”

  9. With two of the four Dubia cardinals dead, waiting for an answer from Francis is a kind of Death Penalty, now isn’t it. Hope Vigano is taking his Centrum Silver, oh, and don’t forget the baby aspirin.


    jon, you are so prone to throw around “certainties” which aren’t. And too often, proclaimed with the valor of ignorance. The Church rarely definitively interprets a single verse of Sacred Scripture; and certainly does not do so without the prior guidance of faithful, expert Scripture scholars. If you can, please cite an authoritative magisterial document to the contrary. If you don’t, it’s fair to suggest that you presume to a theological expertise you clearly lack.

  11. St. Christopher says

    Well, “jon,” needless to say that you are entirely wrong with what you state, but my comments to you did not get past the censors. To all readers, ignore “jon,” as he is incorrectly in virtually all of what he says.

  12. William Robert says

    Pope Francis is teaching the universal church, not just the North American Church – which is just about dead. When one takes a world view and considers how the death penalty is applied in many countries (e.g. Russia, Philippines), the teaching of Pope Francis makes a lot of sense.

    • No, it doesn’t. What about countries in Africa and south America whose penal systems cannot ensure that a murderer never does harm again? That’s the problem with attempting to make prudential judgments universally binding: circumstances are not homogenous across time and space. Oh, but this pontiff has said that time is greater than space, whatever that means. It’s all confused gobbledygook.

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