Pope Francis intervened in the Catholic Church’s debate over the death penalty Wednesday, condemning it as contrary to the gospel in every circumstance.
Francis called for a change to the Church catechism’s section on the death penalty in a speech to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, according to Crux Now. The current catechism allows for the use of the death penalty only under circumstances in which a bloodless approach to defending human lives is impossible. Francis, however, condemned the death penalty in all circumstances.
The pope said that the death penalty “is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it is voluntarily decided to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of which God only in the final analysis is the true judge and guarantor.”
Previous pontiffs, such as Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, urged a global consensus for the abolition of the death penalty, according to Yahoo. Francis, however, went a step further, taking a hard stance against the punitive practice and calling for a change in the catechism to support that stance, rather than calling for a consensus.
Some Catholic leaders and scholars object to Francis’s position on the death penalty, which he made known as early as 2015 when he called for the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances.
“The Catholic Church’s Magisterium does not and never has advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty,” Rev. C. John McCloskey wrote in response to Francis’s 2015 statements.
“The pope’s position should catalyze debate but it fails to acknowledge sufficiently the weight of the reasons for the continuation of capital punishment,” wrote Patrick Callahan, emeritus professor of political science at DePaul University.
Francis has remained stalwart in his public opposition to the death penalty, and declared that the Church’s approach to the death penalty going forward should “leave out positions in defense of arguments which now appear decisively contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth.”
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