Pope Francis declares death penalty is 'inadmissible' in teaching reversal

Larry Hoffman
August 10, 2018

The previous policy allowed for the death penalty "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor".

Hamilton, the University of Pennsylvania professor, said the pope's decree could be hard for the devout - especially in a climate where evangelicals and Catholics are increasingly arguing that their faith controls everything they do. "He is not just speaking internally".

While the change does not represent a teaching made ex cathedra where the pope exercises the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium - the Catechism is not a magisterial document, rather a summary of magisterial documents - some regard Francis' move as a way of opening the door to bigger changes down the road. A stance that has turned many heads in our city. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan account for 87% of global executions, according to The Guardian.

The death penalty has been a source of controversy for decades, with organizations like the ACLU opposing execution since the 1920s.

In some countries, however, politicians have made a notable push to revive it.

Which states have the death penalty?

The shift in the Catholic Church's position could influence the debate there, as well as in the United States.

In the United States, the death penalty is legal in 31 states, according to The New York Times. They did not approach in calling it intrinsically evil - a label applying to abortion, euthanasia, and other attacks on human life such as embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.

The decision to change the catechism was approved in May but not announced until Thursday.

The following states still have the death penalty: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

A 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Justice shows the number of death-row inmates decreasing in the last 16 years, but Missouri has remained among the states with the highest number of executions.

The Philippines was the first Asian country to abolish death penalty in 1987, but it was reinstated under President Fidel Ramos in response to increasing crime rates. The most recent Gallup poll finds that 55 percent favor the death penalty and 41 percent oppose it.

In an exclusive interview with ABC7 Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich has weighed in on a major change in Catholic teaching after Pope Francis said the death penalty is never acceptable.

"Given that modern society possesses more efficient detention systems", Ladaria wrote, "the death penalty becomes unnecessary as protection for the life of innocent people". In Summa Theologica, the Dominican scholastic said authorities had legitimate recourse to the death penalty: "It is lawful ('permissible') to kill an evildoer in so far as it is directed to the welfare of the whole community, so that it belongs to him alone who has charge of the community's welfare".

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