Reversing Catholic Doctrine, Pope Francis Declares Death Penalty 'Inadmissable' in All Cases

Pope Francis said Thursday that the Catholic Church now officially opposes the death penalty in all cases. (Photo: Long Thien/Flickr/cc)

Reversing Catholic Doctrine, Pope Francis Declares Death Penalty 'Inadmissable' in All Cases

"I eagerly await the new, forceful, and reversed positions on the death penalty from all the Catholic politicians who regularly explain their anti-abortion stance as 'the teaching of my church.'"

Reversing long-held church doctrine and aligning himself with progressive Catholic advocates, Pope Francis said Thursday that the death penalty is "inadmissable" in all cases.

Announcing a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the pope said capital punishment is "an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person," and vowed that the church will work to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

Previously, the church has supported the death penalty for "certain crimes" in the belief that it is sometimes necessary to put a convicted criminal to death "to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor."

This policy is incongruous with Catholic teachings regarding the dignity of human life, the pope proclaimed.

In his reversal of the church's stance, Pope Francis noted that convicted criminals can be incarcerated with the potential for rehabilitation.

"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 Pope said.

The church's reversal comes amid increased support for the death penalty in the United States, with President Donald Trump calling for drug dealers. Before his 2016 presidential run, he also tweeted that so-called "perverts" should be executed by the state.

Amnesty International reports that 993 worldwide executions were recorded in 2017, with the U.S. submitting 23 people to capital punishment.

A recent Pew poll found that 54 percent of Americans back the death penalty for people convicted of murder. Fifty-three percent of American Catholics also support capital punishment.

According to a 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, "Fully 79 percent of 'pro-life' Republicans and 85 percent of 'pro-life' Tea Party identifiers who say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases also support the death penalty."

On Twitter, some political observers noted the obvious disconnect within the right-wing anti-choice movement in the United States, and remarked on the likelihood that conservative Catholic politicians will now reverse their stance on the death penalty.

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