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CCSJ, GCL welcome Pope’s Catechism revision on death penalty

Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer.

Pope Francis’ decision to revise the Church’s teaching on the death penalty has been welcomed by the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) and the Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL).

“This decision is clearly linked to the Catholic Church’s belief that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society,” said a joint release from the two organisations.

The revised text in the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads:

“The death penalty

  1. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, 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.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’, [1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

An August 1 letter to all bishops from Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, included the new text as approved by Pope Francis. The letter also outlines the development of the doctrine on the death penalty that has taken place in recent times.

Leela Ramdeen, Chair of CCSJ and GCL said in the release that while 141 countries have abolished capital punishment “in law or practise”, the two organisations will “continue to be tireless advocates, not only for the abolition of the death penalty in the Caribbean region and worldwide, but also for effective systems to be put in place to reduce crime and to support the victims of crime.”

She ended that while countries have a duty to protect the common good, “they can do so without resorting to lethal means. ALL lives matter!”.