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Catholic Church and capital punishment 1

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis has stated that he is against the death penalty. In 2015, Pope Francis addressed the International Commission against the Death Penalty, stating that: "Today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed." Francis argued that the death penalty is no longer justifiable by society's need to defend itself, and the death penalty has lost all legitimacy due to the possibility of judicial error. He stated that capital punishment is an offence "against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God's plan for man and society" and "does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance." 

Vatican support for UN campaign against the death penalty
The Vatican had also officially given support to a 2015 United Nations campaign against the death penalty. During a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting concerning the abolishment of capital punishment, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi declared that "The Holy See Delegation fully supports the efforts to abolish the use of the death penalty." The Archbishop stated:

Considering the practical circumstances found in most States ... it appears evident nowadays that means other than the death penalty 'are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons [...] We should take into account that no clear positive effect of deterrence results from the application of the death penalty and that the irreversibility of this punishment does not allow for eventual corrections in the case of wrongful convictions.

Church teaching
The Church teaches that the commandment "Thou shalt not murder" permits the death penalty by the civil authority as the administrator of justice in a human society in accordance with the Natural Law. The Church teaches that punishments, including the death penalty, may be levied for four reasons:

Rehabilitation - The sentence of death can and sometimes does move the condemned person to repentance and conversion. The death penalty may be a way of achieving the criminal’s reconciliation with God.
Defense against the criminal - Capital punishment is an effective way of preventing the wrongdoer from committing future crimes and protecting society from him.
Deterrence - Executions may create a sense of horror that would prevent others from being tempted to commit similar crimes.
Retribution - Guilt calls for punishment. The graver the offense, the more severe the punishment ought to be. In Holy Scripture death is regarded as the appropriate punishment for serious transgressions. Thomas Aquinas held that sin calls for the deprivation of some good, such as, in serious cases, the good of temporal or even eternal life. The wrongdoer is placed in a position to expiate his evil deeds and escape punishment in the next life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church stated that the death penalty is permissible in certain cases if the "guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined". As to defense against the criminal, the Church teaches that if there are other means available to defend people from the "unjust aggressor", these means are preferred to the death penalty because they are considered to be more respectful of the dignity of the person and in keeping with the common good. Because today's society makes possible effective means for preventing crime without execution, the Catechism - quoting Pope John Paul II wrote that "the cases in which execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'"

On 25 March 1995, Pope John Paul II affirmed the church's stance towards capital punishment in his 1995 encyclical titled Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life).

In January 1999, Pope John Paul II, without changing Catholic teaching, appealed for a consensus to end the death penalty on the ground that it was "both cruel and unnecessary." He said that criminal offenders should be offered "an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated" Pope Francis advocated that "capital sentences be commuted to a lesser punishment that allows for time and incentives for the reform of the offender."

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states that "Our fundamental respect for every human life and for God, who created each person in his image, requires that we choose not to end a human life in response to violent crimes if non-lethal options are available."


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