Today Pope Francis officially changed the Catholic Church's teaching on the death penalty. To this time, the Church taught that it did not support the death penalty, but allowed for it in certain circumstances. However, our recent popes have taught that it should be used only very rarely, if at all. Pope Francis has consistently said capital punishment should never be used, as can be seen in the above quote from 2015.
Today, Pope Francis officially changed the teaching on the death penalty in the Catechism. From NBC News:
Pope Francis has changed church teaching about the death penalty, saying in a new policy published Thursday that it is always "inadmissible" because it "attacks" the inherent dignity of all humans.
The Vatican said Francis had approved a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the compilation of official Catholic Church teaching. Previously, the catechism said the church didn't exclude recourse to capital punishment "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."
The new teaching, contained in Catechism No. 2267, says the previous policy is outdated and that there are other ways to protect the common good.
"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," and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide," reads the new text, which was approved in May but only published Thursday.
In an accompanying letter explaining the change, the head of the Vatican's doctrine office said the development of Catholic doctrine on capital punishment didn't contradict prior teaching, but rather was an evolution of it.
"If, in fact the political and social situation of the past made the death penalty an acceptable means for the protection of the common good, today the increasing understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes," said Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
This teaching is now binding on all Catholics. It is directly from the Chair of Peter and cannot be challenged by any Catholic. To do so is to put any such Catholic in direct opposition to the Church's teaching.
I am personally thrilled about this change. Those who commit heinous crimes are just as loved by Jesus Christ as their victims. Christ died for all people, and as He said, He did not come to save the righteous but sinners. We must give them every chance for repentance. It goes against everything in the Gospel to purposely cut someone's life short and deprive them of that chance for repentance.
I have no doubt that the many enemies of Pope Francis will come out loud and strong against this change in Church teaching. They will use this as further evidence to prove that Pope Francis is a heretic and should be removed from the papacy. Any Catholic who challenges Pope Francis on this teaching should immediately be dismissed as a heretic. We will truly see, without any doubt, who is a loyal Catholic and who is not, just as we saw in the reaction to Pope Paul VI when he released Humanae Vitae.
The Church's teaching on capital punishment is no longer murky and subject to personal judgment. It is clear and incontrovertible. All life is sacred. Thank you, Pope Francis.