Catholic Church now opposes death penalty

Pope Francis has toughened the Catholic Church's stance on the death penalty. From now on the Church would campaign "resolutely" for its abolishment across the globe, he said. Up to now the catechism did not on principle rule out the death penalty as a final resort. Most commentators are delighted by this move.

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Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Why it took the Church so long

The Church had to go a long way to arrive at this important decision, Corriere del Ticino observes:

“For an institution that in centuries gone by gave its blessing for heretics and so-called witches to be burned at the stake, it is not so simple to say suddenly that death sentences violate the dignity of the condemned and contravene the Gospel. ... It's easy to understand the embarrassment of the Catholic Church when it confronts its past. Only the courageous admissions of guilt of recent decades have made it possible for it to dare to do the unthinkable: condemn its past mistakes. For that, it took the courage of a pope like Wojtyla. ... Without his painful assumption of responsibility [for the persecution and extermination of Jews] any change to the catechism would have sounded hypocritical.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Against nihilism

Opposing the death penalty is more vital now than ever, Avvenire stresses:

“In view of the 'death cult' that is spreading through terrorism, violence and war, fighting the death penalty means reinforcing the meaning of life and countering the logic of death. ... The nihilism that characterises those who fight to take other people's lives will not be eliminated by the death penalty, but only reinforced. To be against the death penalty is to confirm the reasons for life: life is stronger than anything else and history is not written in stone.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Nothing is written in stone

Moral values are changing, the Wiener Zeitung explains, also pointing to the downside:

“Nothing is written in stone, not even the cornerstones of moral edifices that were build for eternity. ... People's convictions change, and conditions and methods that were once taken for granted, like slavery and torture, were completely admissible and even normal not so long ago. Today many people find it difficult even to imagine what it was like to live in the old days. The realisation that moral values are changing doesn't mean that change is only possible in one direction. As mentioned above: nothing is written in stone, not even our concept of the inviolable dignity of the individual.”