“The changes to the death penalty law are a significant step in the right direction,” he said in a statement to CatholicNews.
“The Church upholds that every human life is precious and must be protected from conception to death. Society today should be moving towards more humane ways of restoring justice where there is the possibility of reforming and changing the offender,” he said.
Under changes proposed in Singapore’s parliament on July 9, mandatory death sentences will no longer be passed for certain instances of drug trafficking and murder.
The courts will be allowed to decide on a death sentence or life imprisonment in these cases.
The Catholic Medical Guild (CMG), in a statement to the CatholicNews, said the amendments are “a move in the right direction towards a more just law concerning penalties for drug trafficking and murder”.
The CMG added that in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II has shown that “the ‘gospel of life’ is indeed at ‘the heart of Jesus’ message’ and has repeatedly defended the sacred value of human life ‘from the very beginning until its end’”.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church’s traditional teaching “does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor”.
Today, however, “because of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime”, such cases are “very rare, if not practically non-existent”.
Pope Benedict XVI, during a general audience on Nov 30 last year, encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty.
Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the topic, the pope said he hoped their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate” the penalty.
The conference was organised by the Italian-based Sant’Egidio Community under the theme, No Justice without Life.
The pope told the group that he applauded “the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order”.
It has been estimated that around a third of the world’s countries use the death penalty as part of their legal code.- TheCatholicNews - JULY 29, 2012, Vol 62, No 15