Friday, August 03, 2018

Pope Declares Death Penalty Unacceptable in All Cases(New York Times, 2/8/2018)

Pope Declares Death Penalty Unacceptable in All Cases

Pope Francis said that the Roman Catholic Church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.CreditAlessandra Tarantino/Associated Press
ROME — Pope Francis has declared that the death penalty is wrong in all cases, a definitive change in church teaching that is likely to challenge faithful Catholic politicians, judges and officials in the United States and other countries who have argued that their church was not entirely opposed to capital punishment.
Francis added the change to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, the book of doctrine that is taught to Catholic children worldwide and studied by adults in a church with 1.2 billion members.
Francis said executions were unacceptable in all cases because they are “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday.
The church also says it will work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
Francis’ decision is likely to put many American Catholic politicians in a difficult position, especially Catholic governors, like Greg Abbott of Texas and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, who have presided over executions.
And it could set off a backlash among American Catholic traditionalists who have already cast Francis as being dangerously inclined to change or compromise church teaching on other issues, like permitting communion for Catholics who have divorced and remarried without getting a church annulment.
It could also complicate the lives of judges who are practicing Catholics.
In a 2002 article, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, said, “I do not find the death penalty immoral,” and added that he was confident that Catholic doctrine allowed for it to be used in some cases.
He wrote that it would be a bad idea if Catholic judges had to recuse themselves in death penalty cases or if Catholic governors had to promise commutations of death sentences, and commented, “Most of them would never reach the governor’s mansion.”
The new teaching appears to make the conflict much sharper, if not definitive.
President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, is Catholic, as are Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor. One of the other finalists for the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is also Catholic.
She wrote a 1998 law review article suggesting that Catholic judges should consider recusing themselves in some death penalty cases that might conflict with their religious beliefs.
Abolishing the death penalty has been one of Francis’ top priorities for many years, along with saving the environment and caring for immigrants and refugees. He mentioned it in his address to the United States Congress on his trip to America in 2015, saying that “from the beginning of my ministry” he had been led “to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.”
He added, “I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.” - New York Times, 2/8/2018

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