Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” reiterates a change in church teaching; in this case, on the death penalty. Previously, in 2018, Pope Francis ordered a change in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when he termed the death penalty “inadmissible.” Today the Pope places the full weight of his teaching authority behind this statement: the death penalty is inadmissible, and Catholics are called to work for its abolition.
Presently in the US, the Catholic Bishops have reiterated their calls for an end to the death penalty. This comes as the government can be seen speeding up the pace of federal executions in the last days of the Trump presidency.
Sister Helen Prejean, who has years of experience working with people on death-row offers a couple of thoughts to be considered in these contexts:
- If we believe that murder is wrong and not admissible in our society, then it has to be wrong for everyone, not just individuals but governments as well.
- The movement to abolish the death penalty needs the religious community because the heart of religion is about compassion, human rights, and the indivisible dignity of each human person made in the image of God. As Brigidine Sisters, committed to taking decisive action for justice, may we stand ready to speak out against all forms of violence by individuals and States today, including the violent taking of life through capital punishment.