It must be firmly affirmed that the death sentence, in any circumstance, is an inhumane measure that humiliates the dignity of the person. Is in itself contrary to the gospel because with it it is decided to voluntarily suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of which only God can ultimately be its sole judge and guarantor. No man, “not even the murderer, ever loses his personal dignity,” becauseGod is a Father who always awaits the return of his son that, aware of having made a mistake, asks for forgiveness and begins a new life.
In past centuries, when there were not many instruments of defense and social maturity had not yet developed in a positive way, the use of the death penalty was presented as a logical consequence of the necessary application of justice. Unfortunately, the Papal State also resorted to this extreme and inhuman environment, neglecting the primacy of mercy over justice. We take responsibility for the past, and acknowledge that these means were imposed by a more legalistic than Christian mentality. The concern to preserve integrity of power and material wealth led to an overestimation of the value of the law, preventing a deeper understanding of the Gospel. However, remaining neutral today in the face of the new demands for a reaffirmation of the dignity of the person would make us even more guilty.
Here we are not in the presence of any contradiction with the teaching of the past, because the Church has always taught in a coherent and authoritative way the defense of the dignity of human life, from the first moment of its conception until its natural death. The harmonious development of doctrine, however, requires that claims be discontinued in favor of arguments that are now seen as definitely contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth. It is necessary, therefore, to reaffirm that no matter how serious the crime committed, the death penalty is inadmissible, because it violates the inviolability and dignity of the person.
Tradition is a living reality and only a superficial glance can see the “deposit of faith” as something static. The Word of God cannot be preserved with mothballs, as if it were an old blanket.Do not keep doctrine without advancing it, nor can it be tied to a rigid and immutable reading without humiliating the action of the SpiritSanto.
Pope Francisco (extract of the speech on the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
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