So says the Pope, in so many words:
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction at his Nov. 30 general audience.
Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the controversial topic, the Pope said he hopes that their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”
The conference was organized by the Italian-based Sant’Egidio Community under the theme of “No Justice Without Life.” The Pope told them 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.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the traditional teaching of the Church “does not exclude” recourse to the death penalty when it is “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” It adds, however, that today such cases are “very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
Long before my return to Catholicism, this issue was one I found myself flipping back and forth on. I've struggled long and hard on whether it was right or wrong.
Now that I'm attempting (and failing too often) to be a faithful Catholic, I'm choosing to follow the Church's teaching. As the piece articulates, it's pretty clear:
CCC 2267: “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
I cannot complain nor point fingers at Catholics who ignore the Church's teachings on hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage if I choose to do the same about the death penatly.
H/T to Mark Shea.