Pope Francis today nixed the death penalty in all cases by ordering a revision in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states the final punishment is “inadmissible.”
The change in paragraph 2267 also updates the language to describe the death penalty as an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”
Pope Francis has spoken out against capital punishment before, noting in October 2017 that the death penalty “is contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor.”
The revision actually builds on current teaching since the Catechism already notes that governments have effective means of isolating the criminal and protecting society, making the need for the death penalty “very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, following a moratorium placed on the final sentence in 2000 by then Republican Gov. George Ryan after death row inmates were found to be innocent. A Chicago Tribune series in November 1999 scrutinized Illinois’ capital punishment system, discovering faulty evidence, legal incompetence and dishonest trial tactics.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois supported the abolition of the death penalty, offering testimony during the debate and then issuing a statement when legislation eradicating capital punishment was signed into law.
The death penalty is rare in the United States, despite that it remains legal in several states. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 29 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years. An additional 9 states have not had an execution in at least 5 years.