Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Holy See, again, on the death penalty

On this issue, I am posting the entire text of this declaration of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, on the death penalty to a world congress on the matter in Paris, France. The emboldened paragraph is elaborated in my post The importance of understanding the diginity of human person.


VATICAN CITY, FEB 7, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a declaration of the Holy See delivered during the course of a world congress on the death penalty, held in Paris, France from February 1 to 3.

"The Paris congress," reads the French-language text, "is being celebrated at a time in which, because of recent executions, the campaign against the death penalty is facing new and disquieting challenges. Public opinion has become sensitized and has expressed its concern for a more effective recognition of the inalienable dignity of human beings, and of the universality and integrity of human rights, beginning with the right to life."

As in previous meetings on the same subject, "the Holy See takes this opportunity to welcome and affirm once more its support for all initiatives that aim to defend the inherent value and inviolability of all human life, from conception to natural end. In this perspective, it is worth noting that the use of the death penalty is not just a negation of the right to life, but also an affront to human dignity."

"The Catholic Church continues to maintain that the legitimate authorities of State have the duty to protect society from aggressors," but "some States traditionally include the death penalty among the means used to achieve this end," an option "that is difficult to justify today." States now have new ways "of preserving public order and people's safety," which include "offering the accused stimuli and encouragement" to mend their ways. Such non-lethal means of prevention and punishment "correspond better to the ... the common good and conform more to the dignity of the human person."

"Any decision to use the death penalty involves many dangers," such as "that of punishing the innocent, and the temptation to foment violent forms of revenge rather than true social justice." It is also "a clear offense against the inviolability of human life ... and, for Christians, an affront to the evangelical teaching of forgiveness."

"The Holy See," the text concludes, "reiterates its appreciation to the organizers of the congress, to governments, ... and to everyone who works ... to abolish the death penalty or to impose a universal moratorium on its use."


  1. "Journey Toward Justice" Changed my mind about the Death Penalty. A Book Recommendation: This is the Companion book to John Grisham's The Innocent Man, Journey Toward Justice by Dennis Fritz. Journey Toward Justice is a testimony to the Triumph of the human Spirit and is a Memoir. Dennis Fritz was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder after a swift trail. The only thing that saved him from the Death Penalty was a lone vote from a juror. Dennis Fritz was the other Innocent man mentioned in John Grisham's Book which mainly is about Ronnie Williamson, Dennis Fritz's co-defendant. Both were exonerated after spending 12 years in prison. The real killer was one of the Prosecution's Key Witness. Read about why he went on a special diet of his while in prison, amazing and shocking. Dennis Fritz's Story of unwarranted prosecution and wrongful conviction needs to be heard. Look for his book in book stores or at , Journey Toward Justice by Dennis Fritz, Publisher Seven Locks Press 2006. .
    Read about how he wrote hundreds of letters and appellate briefs in his own defense and immersed himself in an intense study of law. He was a school teacher and a ordinary man whose wife was brutally murdered in 1975 by a deranged 17 year old neighbor. On May 8th 1987, Five years after Debbie Sue Carter's rape and murder he was home with his young daughter and put under arrest, handcuffed and on his way to jail on charges of rape and murder. After 10 years in prison he discovered The Innocence Project, a non-profit legal organization. With the aid of Barry Scheck and DNA evidence Dennis Fritz was exonerated on April 15,1999 Since then, it has been a long hard road filled with twist and turns and now on his Journey Toward Justice. He never blamed the Lord and solely relied on his faith in God to make it through. He waited for God's time and never gave up.

  2. Is it possible that JPII and BXVI are in error as regards their opposition to the death penalty as an ordinary means of punishment? Since it is not an infallible teaching, it is theoretically possible. However, they are not.

    Without engaging the issue beyond what is appropriate for the comments section of a blog,
    I would simply point out in response to Mr. Sharp's very lengthy comment that matters of social science are never primarily what magisterial teaching is based on. It is based on an ever deeper discernment and articulation of scripture and tradition. Hence, opposition to the death penalty is derived primarily from theological premises. To wit: every human being is created in the image of God. This imago dei cannot be eradicated by sin, even a sin as aggregious as murdering another human being. Human dignity derives from man's divine likeness. Capital punishment, when used as an ordinary means of criminal punishment when other means are available to safeguard society, is a violation of human dignity, both that of the one executed and those complicit in the execution.

    Besides, even in the revised Catechism, there is no absolute prohibition against the death penalty, it is availale when no other means can be employed to safeguard society, but only then, which renders its use practically non-existent.