Catholic Church rules out capital punishment in all circumstances

Pope Francis asks death penalty be made ‘inadmissible’ in Church Catechism

Pope Francis has directed that the teaching that "the death penalty is inadmissible" in all circumstances be inserted into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it was announced by the Vatican this morning.

The new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism now reads: "Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

“Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

“Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ’the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’ ” – a quote from Francis last October – “ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”


In a letter to Catholic bishops worldwide and published today the prefect of the Vatican's congregation of the doctrine of the faith Cardinal Luis Ladaria said that last October Francis had asked "that the Church's teaching on the death penalty be reformulated so as to better reflect the development of the doctrine on this point that has taken place in recent times."

The Cardinal said that "this development centres principally on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life. Along this line, pope John Paul II affirmed in 1995: 'Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this'," he said.

An “increasing understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes, the deepened understanding of the significance of penal sanctions applied by the State, and the development of more efficacious detention systems that guarantee the due protection of citizens have given rise to a new awareness that recognizes the inadmissibility of the death penalty and, therefore, calling for its abolition,” he said.

The new number 2267 of the Catechism desires "to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect," the Cardinal said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times