12/17/2018, 21.25
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Pope: an international moratorium on the death penalty, contrary to the Gospel

Francis received the International Commission against the death penalty. "The acceptance of this form of punishment was a consequence of a mentality of the time, more legalistic than Christian, that sacralized the value of laws lacking in humanity and mercy." Legitimate defense is legitimate, but must always be proportionate.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The death penalty is contrary to the Gospel, because it involves the suppression of a human life, of which God is the creator and the only One to decide its fate. This was reiterated by the speech in Spanish that Pope Francis gave to the delegation of the International Commission against the death penalty, received today at the Vatican.

First of all, Francis remembered that the "certainty that every life is sacred and that human dignity must be safeguarded without exception has led me, from the beginning of my ministry , to work at different levels for the universal abolition of the death penalty." And "in the new wording of no. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which now expresses the progress of the doctrine of the most recent Pontiffs as well as the change in the conscience of the Christian people, which rejects a penalty that seriously harms human dignity (cf. Address on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,11 October 2017).It is a penalty contrary to the Gospel as it implies suppressing a life that is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator, and of which only God is the true judge and guarantor (see Letter to the President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, 20 March 2015)".

In past centuries, as we read in the text, the use of the death penalty has sometimes been presented as a logical and just consequence; even in the Papal States recourse was made to this inhuman form of punishment, ignoring the primacy of mercy over justice. "That is why the new wording of the Catechism also implies taking responsibility for the past and recognizing that the acceptance of this form of punishment was a consequence of a mentality of the time, more legalistic than Christian, that sacralized the value of laws lacking in humanity and mercy. The Church cannot remain in a neutral position in the face of the current demands for the reaffirmation of personal dignity".

The Magisterium of the Church, however, also believes that "the perpetual penalties, which deny the possibility of moral and existential redemption of the condemned and of the community, are a form of death penalty in disguise (cf. Address to a Delegation of the International Association Penal Law, October 23, 2014). God is a Father Who always awaits the return of the son who, knowing that he has made a mistake, asks for forgiveness and starts a new life. No one, then, can be deprived of his life or of his hope of redemption and reconciliation with the community."

For this reason, Francis believes that "The sovereign right of all countries to define their legal system cannot be exercised in contradiction with their obligations under international law, nor can it represent an obstacle to the universal recognition of human dignity. The resolutions of the United Nations on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty, which aim to suspend the application of the death penalty in member countries, are a path that must be travelled without implying rejection of the initiative of universal abolition.

At the same time, the Pope once again draws attention to extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, which unfortunately are a recurring phenomenon. As regards the issue of self-defense, if it is "legitimate to have one's right to life respected" and thus the possibility of "inflicting a fatal blow on the aggressor (CEC, No. 2264)", self-defense must be proportionate. "As Saint Thomas Aquinas taught, “such an act, in regard to the preservation of one’s own life, is not illicit, since it is natural for all beings to preserve their existence as far as possible. However, an act that comes from good intention can become illicit if it is not proportionate to the end. Therefore, if one, to defend his own life, uses more violence than is called for, this act will be unlawful. But if he counters aggression moderately, the defence will be lawful, since, according to law, it is lawful to repel force with force, moderating the defence according to the needs of threatened security” (Summa theologiae, 2-2, q. , a.7)."

The hope, in short, is for a justice that, "in addition to being a father, is also a mother". The gestures of mutual care, in fact, typical of love that is also civil and political, are manifested in all the actions that seek to build a better world. "Love of society and the commitment to the common good are an excellent form of charity, which affects not only the relations between individuals, but also “macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). In this framework, social love moves us to think about great strategies that encourage a culture of care in the different areas of life in common. The work that you do is part of that effort to which we are called."

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