One of the great wellsprings of the Church is it’s social teaching. The Holy Spirit continues to guide and challenge us. How can it be that something that was once permissible is no longer? But is this not a sign that we as humanity have grown? The Church never stops growing more fully into the Bride of Christ, and our doctrine reflects (and does not contradict) this reality.
In the Catechism, it is now explicit: the death penalty is no longer a permissible option.
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”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.
So I rejoice, hope for, and will continue to support the abolition of the death penalty. I am so thankful for the consistent ethic of life which continues to unfold.
Yet, at the same time I mourn at the depth of sexual abuse that has permeated the Church. Justice must be pursued at all ends and broken systems must be shifted. How can we fight for life that is a shell of dignity? We must acknowledge how we have gone wrong, to seek forgiveness and make amends, and allow for transparency in the processes. There will be those who seek to harm others, but those who harm must be swiftly removed from positions of power and authority. Those who are harmed must be listened to, believed, supported. So we must continue to examine, listen to the Spirit, and change.