Catholic Mobilizing Network Lauds Denunciation of Death Penalty in “Fratelli Tutti”
(Washington, DC) In “Fratelli Tutti,” the latest papal encyclical released by Pope Francis on Oct. 4 on the topic of "fraternity and social friendship," the Holy Father makes an unequivocal reaffirmation of the inadmissibility of capital punishment in the eyes of the Catholic Church. “There can be no stepping back from this position,” Pope Francis writes.
“Social encyclicals are designed to point out the most pressing social issues of our day,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Executive Director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice. “In dedicating a section of ‘Fratelli Tutti’ to the issue of the death penalty, Pope Francis has leveraged the full weight of the Church’s teaching behind its opposition to capital punishment.”
In 2018, Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered a change to the Catholic Catechism to call the death penalty “inadmissible” in all cases (CCC 2267). Prior to the revision, the Catechism left room for use of capital punishment in cases where it was the only way to protect the common good — instances which St. John Paul II called “rare, if not practically nonexistent” in his 1995 encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.”
Building upon the context set by St. John Paul II, Francis notes in “Fratelli Tutti” that “it is impossible to imagine that states today have no other means than capital punishment to protect the lives of other people from the unjust aggressor.” The significance of the document is further punctuated by its release during the Church’s Respect Life Month, and just days before the annual commemoration of World Day Against the Death Penalty on Oct. 10.
This acknowledgement of modern society’s capacity to avoid recourse to the death penalty strikes a blatant contrast to the U.S. federal government’s recent resumption of executions after a 17-year hiatus, which has resulted in the deaths of 7 men over the past three months. An eighth federal execution is scheduled for Nov. 19.
In notable expansions, Pope Francis addresses the proclivity toward vengeance that fuels the practice of capital punishment. As pastor and Pontiff, he advises against becoming “obsessed with taking revenge and destroying the other" and reminds the faithful that “nothing is gained this way and, in the end, everything is lost.” In addition, the Holy Father addresses even those who “remain hesitant on this point.”
“While the encyclical touches on an array of current social concerns, a central thrust focuses on rediscovering shared dignity, building a culture of encounter, and recognizing the profound depth of social friendship,” noted Vaillancourt Murphy. “These themes call us into a more restorative way of understanding harm and violence — an approach which centers around the people and relationships violated and seeks a kind of justice that values human dignity, healing, accountability, and the hope of redemption for all involved.”
“Revenge resolves nothing,” the Holy Father says.
Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization that mobilizes Catholics and all people of goodwill to value life over death, to end the death penalty, to transform the U.S. criminal justice system from punitive to restorative, and to build capacity in U.S. society to engage in restorative practices.
CMN works in close collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is a founding member of the Congregation of St. Joseph Mission Network.