The reporter persisted, “Then just one quick question. I’m Catholic, too, and I thought we couldn’t have funeral Masses for convicted killers.” I looked at her and told her that her information was wrong. Then I added, “Redemption — we either believe in it or we don’t. I do believe in it.”
The July 25 announcement by the Justice Department that it is reinstating the federal death penalty for the first time in 16 years was unwelcome news for Catholic leaders who have advocated against capital punishment.
Changes in law and public opinion have had their role to play in the quest to end capital punishment in the United States, but Catholic teaching also has played a part, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Building on the development of Catholic Church teaching against capital punishment, Pope Francis has ordered a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to assert “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”
Pope Francis’ recent statement that the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel focused less on a government’s role in protecting its people and more on the need to defend the sacredness and dignity of every human life.