The change was enacted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine. Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital punishment worldwide, said, “Now even the most far-flung parish priest will teach this to young children.”The Vatican said it had changed its universal catechism, a summary of Church teaching, to reflect Pope Francis’ total opposition to capital punishment. “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” Vatican now said.
Pope Francis, August 2018
The new teaching on the death penalty builds on the instructions of Francis’ two immediate predecessors, but goes further, reflecting this pope’s unconditional opposition to the death penalty. The new provision is expected to run into opposition from Catholics in the United States and other countries where capital punishment is legal and where many believers support it. Since his election in 2013, Francis has several times called for a worldwide ban on capital punishment, and has urged the Church’s new position to be better reflected in its universal catechism. He has spoken out against capital punishment in 2015 in an address to Congress. Abolishing the death penalty has been one of Francis’ top priorities for many years.