Source: Vatican Media/USCCB
As the state of Texas executed another man on Death Row yesterday, Bishop Frank Dewane of Florida reasserted the Catholic Church's teaching on the death penalty - stating that it is inadmissible under any circumstance.
Killed by lethal injection on Wednesday, Larry Swearingen 48, had been incarcerated for 19 years after he was arrested and charged with the murder of Melissa Trotter in 1998. He was the 12th man to be executed in America this year. He always maintained his innocence. His last words were: "Lord forgive them. They don't know what they are doing."
Recent Popes have spoken out very clearly against the use of the death penalty. In August 2018 Pope Francis issued the following revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2267. 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",(1) and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide".
Bishop Frank Dewane of Florida, Chair of the Peace and Human Development Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said: "The Church's stance on the death penalty was recently articulated very clearly by Pope Francis in saying that it's 'inadmissible' because it in itself is very much an attack on the inviolability and also the dignity of the human person."
The revised Catechism states that "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."
Bishop Dewane explains why the death penalty is not effective: "Because to be just, it is really necessary that a punishment have a dimension of hope and also a goal of rehabilitation. The death penalty falls far short of that" he adds. "It doesn't even begin to approach it…it is contrary to it".
Bishop Dewane added that though it has existed for some time, statistics show that the death penalty has not acted as a deterrent, as some people might suggest.
In July 2019, the United States announced it was reinstating Capital Punishment on a federal level.
The Catholic Church continues to work with determination for its abolition worldwide.
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