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The Commonwealth of Virginia and the Death Penalty

As you are probably aware, the General Assembly of the State of Virginia recently passed legislation abolishing the Death Penalty in the Commonwealth. In light of this new legislation some have asked me “What is the Churches teaching on the Death Penalty?”

On August 2, 2018, the Vatican announced that it had formally changed the official Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty calling capital punishment “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person “ and deeming it inadmissible in all cases. The Pope, through the office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved the new teaching and the wording of the paragraph 2267 of the Catechism:

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”,  and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

Our parish was one of the first Churches in the State of Virginia to advocate against the death penalty some 20 years ago. We conducted a petition signing, and a mail campaign asking the General Assembly to reconsider Capital Punishment. We received a number of compliments for our advocacy including a major editorial in the Potomac News complimenting and supporting our efforts.

It is good to see that our efforts bore fruition even if it took some 20 years. It is a tribute to the work of our parishioners and our parish pro-life committee in their efforts to protect life from the womb to natural death, and at all stages in between.

Hopefully the day will come when we and fellow Christians can change legislature’s minds when it comes to other very important Pro-Life issues such as Abortion and Euthanasia.

2 Comments

  1. Alma Jabay

    Our dear Pope Francis has been the greatest advocate and one of his top priorities is the abolition of death penalty worldwide . He also urged all of us Catholics to adhere, support and pray harder, not only the abolition of all capital punishments, but also to work hard in improving the conditions of prison cells around the world. I personally heard our very own over-all spiritual director of the EL Shaddai DWXI- Prayer Partners Fellowship International, during one of our Workers’ Formation when he discussed the new encyclical from our pope entitled, “ Fratelli Tutti” which mean “All Brothers”. In this encyclical, he explained that death penalty can be misused as a tool of persecution or revenge to anyone who is convicted of committing a crime. As a parishioner, I am very proud of our parish advocacy in its effort to protect the lives and dignity of mankind. Thank you so much Fr. John, for your great leadership at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, and for your continued support and prayers to stand and make this happen.

  2. Dani Butler

    Thank you for taking positive action and leading us to understand why the death penalty is wrong. It’s a shame the representative for my area thinks that keeping offenders locked up is a burden on the taxpayers.

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