Pope Francis’ prayer intention for September: ‘Abolition of the death penalty’

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA


Pope Francis at the general audience in the Vatican, Aug. 24, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2022 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has asked Catholics around the world to pray in September for an end to the death penalty.

He made the appeal in his September prayer intention, shared with an accompanying video on Aug. 31.

“We pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country,” reads the prayer intention, promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

In the video explaining his prayer intention, Pope Francis said that “the death penalty is morally inadmissible as it destroys the most important gift we have received: life.”

“Let us not forget that, up to the very last moment, a person can convert and change,” the pope said.

“And in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is unacceptable. The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ refers to both the innocent and the guilty.”

More people were executed by the death penalty in 2021 than the year prior, with 579 executions recorded in 18 countries, according to Amnesty International.

The most known executions took place in China, followed by Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

In the United States, 11 people were executed by lethal injection last year in the states of Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Catholic bishops in the US, notably Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, have advocated for individual prisoners on death row this year.

While the Church teaches that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice in the West.

Pope Francis revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 to state that the death penalty is “inadmissible.”

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”

“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Fr. Petri continued.

In the pope’s video message, he urged “all people of goodwill to mobilize for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.”

“Society can effectively repress crime without definitively depriving the offenders of the possibility of redeeming themselves,” Pope Francis said.

“Always, in every legal sentence, there must be a window of hope.”

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  1. To avoid criticism among Catholics, he will, on rare occasion, allow his moodiness shift towards his distaste for abortion and make the stupid, insensitive to troubled women, hitman statement. But he’ll never forcefully call upon the whole world for its total elimination. That might cause him to lose face with global elitists and their lapdogs in the media.

    • “Morally inadmissible,” but also still admissibly moral(!). Just thinkin’, now, about the prisoner whom St. Therese prayed for conversion, and how he did convert and kissed the crucifix moments before losing his head to the guillotine. So, maybe conversion is sometimes about timing and certainty: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully” (Samuel Johnson).

  2. “And in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is unacceptable. The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ refers to both the innocent and the guilty.”


    Where was the Holy Spirit for the last twenty centuries in regard to this if only now this papacy has the ‘truth’. Christ promised that the Third Person would guide His Church in all truth. It took all these centuries for this to evolve for the ‘inadmissible’ claim under the gravity of death?

    Christ upheld the Mosaic Law which included capital punishment. If the original Commandment had said, ‘Thou shall not kill’, even accidents, war, and self defense would be in violation as such a literal declaration did not provide exceptions.

    The God of the Old Testament would indict even Himself with all the killing in that period often directed at the behest of the Almighty.

    Murder and killing.

    Feser and Bessette handily defeated that professor and his ilk, cheerleaders for all things Francis, who refused to acknowledge the difference.

  3. This works for me but I have to believe that there may be rare exceptions where capital punishment may be the only way to protect society.
    If we distrust the secular state in smaller matters we should distrust it also in greater things like the power of life and death. Outside of self defense, our lives should be in the hands of God, not the government.

  4. SO according to Pope Francis, the Bible, Tradition, all the Church Fathers, all the Doctors of the Church, and all 265 previous Popes got it wrong on the death penalty, but somehow he got it right. That is pure narcissism not based on authentic Catholic moral theology.

  5. When St. Pope John Paul II rendered the need for the death penalty “very rare, if not practically non-existent” (Evangelium Vitae, 1995, n.57; or now morally “inadmissible” but still admissibly moral), this guidance served largely as a segue to the immediately following section (surely intended to all of the members of the European Union which prohibits the death penalty but then permits abortion):

    “If such great care must be taken to respect every life, even that of criminals and unjust aggressors, the commandment “You shall not kill” has absolute value [!] when it refers to the INNOCENT PERSON [italics]. And all the more so in the case of weak and defenseless human beings, who find their ultimate defence against the arrogance and caprice of others only in the absolute binding force of God’s commandment” (n. 58).

    And, yet, in the United States we now have duplicitous clericalists (e.g. Cardinal McElroy) pontificating, instead, that sacrilege against the Eucharistic Presence, by notorious Aztecs, should not be a “litmus test” preventing their indiscriminate participation in the Church’s sacramental life.

    • The Big Picture, in our fallen world, is that elimination of the death penalty would foster a much broader culture of life for everyone, such as the unborn as noted by Pope St. John Paul II (my above comment). But, when he added the words “very rare,” perhaps he also had an intuition about other kinds of situations–such as a later case in a maximum-security prison in Washington State…

      A prison guard was murdered by a prisoner already serving a life sentence. What disincentive, or further penalty for outcomes like this? Only sequential or concurrent life terms?

      If the death penalty is totally disallowed as a disincentive for homicides and mass shootings in the general population, then perhaps the penalty at least can remain on the books for the protection of prison guards or other prisoners? (Perhaps a footnote in the next edition of the amended Catechism!)

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