ROME — Pope Francis has called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty just as his representative at the Academy for Life insists legalized abortion must be respected as settled law.
In a bizarre irony, Pope Francis launched a month-long campaign Thursday for the abolition of capital punishment wherever it is still legal, just a week after Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, defended Italy’s Law 194 legalizing abortion as an untouchable “pillar of society.”
“We pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country,” the pontiff declared in a video message revealing his prayer intention for the month of September.
“Each day, there is a growing ‘NO’ to the death penalty around the world,” the pope stated, which is “a sign of hope.”
“From a legal point of view, it is not necessary,” Francis said, since society can “effectively repress crime without definitively depriving the offenders of the possibility of redeeming themselves.”
Interviewed last Friday by Italian state television Rai Tre, Archbishop Paglia said, “I believe that at this point the Law 194 is a pillar of our social life,” in reference to Italy’s notorious 1978 law legalizing abortion.
Asked whether the law is therefore not up for debate, Paglia replied, “No, absolutely not.”
In his appeal for an end to capital punishment, the pope said that the death penalty “is morally inadmissible, for it destroys the most important gift we have received: life.”
Capital punishment “offers no justice to victims, but rather encourages revenge,” he asserted.
“I, therefore, call on all people of goodwill to mobilize for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world,” he concluded. “Let us pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country.”
While the Catholic Church has always considered abortion a heinous crime, capital punishment was not abolished in the Vatican City State until 1969.
For nearly all of the Church’s history the death penalty was accepted as a legitimate form of punishment for serious offenses and over the centuries, hundreds of criminals were executed in the Papal States under the government of the popes.