On behalf of Pope Francis, the Vatican announced Thursday that the death penalty is “always” wrong, contrary to a previous stance espoused by the church.
While Roman Catholic Church doctrine formerly accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives, the pope said in a statement that although the church held that the death penalty protected society, executions were unacceptable in all cases because they’ve represented an attack on human dignity.
“It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor,” the pope said in an earlier address to the International Association on Penal Law.
Although a majority of American Catholics support death sentences, Amnesty International states that the pope’s declaration aligns with most countries — including nearly every nation in Europe and Latin America — that have banned capital punishment.
In changing the Catholic Church’s stance on the matter, Pope Francis said the church will work to end death penalties around the world.