7. The new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved by Pope Francis, situates itself in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine. The new text, following the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in Evangelium vitæ, affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes. This conclusion is reached taking into account the new understanding of penal sanctions applied by the modern State, which should be oriented above all to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the criminal. Finally, given that modern society possesses more efficient detention systems, the death penalty becomes unnecessary as protection for the life of innocent people. Certainly, it remains the duty of public authorities to defend the life of citizens, as has always been taught by the Magisterium and is confirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church in numbers 2265 and 2266.The text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church now reads:
8. All of this shows that the new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium. These teachings, in fact, can be explained in the light of the primary responsibility of the public authority to protect the common good in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime.
9. The new revision affirms that the understanding of the inadmissibility of the death penalty grew “in the light of the Gospel.” The Gospel, in fact, helps to understand better the order of creation that the Son of God assumed, purified, and brought to fulfillment. It also invites us to the mercy and patience of the Lord that gives to each person the time to convert oneself. (footnotes referenced in the link above)
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.The problem with the development of doctrine (really the development of more precise confession of unchanging doctrine) is that from time to time some are tempted to go against Scripture, pleading the cause of the Gospel and different circumstances today. Such is the appeal to those who have wanted to change or have, indeed, changed the doctrine regarding marriage, homosexuality, etc... Yes, Scripture says but we have now come to a more enlightened understanding of things and from this vantage point of the Gospel we now contradict Scripture. Lutherans certainly have a problem with this but so should Roman Catholics and all Christians.
For the record I should say that I am not exactly an advocate capital punishment. I wonder about the great length of time between verdict and the sentence carried out, about the great concern that this not cause suffering although those condemned are condemned because of the suffering they have caused, and because of the cost to the state in money and energy to bring the condemned from verdict to its sentence completed. In the old days, capital punishment was done in public and today the barest few see the sentence administered so I am not sure its deterrent value is all that much. I would certainly not like to see someone too hastily sentenced to such an irrevocable punishment and yet it is a just and equitable punishment, moral and Scriptural. God has, according to His Word, given this authority to the state no matter how you or I might feel about it personally. Yet I find it so very strange that people opposed to the death penalty are not at all bothered by the verdict of death routinely accorded the unborn without a moment's hesitation. Clearly there is some moral ambiguity at work here.
For the record, this Lutheran affirms that Scripture teaches that the kingdom of the left has the right and the authority to require a life as punishment for the gravest crimes and evils. Until Francis, this is what the Roman Catholic Church taught as well, though there were many who wished it never had to be carried out and begged for mercy on behalf of the condemned. So Francis can certainly have his right to an opinion about the value of the death penalty or even plead on behalf of those under such a verdict but he has NO right to change teachings clearly spelled out in Scripture and if this is allowed here, where will it end.