Holy See: Death Penalty an Affront to Dignity

Lends Support to Recent Congress Held in Paris

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See in a statement labeled the practice of capital punishment "an affront to human dignity."



The statement was issued on the occasion of the world congress on the death penalty held in Paris last Thursday through Saturday, and attended by several Catholic institutions committed to the defense of human life.

The Vatican Information Service reported the statement today.

The Holy See's declaration, originally in French, states: "The Paris congress is being celebrated at a time in which, because of recent executions, the campaign against the death penalty is facing new and disquieting challenges.

"Public opinion has become sensitized and has expressed its concern for a more effective recognition of the inalienable dignity of human beings, and of the universality and integrity of human rights, beginning with the right to life.

"The Holy See takes this opportunity to welcome and affirm once more its support for all initiatives that aim to defend the inherent value and inviolability of all human life, from conception to natural end."

The statement continued: "In this perspective, it is worth noting that the use of the death penalty is not just a negation of the right to life, but also an affront to human dignity."

Difficult to justify

Though the Church "continues to maintain that the legitimate authorities of state have the duty to protect society from aggressors," the declaration explained that in the modern world, the death penalty is difficult to justify.

States now have new ways "of preserving public order and people's safety," which include "offering the accused stimuli and encouragement" to mend their ways, the Holy See continued.

It added that non-lethal means of prevention and punishment "correspond better to ... the common good and conform more to the dignity of the human person."

"Any decision to use the death penalty involves many dangers," such as "that of punishing the innocent, and the temptation to foment violent forms of revenge rather than true social justice," the declaration said.

It is also, the Holy See continued, "a clear offense against the inviolability of human life ... and, for Christians, an affront to the evangelical teaching of forgiveness."

The Holy See reiterated its appreciation to the organizers of the congress, to governments, and to everyone who works "to abolish the death penalty or to impose a universal moratorium on its use."