By John-Henry Westen
  VATICAN CITY, February 7, 2007 ( – A declaration of the Holy See regarding the death penalty was released today.  It was delivered at a world congress on the death penalty, held in Paris, France from February 1 to 3.

  Rather than condemning the practice outright, the Vatican used nuanced language to indicate that while it found the practice “an affront to human dignity”, it could in some circumstances be necessitated.  The language is starkly different from that used to condemn abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage which can never be justified.

“The Catholic Church continues to maintain that the legitimate authorities of State have the duty to protect society from aggressors,” says the document on the death penalty.  “Some States traditionally include the death penalty among the means used to achieve this end,” an option “that is difficult to justify today.”

  Speaking about the court imposition of a right to same-sex ‘marriage’, the Vatican has suggested such actions “can never be justified.”  Writing in the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano in 2003, Vatican theologian Gino Concetti commented on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision to permit homosexual ‘marriage’.  “This is a great wound to human dignity that can never be justified,” he said.

  Similarly on abortion, the USCCB document Catholics in Political life states, “It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified.”

  The Vatican explains its aversion to the death penalty noting that 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. Such non-lethal means of prevention and punishment, suggests the document, “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,” warns the document.

  (with files from the Vatican Information Service)