Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases. This is a definitive change in church doctrine. Traditionally, church doctrine accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives, which was a ridiculous loophole exploited by church officials and politicians as a means of justifying the death penalty.
But Francis said executions were unacceptable in all cases because they are an attack on human dignity.
It's about time. I've opposed the death penalty since I was in high school, which means I was about 25 years ahead of the infallible supreme pontiff of the largest church in the world.
Maybe I should've been named Pope. It would seem that I might be slightly less infallible than the supposed apostolic successor to Saint Peter.
Just imagine if Elysha Dicks had to refer to me as "Your Holiness" or "Most Holy Father."
The Pope's reason for opposing the death penalty is all fine and good, but the reason for my opposition has always been far simpler and more logical:
Human beings are fallible. We make mistakes. Since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated, which means that it's very likely that the United States has executed innocent people throughout its history.
In fact. a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 found it very likely that 1 in 25 death row inmates are innocent.
As a person who nearly confessed to a crime he did not commit and came close to being convicted of that crime, I know all too well how insidious the criminal justice system can be when someone believes that you are guilty.
And I'm white American. Just imagine what might have happened to me had I been a minority or an immigrant.
The death penalty is dangerous. Its very existence endangers the life of every innocent American citizen who might end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Frankly, this is a no-brainer. A slam dunk. An obvious decision, even though it took the Catholic Church about two thousand years to finally agree with me. The death penalty should be abolished immediately, as it has been in almost every European and Latin American country in the world. In fact, 95% of all known executions in 2017 were carried out in only six countries:
China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Pakistan, and Iraq.
We keep great company.
Yet 55% of Americans still support the death penalty because they are incapable of imagining that any one of those 144 men and women exonerated while on death row could ever be them or a loved one.
How many more death row inmates must be exonerated or even executed before we decide that human beings are far too fallible to allow the state to take our lives as a form of punishment?
I'm happy that the Pope finally agrees with me. Everyone else should follow suit.