If Pope Francis is Vlad the Impaler (as a result of this development), then Pope Benedict XVI is Attila the Hun and Pope St. John Paul II is Josef Stalin. John Paul the Great literally could see / virtually predicted the trajectory of the development on this issue. In Evangelium Vitae (1995, sec. 56), he stated:
On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. [my emphases, as throughout]
Really? Why didn’t all hell break loose then? I guess the reactionaries who regularly trashed him (which I vividly recall, because I was defending him twenty years ago) missed that. Funny thing, ain’t it? In his Christmas Message of 1998, he wished “the world the consensus concerning the need for urgent and adequate measures … to end the death penalty.”
In a homily on 27 January 1999, the pope passionately contended:
The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 27). I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.
Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus (19 November 2011; sec. 83):
Together with the Synod members, I draw the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty and to reform the penal system in a way that ensures respect for the prisoners’ human dignity. Pastoral workers have the task of studying and recommending restorative justice as a means and a process for promoting reconciliation, justice and peace, and the return of victims and offenders to the community.
Eleven days later in his General Audience (30 November 2011), the pope elaborated:
I express my hope that your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.
[For all these sources, see: Letter to the Bishops regarding the new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 02.08.2018]
Photo credit: Noose, Old Austin County Jail, Bellville, Texas; photograph by Patrick Feller (1-30-10) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]