Pope Francis has changed the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on capital punishment. The church has always before upheld the right of the state to execute criminals. In fact, the church of Rome often practiced capital punishment, with the co-operation of the “secular arm” (for example, John Hus, the victims of the Inquisition’s auto-da-fe, and the Lutheran martyrs).
More lately, especially with the pro-life movement and the “consistent life ethic,” Catholics have argued that all life is sacred, so that neither unborn children nor depraved murderers should be executed. Church teaching has been that although the state has the authority to execute criminals, they should not, except in very rare circumstances, do so.