SAN ANTONIO - On Thursday, Pope Francis decreed the death penalty is "inadmissible" under all circumstances, and that the Roman Catholic Church must work to abolish it, changing official church teaching to reflect his view that all life is sacred and there is no justification for state-sponsored executions.
The Vatican said Francis approved a change to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, which is the compilation of official Catholic teaching, to say that capital punishment constitutes an "attack" on the dignity of human beings.
Previously, the Catechism said the church didn't exclude recourse to capital punishment "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."
Previous popes have upheld that position, while urging an end to the practice.
San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller released the following statement Thursday:
"Two years ago, in October 2016, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling for the abolition of the death penalty, denouncing its effects not only on victims and others immediately affected, but also on society. In my episcopal ministry I have seen the need to reform our criminal justice system --including our use of the death penalty -- to ensure justice, harmony, and peace. As Catholics prepare to begin an effort from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, taking part in a Novena for the Protection of Human Life each Friday from August 3 to September 28, I urge all people of good will to join me in prayer concerning abortion and now the death penalty as well; that we will move our nation closer to the day when every human being is protected in law and welcomed in life."
There has been an uptick in American support for the death penalty, which is now at 54 percent.
Fifty-three percent of Roman Catholics support the death penalty for people convicted of murder.
South Texas Catholics have differing opinions:
"Who are we to take away the life of other people? We are nobody to judge. We have people who are wrong, but who are we to judge them?" one Catholic man said.
"I do think there are cases that evil is so deep, I just don't feel there's any reform available. So I'm not in favor of the leader of our faith saying 'under all circumstances,' because I think there are circumstances," a Catholic woman said. "I was a teacher for 31 years. I taught a unit on the death penalty and we had speakers who came in, and I was always adamantly in favor of it until one person one time said, 'Are you able to pull the switch?'"
Copyright 2018 by KSAT - All rights reserved.