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Cardinal Blase Cupich to speak on death penalty after church changes position

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Hours after Pope Francis decreed the death penalty is “inadmissible” in any circumstance, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich was to appear at a panel discussion about the Catholic Church’s position on executions.

Cupich has voiced his opinion on the death penalty in the past. In an essay he penned for “America” magazine, Cupich said the death penalty “proclaims that taking one human life counterbalances the taking of another life.”

“This assumption is profoundly mistaken,” Cupich wrote. “If there is any lesson we need to learn in this perilous age, it is that taking a human life in the name of retribution does not breed justice or bring closure, but only continues the cycle of violence and hatred.”

The Vatican and Francis had approved a change to the catechism — the compilation of official Catholic teaching — to say capital punishment is an “attack” on the dignity of human beings.

Pope Francis caresses a child as he arrives in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican for his weekly general audience, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018.

Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church teaching about the death penalty, saying in a new policy published Thursday that it is always “inadmissible” because it “attacks” the inherent dignity of all humans. | AP Photo

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.” Other popes have upheld that position, even as they also urged an end to the practice.

The change, contained in Catechism No. 2267, says the previous policy is outdated, that there are other ways to protect the common good, and that the church should instead commit itself to working to end capital punishment.

“Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme means of safeguarding the common good,” the new text reads.

The panel, which is part of the American Bar Association’s Annual Conference, begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Swissotel, 323 E. Wacker Dr.

Other panelists include Meredith Martin Rountree, a senior lecturer at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law; Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, Karen Gottlieb, co-director of the Florida Center for Capital Representation, Florida International University’s College of Law.

Contributing: Associated Press