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Pope to Association of Penal Law: Corruption is Greater Evil than Sin

Pope to Association of Penal Law: Corruption is Greater Evil than Sin

City, 23 October 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received delegates
from the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP), addressing them
with a speech focusing on the issues in their subject area that have
recourse to the Church in her mission of evangelization and the
promotion of the human person.

Pope began by recalling the need for legal and political methods that
are not characterized by the mythological “scapegoat” logic, that is, of
an individual unjustly accused of the misfortunes that befall a
community and then chosen to be sacrificed. It is also necessary to
refute the belief that legal sanctions carry benefit, which requires the
implementation of inclusive economic and social policies. He reiterated
the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming
the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is
rejected by Christians. In this context he also talked about the
so-called extrajudicial executions, that is, the deliberated killing of
individuals by some states or their agents that are presented as the
unintended consequence of the reasonable, necessary, and proportionate
use of force to implement the law. He emphasized that the death penalty
is used in totalitarian regimes as “an instrument of suppression of
political dissent or of persecution of religious or cultural

then spoke of the conditions of prisoners, including prisoners who have
not been convicted and those convicted without a trial, stating that
pretrial detention, when used improperly, is another modern form of
unlawful punishment that is hidden behind legality. He also referred to
the deplorable prison condition in much of the world, sometimes due to
lack of infrastructure while other instances are the result of “the
arbitrary exercise of ruthless power over detainees”. Pope Francis also
spoke about torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, stating
that, in the world today, torture is used not only as a means to achieve
a particular purpose, such as a confession or an accusation—practices
that are characteristic of a doctrine of national security—but also adds
to the evil of detention. Criminal code itself bears responsibility for
having allowed, in certain cases, the legitimacy of torture under
certain conditions, opening the way for further abuse.

Pope did not forget the application of criminal sanctions against
children and the elderly, condemning its use in both cases. He also
recalled some forms of crime that seriously damage the dignity of the
human person as well as the common good, including human trafficking,
slavery—recognized as a crime against humanity as well as a war crime in
both international law and under many nations’ laws—the abject poverty
in which more than a billion people live, and corruption. “The
scandalous accumulation of global wealth is possible because of the
connivance of those with strong powers who are responsible for public
affairs. Corruption is a process of death … more evil than sin. An evil
that, instead of being forgiven, must be cured.”

in the application of penal codes,” he concluded, “must be the
overarching principle of legal systems … and respect for human dignity
must not only act to limit the arbitrariness and excesses of government
agents but as the guiding criterion for prosecuting and punishing
behaviors that represent the most serious attacks on the dignity and
integrity of the human person.”

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