Translational Transnational Advocacy against Capital Punishment: A Role for the Holy See

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The International Journal of Human Rights


Politics and Government


Networks of social activists can span sovereign borders, seeking to affect human rights policy change within an individual country. Keck and Sikkink argue that such advocates are most effective when they champion a vulnerable population. This poses a problem for transnational advocates of death penalty abolition, because persons guilty of serious crimes are not, intuitively, vulnerable people. The Catholic Church, as a member of the abolition network, attempts to alter discourse on capital punishment such that guilt does not preclude vulnerability. This article examines statements of the Holy See as one way of understanding the Church's contribution to the transnational abolition movement. By emphasising humans' vulnerability before God, treatment of violent criminals in the Bible, and the importance of a consistent ethic of life, the Holy See works to prevent the conflation of criminal guilt with moral invulnerability.