Pope Francis Shades U.S. Over Prisons, Torture

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - OCTOBER 22: Pope Francis attends his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square on October 22, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis said 'War does not begin on the battlefield: war, wars begin in the heart, with this misunderstanding, division, envy, with this fighting among each other'. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis had some pointed things to say about some of America’s favorite things — torture, the death penalty, mass imprisonment — in an address to the International Association of Penal Law on Thursday, calling on Christians and “men of good faith” to fight “not only for the abolition of the death penalty,” but also to improve prison conditions. “A sentence of life [without parole] is a hidden death penalty,” he said.

This is hardly Francis’s first brush with prison systems. Shortly after he became Pope, Francis drew attention for spending Maundy Thursday washing the feet of a multi-faith group of prisoners, including Muslims and women.

And the popular pontiff’s comments struck particularly close to home when he denounced indefinite detention without trial. The National Catholic Reporter says he slammed unnamed governments who kidnap people for “illegal transportation to detention centers in which torture is practiced.”

The prison population in the U.S. is the largest in the world, and more than three times the population total of Wyoming. And while the U.S. doesn’t hold the same honor for execution rankings, it still cracks the top ten. That, of course, doesn’t even begin to consider Guantánamo and all of the other overseas prisons where we use torture “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

But don’t worry, America, the Pope doesn’t think we’re all irredeemably doomed: “We don’t learn only from the virtues of saints but also from the failings and errors of sinners,” Francis said. Swoon.

Pope Francis Shades U.S. Over Prisons, Torture