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I was thinking about the amendments to the Catholic Church's teaching on the death penalty:

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

and it seems like this is a much less universal teaching. It works where "more effective systems of detention have been developed". My wife's cousin and her husband were missionaries in Malawi, a fairly Christianized African country unencumbered with the prison industrial complex of modern nations, where they witnessed an mob execution over a presumed goat theft.

Now, that doesn't seem like justice, and isn't the standard to compare a western system of retributive or restorative justice against, but it does make me wonder if social teachings like the recent change to the death penalty (which prior to it had been understood to only accept the death penalty where society couldn't otherwise protect itself from the reckless mayhem of the criminal) and the ones Pope Francis issued in Laudato Si concerning fake news and internet trolls are really only applicable to a subset of Catholics or are they really universal principles?

Does the Catholic Church ever specifically say that some principles apply to people in certain situations (i.e. stable Western Democracies) or are all the teachings meant to be universal?

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  • the idea that some catholic teachings and words of the pontiff only apply to certain people may not mesh well with papal infalibility, this question on the sole interpretive authority of the catholic magisterium and its answers look like it may have relevance here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/90933/… May 26 at 17:31

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