FrankenPope approves revision of Catechism’s teaching on death penalty

FrankenPope approves revision of Catechism’s teaching on death penalty

[More changes in the Catechism coming – such as concerning “objective disorder” and “intrinsic evil”? – AQ Tom]

Catholic World News – August 02, 2018

The death penalty is “inadmissible” in the light of the Gospel, and the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide,” according to a revised formulation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty.

In an address delivered last October on the 25th anniversary of the Catechism’s first edition, Pope Francis called for a “more adequate and coherent treatment” of the death penalty in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“This issue cannot be reduced to a mere résumé of traditional teaching without taking into account not only the doctrine as it has developed in the teaching of recent Popes, but also the change in the awareness of the Christian people which rejects an attitude of complacency before a punishment deeply injurious of human dignity,” Pope Francis said at the time. “It must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.”

In a May 11 audience with Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis approved the revised text of the Catechism’s number 2267, though the revision was not made public until August 2. Citing the Pope’s October 2017 address, the new version states:

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. 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. Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

The Catechism’s n. 2267 has already undergone revision: the 1997 Latin typical edition of the Catechism incorporated the teaching of St. John Paul’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae. The 1997 edition of the Catechism states:

The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor. If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’

In a letter to the world’s bishops explaining the revision, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith quoted statements by St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis.

“The new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium,” the Congregation stated in its letter. “These teachings, in fact, can be explained in the light of the primary responsibility of the public authority to protect the common good in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime.”

 

Facebook
Twitter
Google+
http://angelqueen.org/2018/08/02/frankenpope-approves-revision-of-catechisms-teaching-on-death-penalty/
Get AQ Email Updates
AQ RSS Feed

33 comments on “FrankenPope approves revision of Catechism’s teaching on death penalty

  1. The Pope cannot “change” Catholic teaching on this anymore than he can change the teachings on marriage. There will be many stupid articles about this in the secular media reflecting the Protestant idea of Catholicism and the papacy (extreme Ultramontanism) whereby a pope is believed to be able to “change” teachings based on whims and opinions rather capriciously. This is not how Catholic teaching works.

    The traditional Catholic teaching on natural law and the death penalty is still in effect. A pope cannot change the laws of reason or natural law.

  2. What was black is now white: Pope “changes Catechism” to declare death penalty “inadmissible in all cases”.

    By New Catholic at Thursday, August 02, 2018

    The Church was wrong in a major issue literally of life and death.

    Is the Pope a kind of “Prophet”, as the “First President” of the Mormons, receiving new teachings that contradict completely teachings that the Magisterium had taught since Apostolic Times?

    That is what seems to come from the “alteration” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1992 promoted by the current Pope and published today.

    * * *

    The anachronistic boldness in this decision is astounding: what is merely a modern view of a secularized Europe becomes a completely new teaching, without even the consideration that the current situation of the world will remain the same for all time — as if the secular European present of stable peace would remain forever the same, as if what was common in the past and since the dawn of time would never be possible anymore. The boldness of a personal opinion becoming a completely new and unprecedented “teaching” of the Church.

    If such a certain doctrine of the Church (of the possibility of the death penalty at least in some situations), affirmed by Christ Himself in Scripture — when, confronted by Pilate who affirmed his right to inflict capital punishment, told him, “You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above”, affirming that it is a power granted to the State in its authority, even if, as all governmental powers, it can be exercised illegitimately and unjustly — can be changed, then anything can be changed. A “development” of doctrine may bring about anything: from the end of the “intrinsic disordered” nature of homosexuality to the priestly ordination of women, from the possibility of contraception in “some” cases to the acceptance of the Lutheran understanding of the Real Presence in the Eucharist as a possible interpretation of what the Church has always believed — and so on.

    The current Pope has far exceeded his authority: his authority is to guard and protect the doctrine that was received from Christ and the Apostles, not to alter it according to his personal views. We are reaping the rewards of an unchecked hyper-clericalism: the same hyper-clericalism that allowed for abuses of people like Theodore McCarrick to go ignored and unpunished and now allows for the recklessness of the alteration of established doctrine received from Christ and the Apostles. Francis has violated radically the Dogma of Papal Infallibility as defined by Vatican I. He is in open violation of the authority recognized to him by Christ and His Church throughout the ages: he has abused his authority by pretending to have an authority that he has not.

    ***

    Update: If it were possible to have an even more ridiculous excuse for this change, it comes from the “Letter to Bishops” by Cardinal Ladaria, the CDF prefect:

    10. The new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church desires to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favor a mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect.

    That is absolutely ridiculous, and a shameful and pathetic excuse: the Catechism is not a lobbying tool to modify laws: it is supposed to be a collection of the everlasting teachings of the Church.

    • Is this in keeping with the thirteenth of the “Rules for Thinking with the Church” from the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola?

      TO HAVE THE TRUE SENTIMENT WHICH WE OUGHT TO HAVE IN THE CHURCH MILITANT: …

      To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black [emphasis], if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed.

      • St. Ignatius was probably simply engaging in hyperbole.
        Or, he meant that, because of some twisted habit of mind, or defect of senses on someone’s part, they can see a black thing as white, though the reality of the thing is black, and hence there could be need of an individual to submit, when a reliable authority tells him he is wearing white-colored glasses.
        If he meant this literally and without such qualification, he was simply wrong, wrong, wrong about this.
        Because to hold that something can actually *be* BOTH black and white at the same time is a straight up, obvious and undeniable denial of the first principle of reasoning; the principle of non-contradiction.
        And saints are not infallible, but the first principles of reasoning are infallible.
        /
        And if Frankenpope says that, nevertheless, he is the pope, and therefore he does not need reason, but by his authority he asserts that the new teaching on the death penalty, although black, is just as white as the previous teaching of the Church (from St. Paul up to and beyond Pius XII), I say: “No. Because you have no argument from reason, since you deny the first principle of reason itself. Nor do you have an argument from authority, because Pius XII, and the multitude his predecessors, who agreed with him, are popes too, and the authority of each of them is equal to yours. And since you contradict previous popes, your argument from authority is invalid.”
        /
        As long as I am alive, there will always be at least one person in this world who denies that the death penalty has been revoked. So if Frankenpope wants unanimity on this issue, he’s going to have to kill me.
        /
        And he can’t do that.
        It’s all good. :o)

  3. When Pope Francis said in an interview “Who am I to judge?” and when Pope Benedict made some unfortunate hypothetical comments about condoms, liberals and non-Catholics in the media were running around saying “the pope had changed Catholic teaching.” This is impossible. A pope cannot unilaterally change established Catholic teachings based on his personal opinions. His personal or political opinions on Catholic teachings are quite irrelevant. Catholic teaching on this has not changed. A crazy, old, radical progressive modernist occupying the papal throne, as an agent of the modernist heresy, has proclaimed a personal opinion on an ethical controversy. Get Rod Dreher a chair. Catholic teaching has NOT changed. This is the papal brain on modernism. Modernism is a heresy. Every current scandal in the institutional Church is a modernist scandal of the modernist heresy, NOT of Catholicism or the Catholic faith. You cannot look to modernist heretics occupying church buildings for reliable information on the Catholic faith at the moment.

    However, we here are and remain Catholic.

  4. Heretical liberals like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and John Kerry will be running to media microphones and cameras with giddiness and enthusiasm, claiming that Pope Francis supports the liberal position on banning the death penalty and how they also are in tune with this “new”Catholic teaching. When they say that, with ridiculously stupid looks of hypocrisy on their faces, ask them if they oppose the death penalty for criminal murderers why they support it for unborn children. “Why do you support the death penalty for unborn children?”

    • Howlingly Absurd says:

      Heretical liberals … will be running to media microphones and cameras with giddiness and enthusiasm, claiming that Pope Francis supports the liberal position on banning the death penalty and how they also are in tune with this “new”Catholic teaching.

      It’s happening:

      DEATH PENALTY RULING EXCITES LEFT CATHOLICS

      8/3/18 – Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the reaction to the pope’s ruling that the death penalty is always wrong:

      “If the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice, he would be overthrowing the tradition of two millennia of Catholic thought, denying the teaching of several previous popes, and contradicting the teaching of Scripture (notably Genesis 9:5-6 and Romans 13:1-4).”

      Those are the words of Cardinal Avery Dulles, one of the most brilliant and esteemed members of the Catholic hierarchy in the past century.

      “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia….There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

      Those are the words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI.

      Pope Francis has changed all that, declaring the death penalty to be always wrong, even in cases involving national security. He ordered the Catholic Catechism to reflect his ruling.

      Some in the media, as well as Catholic activists, are saying this now puts Catholics in public life who support the death penalty in a real jam. But does it?

      The front-page story in the New York Times on this subject opens with the following: “Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases, a definitive change in church teaching that is likely to challenge Catholic politicians, judges and officials who have argued that the church was not entirely opposed to capital punishment.”

      This seriously misunderstands the difference between the three branches of government. The only ones who are directly affected are lawmakers, not executives or judges.

      A lawmaker is free to weave his religious values into any law he wishes to write, and if the voters do not agree with his bill, they can vote him out of office. An executive is obliged to enforce the laws passed by the legislature, regardless of whether they are in accord with the teachings of his religion. A judge is obliged to interpret the laws as passed by the legislature, and is not permitted to weave his religious values into his decision.

      The Times story quotes John Gehring, an official at Faith in Public Life, saying, “If you’re a Catholic governor who thinks the state has the right to end human life, you need to be comfortable saying you’re disregarding orthodox church teaching.” That shouldn’t be difficult—all he needs to do is ask New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo how he manages to be comfortable denying the Church’s teaching on abortion.

      Gehring is not exactly a credible voice. He is employed by an outlet that is funded by the atheist, anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, billionaire George Soros. Furthermore, Gehring was condemned by the bishops in 2012 for smearing them in public. To be exact, he told the media about the “inflammatory and irresponsible” rhetoric of “several bishops,” and he tutored reporters on how to handle the Church hierarchy.

      Gehring, and those on the Catholic left, have always defended pro-abortion Catholics like the Kennedys, and they have gone to the mat for Nancy Pelosi, that great Catholic champion of abortion. So it is a little late in the game to lecture pro-death penalty Catholics to get on board now that things have changed.

      I would like to make the Catholic left an offer: If you condemn pro-abortion Catholic politicians, conservative Catholics will condemn pro-death penalty Catholic politicians.

      I have a feeling no one has the guts to take me up on this, because if they did, it would put them in a much bigger jam than conservative Catholics. Defending abortion rights means much more to them than condemning the death penalty means to conservatives.

  5. FrankenPope’s change to Catechism contradicts natural law and the deposit of Faith

    Peter Kwasniewski

    August 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In the boldest and most reckless move to date in a pontificate that was already out of control and sowing confusion on a massive scale, the Vatican has announced Pope Francis’s substitution, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, of a new doctrine on capital punishment.

    Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church for 2,000 years have upheld the intrinsic legitimacy of the death penalty for grave crimes against the common good of Church or State. There had never been any doubt in the minds of anyone on this subject. It was not a point of contention in the Schism between East and West, or in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, or in the period of the Enlightenment—in short, it was one of those rare subjects on which agreement could be found not only within the Church, but with nearly everyone.

    The reason is simple: according to the natural law and Scripture alike, the rulers of a State, acting as representatives of divine justice and as custodians of the common good, may exercise an authority over life and death that they do not possess as private persons. In other words, it is God, always God, who has the right of life and death, and if the State shares in His divine authority, it has, at least in principle, the authority to end the life of a criminal. That the State does share in divine authority is the constant dogmatic teaching of the Church, found most explicitly (and repeatedly) in the Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII.

    RELATED: Pope Francis changes Catechism to declare death penalty ‘inadmissible’

    Lest there be any doubts on this matter, Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette published a comprehensive overview of the subject: By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017). In this hard-hitting book, Feser and Bessette present the natural law arguments in favor of capital punishment, furnish a veritable catalogue of citations from Scripture, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and Popes that uphold its legitimacy, and mount a critique of the logical fallacies and doctrinal contradictions—be they those of American bishops, or even of the Bishop of Rome—who attempt to wiggle out of this unanimous witness of faith and reason.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church, like Feser and Bessette’s book, frequently quotes authoritative witnesses to Catholic doctrine from a period of 2,000 years (and more, if we add Old Testament references). It is hardly surprising, on the other hand, that the new Catechism text imposed by Francis cites but one source: a speech that Francis himself gave to participants in a meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization on 11 October 2017. Francis, creating doctrine ex nihilo, has only himself to cite.

    Some may say that Francis is not being revolutionary here, since Pope John Paul II was also opposed to capital punishment. But there is a crucial difference. John Paul II never questioned the admissibility of the death penalty as such; indeed, he could not have done so, because there is no way to reject this penalty without repudiating the foundations of Catholic Social Teaching. Instead, John Paul II recommended favoring the approach of detention, clemency, and rehabilitation. About such prudential issues, Christians and Catholics can indeed disagree with one another, presenting various arguments pro and con.

    The matter at hand could not be more grave. If Pope Francis is right, only one conclusion follows: “the Church was wrong in a major issue literally of life and death,” as a blogger wrote this morning:

    If such a certain doctrine of the Church (of the possibility of the death penalty at least in some situations), affirmed by Christ Himself in Scripture—when, confronted by Pilate who affirmed his right to inflict capital punishment, told him, “You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above,” affirming that it is a power granted to the State in its authority, even if, as all governmental powers, it can be exercised illegitimately and unjustly—can be changed, then anything can be changed. A “development” of doctrine may bring about anything: from the end of the “intrinsic[ally] disordered” nature of homosexuality to the priestly ordination of women, from the possibility of contraception in “some” cases to the acceptance of the Lutheran understanding of the Real Presence in the Eucharist as a possible interpretation of what the Church has always believed—and so on.

    With this move, Pope Francis has shown himself to be openly heretical on a point of major importance, teaching a pure and simple novelty—“the boldness of a personal opinion becoming a completely new and unprecedented ‘teaching’ of the Church,” as Rorate Caeli stated. “The current Pope has far exceeded his authority: his authority is to guard and protect the doctrine that was received from Christ and the Apostles, not to alter it according to his personal views.”

    Francis may be banking on an assumption—false at least for the United States—that most Catholics are already (more or less) opposed to the death penalty, and therefore, that it is an obvious place to commence the official program of “renovating” the Church’s morality, while not ruffling too many feathers. He sees that if this change to the Catechism is accepted, it will be relatively easy to proceed to the other issues mentioned above: a change in the Catechism on homosexuality, a change on contraception, a change on conditions for admission to Holy Communion, a change on women’s ordination, and so forth.

    Whether Francis is a formal heretic—that is, fully aware that what he is teaching on capital punishment is contrary to Catholic doctrine, and proves pertinacious in maintaining his position in spite of rebuke—is a matter to be adjudicated by the College of Cardinals. No doubt exists, however, that orthodox bishops of the Catholic Church must oppose this doctrinal error and refuse to use the altered edition of the Catechism or any catechetical materials based on it.

    May St. Alphonsus Liguori, patron saint of moral theologians, whose feast is celebrated on August 1st and August 2nd, intercede for the Pope and for the entire Catholic Church, that the Lord in His mercy may quickly end this period of doctrinal chaos.

  6. Will NuChurch individuals and institutions have to get labels with FrankenPope’s “developed” teaching on the death penalty to cover the existing label with JP2’s 1995 restriction of capital punishment which covers the original text of paragraph 2267 in their copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Just as the Soviet Union printed an article on the Bering Sea to cover that in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia on “Beria, Lavrenty” – Stalin’s head of the Secret Police arrested and executed for treason after the death of the “Man of Steel” in 1953!

  7. Church Militant’s Mikey Voris in effect says,”It’s no big deal” on his Twitter, but Hilary White on her WUW(What’s Up With)Francis-Church Twitter gives him an earfull!

    Hat-tip to Canon212: “VORIS: DON’T LET THIS FRANCISHERESY DISTRACT YOU FROM MY PERVERT BISHOPS CAMPAIGN!”

    @Michael_Voris
    8:25 AM – 2 Aug 2018

    Dont be distracted by death penalty story. Keep ur eye on the ball. Episcopal Sodomy must be brought to an end. THAT is the only story that matters. Nothing else. Deflection. Distraction. Practically no one is effected by the death penalty. Everyone is impacted by Episcopal Sodomy.

    WUWFrancis-Church?

    @WUWTS – 3 hours ago

    Replying to @Michael_Voris
    Mike, I want you to picture me saying this to you over a beer, slowly and sincerely: the pope formally promulgating heresy is RELATED to the problem of Episcopal Sodomy. They are related. You can’t ignore one while you fight the other one.

    @WUWTS – 3 hours ago

    The whole Church is going to be “impacted” (not a verb, btw) by a pope making himself into an antipope by attempting to formally and pertinaciously deny a de fide doctrine.

    @WUWTS – 3 hours ago

    Spending five years trying to ignore this elephant [FrankenPope – AQ Tom] in the drawing room is corroding your credibility. I say this as a friend and a fan.

  8. Playing politics with doctrine quite shamelessly, the Pope has presented a personal opinion as if it were the official teaching of the Catholic Church and is now binding on Catholics. This is false. Catholic teaching on this has not changed. Official moral teachings of the Catholic faith are NOT based on the personal opinions of popes.

    The issue is not matter of faith. It is based on reason and natural law. There should be very limited circumstances where the death penalty is sought and subject to strict conditions. The reckless reliance on capital punishment by secular totalitarian dictatorships is immoral and imprudent. Non-Catholics and non-Christians, lacking the full powers of reason informed by Catholic teaching and natural law ethics should NOT be permitted to impose capital punishment. Just as an example, Hillary Clinton and her followers could not justly employ the death penalty against Donald Trump supporters and Christian conservatives because they disliked their political views.

    Also, the use of the death penalty by crazy liberals and secular humanists against unborn children is gravely immoral.

  9. Pope Francis and the death penalty: another dose of confusion

    By Phil Lawler | Aug 02, 2018

    Once again Pope Francis has given the world reason to believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church can and will change.

    Was the Pope’s decision to revise the Catechism’s teaching on the death penalty a change in Church teaching, or a development of existing doctrine? Theologians may debate the point, but the vast majority of Catholics, receiving their information from the secular media, will hear about a change—a clear break from previous Church teaching.

    Nor can we blame the secular media for distortion, because if the Holy Father has not actually contradicted the teaching upheld by the Church for centuries, he has all but contradicted it, certainly casting doubt upon it. Again.

    Before delving further into the teachings (new and old) on the death penalty, let me say that I have little sympathy for any Catholics who are outraged by today’s announcement, but were not troubled by Amoris Laetitia. In that earlier document, Pope Francis cast into doubt the Church’s teachings on the permanence of marriage and on the nature of the Eucharist—questions that are far more central to the Catholic faith and to the sacramental life of the Church. Faithful Catholics can and do take differing stands on the appropriate use of capital punishment. But the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our faith, and the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of Christian marriage can be traced directly to the words of Jesus Himself.

    Even the new wording of the Catechism, as approved by Pope Francis, does not quite require Catholics to disapprove of the death penalty in all circumstances. The Pope’s new language does not contradict the time-honored Church teaching that the state has the authority to invoke the death penalty in appropriate circumstances. (That traditional teaching was clearly upheld, in the same section 2267 of the Catechism, even after Pope John Paul II called for a tighter restriction on executions.)

    Nor does the revised Catechism teach that the use of capital punishment is intrinsically immoral. So when liberal Catholic activists argue, as they inevitably will, that politicians who support the death penalty should be judged as harshly as those who support abortion and euthanasia, they will be distorting the Church’s teaching. Again.

    To explain the new teaching that the death penalty is now “inadmissible,” the revised section of the Catechism cites no authority other than Pope Francis himself, in a speech he delivered last year. It does, however, offer three justifications for the change:

    First, the text asserts that “there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.” No evidence is introduced for this “increasing awareness,” and skeptics might argue that the 21st century shows very little respect for the dignity of the person. Indeed the skeptics might cite the speeches of Pope Francis, in his condemnations of the “throwaway society.”

    Second, the text claims that “a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.” Again the reality of this “new understanding” might be called into question. More to the point, the Catechism does not explain what this “new understanding” is, or how it leads to a tougher stand against capital punishment.

    Third and most important, the revised text states that “more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens…” But what if it can be shown that modern jails do not provide adequate protection for innocent citizens? Then, it would seem, this argument would not apply, and the traditional justification for the death penalty would remain in force.

    Thus the Pope’s argument rests on the assertion that modern penal systems are sufficient to safeguard society without recourse to execution. Is that true? It seems obvious, to me, that good Catholics could debate the question. More to the point, it seems obvious that this is a prudential judgment—a political judgment—which should be left to the appropriate civil authorities.

    In short an advocate of capital punishment could—admittedly with a great deal of difficulty—make the case that even this revised passage of the Catechism leaves room for Catholics to support the use of the death penalty in some circumstances. Still no one could deny that the new text provides a sharp contrast with, say, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which proclaimed unequivocally that authorities have a right and duty to execute criminals who endanger society, particularly murderers. The 1566 Catechism said about the death penalty:

    The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder.

    In announcing the change in the Catechism on August 2, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said that the new text is “in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine.” In putting forward that argument he sounded very much like his predecessor, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who had done his best to convince the public that Amoris Laetitia was in continuity with the Church’s previous teachings on the indissolubility of marriage. Apparently the job responsibilities of the Vatican’s top doctrinal official now include an occasional effort to persuade the world that the Pope isn’t really changing what the Church teaches.

    But despite the cardinal’s best efforts, that is exactly what the world will believe: that Pope Francis, acting unilaterally, has changed the teachings of the Church. More specifically, he has changed the Catechism. And if the Catechism’s teaching on the death penalty can be changed today, why couldn’t some other controversial teaching—on the ordination of women, or the nature of marriage, or the intrinsic immorality of euthanasia—be changed tomorrow?

    Learned theologians can answer those questions. But the world is not full of learned theologians. Today, the world is full of confusion—to which Pope Francis has contributed. Again.

    • FrankenPope on capital punishment: doctrine built on shifting sands?

      By Phil Lawler | Aug 03, 2018

      How can a fixed moral principle be dependent on a contingent practical judgment? How can a doctrine be based on shifting circumstances?

      The Pope can say—indeed Pope John Paul II did say—that it is always wrong, in every case, deliberately to take the life of an innocent human being. But if he values logical consistency, he cannot say that it is always wrong to take an innocent life under current political conditions. Because political conditions change.

      Yet in the language that he has inserted into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis appears to teach that the death penalty is always unjust—“inadmissible”—because of certain political and social developments. We’ll take a closer look at that argument below. (I have already made a few comments on the explanatory paragraph, in a column posted yesterday [see above reply].)

      Cardinal José Gomez of Los Angeles, in a Twitter comment on the Pope’s announcement, offered his own version of the case for change:

      The Church has come to understand that from a practical standpoint, governments now have the ability to protect society and punish criminals without executing violent offenders.

      Expressed in those terms, the change in teaching prompts a number of questions:

      ~If a doctrine is based on a “practical” judgment, who should make that judgment? If it is primarily a political judgment, should it not be made by political leaders?

      ~Do all governments have the ability to protect innocent civilians effectively? If not, how can capital punishment be “inadmissible” in all cases?

      ~Who should decide what constitutes adequate protection for civilians? Again, is that not clearly a political judgment?

      ~What would happen if, “from a practical standpoint,” governments lost the ability to protect civilians? Would the Church teaching on capital punishment be changed again?

      Archbishop Gomez, in a series of Twitter comments, observed that the Church “has always recognized that governments and civil authorities have the right to carry out executions in order to protect their citizens’ lives and punish those guilty of the gravest crimes against human life and the stability of the social order.” He appears to believe that Pope Francis has left that time-honored teaching intact; in fact the archbishop acknowledges that “many good people will continue to believe that our society needs the death penalty…” But is that an accurate reading of the new section in the Catechism?

      Section 2266 of the Catechism, which was revised by Pope John Paul II in 1997, originally said that “the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.” Can we conclude, then, that in some circumstances, despite the new language, capital punishment might be admissible?

      The language of the amended 2267 seems to foreclose that possibility: “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…” Notice the use of the past tense: execution was considered justifiable. So has the traditional teaching been changed?

      Recall that in 1997, St. John Paul II amended the Catechism to say that while capital punishment might in theory be justifiable, the circumstances that might allow for execution “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” That is the section of the Catechism that Pope Francis has now replaced.

      Is it possible to accept the teaching of Pope John Paul II, to oppose the use of capital punishment in most current circumstances, and yet to believe that Pope Francis has taken the argument a dangerous step beyond the reach of appropriate Church teaching? I certainly hope that position is legitimate, because that is exactly the position I myself would take. Writing in First Things, Edward Feser defends that stand: “One does not need to support capital punishment to worry that Pope Francis may have gone too far.” Feser cites the late Cardinal Avery Dulles and Archbishop Charles Chaput as examples of Catholic leaders who oppose the use of the death penalty in current conditions, while recognizing that it could be justifiable under other circumstances.

      If Pope Francis had intended only to encourage opposition to the death penalty, he had no need to alter the language of the Catechism. The language of Pope John Paul already provided ample support for that cause. But whereas Pope John Paul had left open the possibility that some circumstances—“very rare, if not practically nonexistent”—might justify execution, Pope Francis wanted to slam that door.

      And why did the Pontiff make that change? Again, the language of section 2267 itself provides three explanations*:

      1. Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.

      2. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.

      3. 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.

      The first sentence seems to suggest that our society has gained a keener appreciation of human dignity than obtained in previous generations. The overwhelming preponderance of evidence—along with the teaching of several Popes, including Francis—weighs heavily in the opposite direction, showing that our society has become increasingly callous in its disregard for human dignity. In fact it is for that very reason that I would generally oppose the use of the death penalty, in the hope that by allowing a depraved criminal to live, society might bear witness against the growing tendency to eliminate inconvenient human life. In an excellent National Review article, Kevin Williamson explains:

      Mercy does not consist of forbearing to impose the ultimate sanction on those who do not deserve it—that is simply the avoidance of active injustice—but rather in forbearing to impose the ultimate sanction on those who do deserve it.

      The second sentence of the new Catechism text is, frankly, opaque. I have no idea what, if anything, it means. What is this new understanding? What is the (new?) significance of penal sanctions?

      The third sentence, however, makes the critical judgment that “more effective systems of detention” allow for the elimination of the death penalty. In what countries are these wonderful new penal systems in force? In China, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia? Obviously not. So the circumstances that explain the Pope’s change in Church teaching do not occur in the countries which account for at least 98% of all the world’s state-sponsored executions!

      •—The numbering of these sentences is mine, not found in the official text.

  10. FrankenPope Changes Catechism – Believes That The Church Was Wrong Until He Came

    en.news – 8/2/18

    Pope Francis has attempted to “change” the Catechism to definitively oppose the death penalty.

    Vatican.va (August 2) published a new text declaring that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel” that the death penalty is “inadmissible” in all cases. There is no evidence that the Gospel deems the death penalty to be inadmissible as such.

    Rom 13,1-7 definitely recognises the power of the government to institute capital punishment where appropriate.

    Francis contradicts the teaching of the Bible and the Church that the death penalty is in itself morally legitimate, independently from the question of whether, in a concrete situation, it is practically opportune to perform it.

    In an explanatory letter, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, calls the wrong teaching an “authentic development” of doctrine that is allegedly “not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.”

    This is another example of why Francis pontificate cannot be taken seriously.

  11. This is the worst thing that Pope Francis has done yet. Kill a person. Kill 40, 50, or 100. And get three hots and a cot, access to a gym, library, porn, hang out with your friends and now … your own iPad/tablet! binaryapi.ap.org/be547a352f75466888f38c92726f773a/268f151/AP18205022875668.jpg?ver=1 Some deterrent! Especially when the life on the outside for many of these folks is worse. You kill someone not in a state of grace, youve condemned them to hell. Thats like killing them twice.

    I dont have any need for vengeance, or love of the suffering inflicted by capital punishment. But to have one person 6-ft. under worm food while the other person breathing air and living a cushy lifestyle .. is just not just. Whatever happened to plain old justice?
    Horrific! Shame!!

  12. True Catholic teaching is not determined by taking an opinion of survey of whichever modernist happens to be occupying the papal throne at the moment and asking his opinion on various Catholic teachings, doctrines, and rules. Catholic teachings are not based on the pope’s opinions or on what he might like Catholic teaching to be. This is not how Catholic teaching works.

    With the ambiguous weasel word “inadmissible” the Pope asserts that his own will determines what Catholic teaching is. This is false and heretical. This is not the Catholic teaching on capital punishment. If the Holy Father is claiming some private revelation on the issue, then there should be a commission to investigate his claims of having a private revelation to change the death penalty. Catholic teachings are not based on the opinions, wishes, or fantasies of the occupant of the papal throne. Now every Catholic moral theologian, bishop, priest, and natural law scholar should stand up and say so.

    For the good of the Church and of the Catholic faith, orthodox Catholic bishops and theologians should stand up and proclaim fraternal correction of the Pope and then call upon him to abdicate and retire to a life of silence and prayer.

  13. Heresy in the Catechism. Wolf in the Vatican. No Shepherds in Sight.

    Steve Skojec August 2, 2018

    Just as the latest round of homosexual network and sex abuse allegations in the Church are reaching a fever pitch, Pope Francis – who has been eerily quiet of late – dropped a nuclear theological bomb into our midst.

    From Crux:

    According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the death penalty now is no longer admissible under any circumstances.

    The Vatican announced on Thursday Pope Francis approved changes to the compendium of Catholic teaching published under Pope John Paul II.

    “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church now says on the death penalty, adding that the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

    As I have previously attempted to demonstrate, this is simply theologically wrong. There’s no way around that. But I wanted the opinion of an expert – which I am not – so I reached out this morning to a trustworthy theologian who is well versed in the finer distinctions of Magisterial authority and its limits. This was the response I received:

    The traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on the intrinsic morality of the death penalty is irreformable dogma. To deny this or assert the contrary is formally heretical. Catholics remain obliged to believe and accept this doctrine regardless of any changes to the Catechism.

    What does it mean to say that this is “formally heretical”?

    1. Formal versus material heresy. This is a distinction pertaining to the objective status of doctrinal propositions. A heresy is any proposition opposed to any dogma. Two things are required for a doctrine to be dogma: (1) it must be contained in divine revelation and (2) it must be proposed as such by the Church (either by solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal magisterium). If both of these requirements are met, then the doctrine is a formal dogma, and the denial of such a dogma is a formal heresy. If a doctrine is contained in divine revelation but has not yet been proposed as such by the Church, then it can be called a “material dogma”. Such was the case with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the patristic and medieval periods. Material heresy is the denial of a material dogma.

    2. Formal versus material heretic. This is a distinction pertaining to the subjective culpability of persons. A heretic is a person who believes or teaches heresy. A material heretic is a person who believes or teaches something which is objectively a heresy; a formal heretic is one who continues to do so obstinately after having been duly corrected.

    So in the case of the dogma of the intrinsic morality of the death penalty, the denial of this dogma is formally heretical, since it contradicts a doctrine which is contained in divine revelation and which has been proposed as such by the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church. The person who denies this dogma is a material heretic simply in virtue of his denial; but he is not formally a heretic unless he persists in his denial after having been duly corrected.

    What is so absurd about this moment in the Church is that to simply reiterate Church teaching in the face of it being contradicted from the highest office is so dangerous for a theologian in full communion that I am compelled to protect this person’s identity.

    I don’t know what to add to the above. We are way off the map at this point in rough and uncharted waters. I began arguing that the Galatians 2 moment had arrived back when Francis had given the green light for eugenic contraception in 2016. Things have only gotten worse since.

    Bishops of the world, if you are orthodox and you care at all about the faith or the souls being lost due to the relentless barrage of scandal and error coming from Rome, you have a moral duty to correct this pope.

    Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Brandmüller, Cardinal Müller, Bishop Schneider – your names come first to mind, but there are others. Hiding out and making oblique references to what his happening and condemning errors without discussing their source is not sufficient in the eyes of the faithful. The scandal of this pope is only compounded by the absolute lack of confrontation on the part of our bishops who will not rebuke this disaster by name, to the face, as St. Paul did to St. Peter in Galatians 2:11.

    Dom Prosper Guéranger wrote that “[w]hen the shepherd becomes a wolf, the first duty of the flock is to defend itself.”

    Are you really going to force us to do this alone?

  14. Once again the former convert, ex-Catholic, recovering Methodist writer at The American Conservative has done a grave disservice to his readers in writing an article about the Pope and the death penalty, never once explaining that Bergoglio is a modernist who promotes the modernist heresy and 1970s Commonweal situation ethics ( heresy) or distinguishing between Bergoglio as a progressive modernist heretic who was a Jesuit during the era of the modernist insurgency and the orthodox Catholic Thomism of the Society of Jesus before Vatican II (which was and is quite different), leading to much confusion and anti-Catholic distortions, no doubt to rationalize his own apostasy and anti-Catholic confusion which you might expect from an uneducated Protestant who knows NOTHING of Catholic history or the lived experience of the true Catholic faith.
    www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/pope-bans-death-penalty/

    Facts:
    Pope Francis is NOT a Catholic but a modernist heretic who promotes the modernist heresy.

    Catholic teaching has not changed. A modernist heretic has engaged in the sacrilege and blasphemy of using the papal office and the office of the priesthood to promote heresy.
    You can describe Bergoglio now as a type of liberal Protestant of the Bultmann type.
    The scandals of the Bergoglio era are not those of the Catholic faith but of the heresy of modernism and the heretical movement of situation ethics.

    All of these facts are available from consulting an informed Catholic over 50 or by spending some time in a good library. Who exactly is the religion editor over at The American Conservative???

    MODERNISM: Read and Learn
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism_in_the_Catholic_Church

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_ethics

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_K%C3%BCng

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Curran_(theologian)

  15. Catechism’s revision is instance of ‘true dogmatic progress,’ NuVatican prelate says

    Catholic World News – August 03, 2018

    The president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization said that the revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty is an instance of “true dogmatic progress … that has gradually matured to the point of making us understand the unsustainability of the death penalty in our day.”

    Archbishop Rino Fisichella made his remarks in a front-page column in the August 3 Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano.

    After reviewing the development of the revised text, Archbishop Fisichella commented on the key sentence: “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” The prelate said:

    Guarding the deposit of faith does not mean mummifying it but rendering it ever more conformed to its very nature and permitting the truth of faith to be able to respond to the questions of every generation. The Tradition is not representable as an insect imprisoned in amber, to say it in a colorful English expression. If that were the case, we would have destroyed it. The teaching of the faith of the Church, rather, is an announcement, a word that remains alive…

    Pope Francis thus takes a decisive step in the interpretation of the doctrine of all time. And it is a development and a progress in the understanding of the Gospel that opens horizons that had remained in the shadow. The history of dogma does not live in discontinuity, but in continuity aimed at progress through a harmonious development which, in a dynamic manner, makes the truth of all time to emerge.

    “To suppress a human life voluntarily is contrary to Christian revelation,” the prelate concluded, as he spoke of the importance of allowing everyone the opportunity to convert, repent, and begin a new life. “To aim at pardon and redemption is the challenge that the Church is called to make as a commitment of the new evangelization.”

  16. Killing Capital Punishment: Francis vs. the Catholic Church

    Written by Christopher A. Ferrara – 8/2/18

    The Latest Addition to the Bergoglian Pseudo-Magisterium…

    null

    For the past five years the Church has suffered under a Pope who actually believes that the Magisterium is literally whatever he thinks. To quote his own admission in this regard, made during one of his infamous interviews: “I’m constantly making statements, giving homilies. That’s magisterium. That’s what I think, not what the media say that I think. Check it out; it’s very clear.”

    It occurs to me that a “magisterium” one is urged to “check out” might have a rather ephemeral quality quite inconsistent with the concept of the Magisterium rightly understood. And now the ephemeral, which is to say fake, magisterium of Jorge Mario Bergoglio—the name he insisted must still appear on his passport—has expanded again. This time Bergoglio tells us what he thinks about capital punishment. And what he thinks is that the death penalty is per se immoral.

    So, as the press happily reported, Bergoglio decided he would “change Church teaching” to suit his view—just as he pronounced “authentic Magisterium” his view that certain public adulterers should be granted absolution and admitted to Holy Communion while continuing to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage.

    Accordingly, today the Vatican published an announcement that Francis has approved a “new text” for § 2267 of the Catechism of John Paul II. It reads as follows:

    The Death Penalty:

    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.

    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.

    Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, [1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

    Notice how the constant teaching of Magisterium on the moral legitimacy of the death penalty is deliberately concealed behind the vague phrase “long considered an appropriate response” to capital crimes, as if a Catholic teaching rooted in Revelation were some sort of passing popular sentiment.

    In order to dress up his personal opinion, by which he purports to declare immoral what the Church has always defended as morally licit, Bergoglio’s text offers the feeblest of rationales amounting to little more than a few empty phrases: “an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes… a new understanding… of the significance of penal sanctions…more effective systems of detention…”

    First of all, the Church did not lack an awareness of the relation between human dignity and crime before Bergoglio’s arrival from Buenos Aires. In fact, God Almighty seems to have been under the impression that human dignity actually requires capital punishment for the crime of murder: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man (Gen 9:6).” And God evidently had human dignity in mind when, in the 20th chapter of Leviticus, He dictated to Moses the death penalty for human sacrifice and other grave offenses against the divine and natural law.

    Then too there is Christ’s own affirmation to Pilate that he had authority from above to impose capital punishment, as well as the Good Thief’s recognition that his punishment was just—precisely a sign of the humility and repentance that saved his soul.

    But then, what God has revealed seems to have little impact on the thinking of Jorge Bergoglio. Check it out!

    Unlike Bergoglio, the Magisterium adheres to the will of God in defending capital punishment. Thus, for example, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, echoing Genesis 9, declared: “The use of the civil sword, when wielded by the hand of justice, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this commandment which prohibits murder.” Four centuries later, Ven. Pope Pius XII reaffirmed this invariant teaching: “Even when it is a question of someone condemned to death, the state does not dispose of an individual’s right to life. It is then the task of public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life, in expiation of his fault, after he has already deprived himself of the right to life by his crime.” (AAS, 1952, pp. 779 et. seq).

    As to the supposed “new understanding… of the significance of penal sanctions,” what is gratuitously asserted without the least explanation may be just as gratuitously rejected. We have no idea what this means, nor should we care.

    The contention that “more effective systems of detention” somehow render capital punishment immoral is about as firm a foundation for a purported “new” moral teaching as a slab of wet pound cake, and just as easily demolished. The mere civil capacity for detention of convicted killers does not eliminate just retribution and expiation as legitimate aims of penal law, as Pius XII makes clear in the teaching cited above.

    Moreover, what of the many places where “systems of detention” are inadequate to ensure public safety? Is the death penalty inadmissible even in such places, where murderers­— by paying bribes, for example—can rather easily escape and claim more victims? And what would Bergoglio have to say about prisoners who kill guards or inmates even in the most modern “systems of detention”? How has the State “ensured the due protection of citizens” when killers are able to kill again? What nonsense.

    The notion that modern “systems of detention” provide means of “redemption” more consistent with human dignity is laughable. The maximum-security prisons in which murderers, including serial killers, must be confined are generally sinkholes of violence and sexual depravity—literally hell on earth.

    Finally, based on nothing but a single address by Bergoglio to a meeting of the Pontifical Academy for the New Evangelization, constituting the one and only footnote, the new text concludes: “Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’, [1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

    “The Church” teaches nothing of the kind. Only Bergoglio does. According to his novel opinion, for nearly 2,000 years the Magisterium, in fidelity to the word of God, has defended as morally licit what he now denounces as “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” This absurd claim cannot be treated as if it were really Church teaching. If it were, there would be no Magisterium as such but only the views of whoever happens to occupy the Chair of Peter at a given moment in history. As Rorate Caeli observes: “If such a certain doctrine of the Church (of the possibility of the death penalty at least in some situations), affirmed by Christ Himself… can be changed, then anything can be changed.”

    Meanwhile, the same Pope who calls for the worldwide abolition of capital punishment for the guilty has never called for the worldwide abolition of capital punishment for innocents in the womb, who are not afforded even the most minimal due process before their lives are snuffed out by the millions. Bergoglio remained silent even when mass murder of the unborn was about to be legalized in Ireland. That tells us all we need to know about Bergoglio and his fake magisterium.

    May God soon deliver the Church from the clutches of this man and send us the holy and courageous Pope who will consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart and make a beginning to the end of this insanity.

  17. USCCCP welcomes revision of Catechism text on death penalty

    [AmChurch falls in line, including “conservative” bishops in Los Angeles, Venice, Florida, and all of Nebraska (see US bishops welcome change to Catechism on death penalty)! – AQ Tom]

    Catholic World News – 8/6/18

    The Vatican announced the revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty on August 2.

    • [LA’s Gomez make disinctions but not that it is a prudential (ergo, debatable) matter rather than “an authentic development of the Church’s doctrine” and using legal lingo (e.g., “inadmissible”) rather than theological (e.g., “intrinsically evil”) – see comment below]

      Los Angeles archbishop: Catechism is not equating capital punishment with evils of abortion, euthanasia

      Catholic World News – 8/6/18

      Archbishop José Gomez made his remarks in a statement welcoming the revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty.

      • The Papal Office is Damaged Badly, Very Badly

        By John Huggins – en.news – 8/6/18

        The only people that I know who use the word “inadmissible” is the secular legal community. They use it in procedural law to specify evidence or facts that cannot be introduced or permitted into the legal proceedings.

        So, why would the Roman Pontiff, as an official Petrine act (?), choose secular legal parlance, as opposed to theological parlance, to seemingly condemn capital punishment as immoral? An action of the state no less, who seem to enjoy divine authority in this one particular area?

        Everything that Pope Francis does is perpetually confusing because he seems to circumvent theological reality and canonical procedure in a way that you cannot convict him of error. Therefore he cannot bind you with his Pontifical acts because of the unorthodox (read: invalid) use of the Petrine prerogatives.

        What is manipulated on earth is not bound in heaven, what is confusing on earth is not bound in heaven, what is invalidly done on earth is not bound in heaven.

        What is the bigger picture here? It is not a matter of capital punishment, it is a matter of Church authority and the abuse and manipulation of it. What are we going to do when the smoke clears after he is gone?

        The papal office is damaged badly, very badly. It is to the point that very few will ever take it serious again. If the next Roman Pontiff does not aggressively take action and immediately begin to reverse, suppress and/or clarify this mess, then our generation is lost.

        It will be eventually rectified but it may take a few hundred years. Christ will keep His promise, but it may not look like what we originally thought.

        For the first time in 2,000 years we have learned that we do not exactly understand completely what precisely Christ meant when He said He would be with His Church and protect Her from error in faith and morals.

        Either Pope Francis is invalidly elected (which I do not hold) or Christ allows the Roman Pontiff to teach error in faith and morals outside of “solemn infallible definitions” key word “solemn” (see last two paragraphs First Vatican Council).

        Right now, Pope Francis has not used his office in a way that binds Catholics in the pew on anything.

        I would say that the majority of his major documents are “inadmissible”.

        And, that is probably the only “merciful” thing that has happened these last five plus years.

  18. Elimination of the death penalty weakens pro-life apologetics

    Fr. George William Rutler – FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 2018

    Many Americans dismissed Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he criticized the decadence of Western Culture. Others more recently ignored his plea for a restoration of the death penalty: “There are times when the state needs capital punishment in order to save society.” This is Christian doctrine. Since popes are preserved from essential error by “grace of state,” none has wrongly claimed authority to call capital punishment morally evil.
    “Development of doctrine” does not apply here.

    As the Church’s teaching on contraception cannot “develop” in a way that would declare its intrinsic evil to be good, so the right of a state to execute criminals cannot “develop” so that its intrinsic good becomes evil. For Cardinal John Henry Newman, development of doctrine involves “preservation of type.” Changes in the way a doctrine is expressed and applied cannot alter its essence.

    Some Catholics, who once pointed out the flaws in the “seamless garment” argument, now rush to put on that garment as though there has been a sudden development. By definition, the development of doctrine cannot happen overnight. The new edition of the Catechism revises the section on capital punishment. This was not a development of doctrine. It was, however, problematic for placing a prudential judgment in a catechetical text, more problematically so than in an encyclical like Evangelium Vitae. Paragraph 2266 of the Catechism names the primary consideration of retribution, but No. 2267 ignores it.

    That the vast majority of opinion has turned against capital punishment is irrelevant to the case and is not universally so. Nor is it universally so that penal systems have improved in a way that renders capital punishment unnecessary. There are many very different systems.

    There has been a development, not in essential doctrine, but in moral criticism. Here, I am edified by the fine scholastic logic of Justice Scalia, as when he identifies the mistaken modern equation of private morality and governmental morality.

    Catholics have distinguished between peace and pacifism. They disserve systematic theology when they fail to make a parallel distinction between the dignity of life and a total ban on capital punishment. The cogency of Catholic apologetics crumbles when reason is abandoned for sentimentality in consequence of philosophical idealism and subjectivism. We also may be witnessing here some tension between personal-ist phenomenology and Thomist realism.

    Absolute rejection of capital punishment weakens the cogency of pro-life apologetics. Some churchmen cite skewered statistics on the execution of innocent victims.

  19. FrankenPope Uses Junk Theology to End the Death Penalty

    MONICA MIGLIORINO MILLER – 8/6/18

    “One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out.”

    On August 2, Pope Francis altered the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) regarding the morality and application of the death penalty. The above quote is simply one of many statements the Holy Father has made condemning capital punishment as far back as October 2014.

    We must first examine the actual change, with close attention to the very choice of words in which condemnation of the death penalty is articulated. A close examination is required because very much may be at stake in terms of Catholic teaching, Catholic doctrinal tradition, the practice of the moral law, and affects to the future of the pro-life movement.

    Here are the three versions of the Catechism regarding the death penalty. The first 1992 edition taught:

    2266: Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. For analogous reasons those holding authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the community in their charge.

    The primary effect of punishment is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When the punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment has the effect of preserving public order and the safety of persons. Finally, punishment has a medicinal value; as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.

    2267: If non-lethal means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

    The 1997 2nd edition, Art. 2267 reaffirmed that: “the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor…” but added: “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined.” Consistent with the 1992 version it stated: “If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”

    Then the following paragraph was added:

    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”68

    This paragraph was added to reflect the teaching of John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae (EV) to which footnote 68 refers as the Church has progressively come to disfavor capital punishment. The moral licitness and even practice of the death penalty is upheld by the Church, while at the same time the 1997 Catechism encourages “non-lethal means” as such punishments are “more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.” The premise for the growing disfavoring of the application of capital punishment is well articulated in EV, Art 9: “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.” Simply put, the Church seeks to build a culture of life that includes respect even for those who commit the worst atrocities. Even so, John Paul II’s desire to advance respect for the lives of those who commit murder may have opened the door to the present pontiff’s change to the Catechism.

    The Bergoglio Text

    Here is the change Pope Francis has made to the CCC, Art. 2267:

    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.

    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.

    Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,”[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

    Footnote 1 refers to Francis’s October 2017 address at a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

    Both versions of the CCC have been scrapped and replaced with the above text. Most troubling is the complete absence of any recognition that the “traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty.” One may argue that the previous versions merely paid lip service to that tradition. But that’s just the point! When it comes to doctrinal proclamations words are everything! And at least the first two versions of the CCC did not ignore the fact that the application of the death penalty finds support in the Judeo/Christian religion as revealed by God.

    The New Inadmissible Practice

    The most important change comes in the sentence: “Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” The statement is doctrinally emphatic. It is the very Church that teaches that the death penalty is “inadmissible.” Previously the CCC merely advocated the non-application of the death penalty. Now the Church teaches that the practice is of itself “inadmissible.” This is a huge departure from previous teaching on the subject.

    The term “inadmissible” is new and presents considerable confusion. The word means something “not permitted,” “not allowed.” It is most often used in the context of something rejected based on a technicality. An application is “inadmissible” because it was not properly signed. Or the testimony of a witness is “inadmissible” because it was given under duress. The word is not part of Catholic doctrinal-theological tradition. Catholic moral theology treats actions as right or wrong, licit or illicit, moral or immoral, good or evil, holy or sinful, etc. No one would expect the Church to declare for instance that “adultery is inadmissible.”

    It is essential as to why the death penalty is inadmissible. It “is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” This can only mean capital punishment is inherently immoral. If the life of a murderer is “inviolable” then certainly the death penalty is intrinsically evil—not simply “inadmissible”! If this is true, then we are confronted with a reversal, a contradiction of the Church’s doctrinal tradition. Legitimate reasons exist to oppose the death penalty—Christian mercy towards transgressors being among them—but it cannot be opposed and deemed “inadmissible” because its application is of itself inherently immoral.

    Why should the pope use a term that tends toward ambiguity—a word that does not quite condemn capital punishment directly? No doubt it is because the Holy Father knows he cannot say the death penalty is inherently immoral without being accused of contradicting the Faith.

    The pope is sensitive to that accusation and anticipated it. In the October 2017 speech he defended his teaching by arguing that the Church’s practice of the death penalty was historically conditioned: “in past centuries, when faced with a poverty of instruments of defense and social maturity had not yet reached a positive development, recourse to the death penalty appeared as the logical consequence of the application of justice which had to be adhered to” and was “dictated more by a legalistic than a Christian mentality.”

    The Holy Father appears to accuse the Church of endorsing and engaging in an immoral practice, as the necessity of the times caused her to compromise the Gospel.

    The New Pastoral Effects

    The pope has created a situation with far-reaching pastoral implications. If the death penalty “attacks” the “inviolability of the person,” then it is a sin. Yet in 2004 Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarified: “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” and should a Catholic support the death penalty “he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.”

    But if according to Bergoglio’s Art. 2267, the execution of criminals “attacks the inviolability of the person” then it must be sin, when before it was not sin. What then becomes of the clarification of Ratzinger in light of the new teaching? Should for instance Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska go to confession as he supports and will oversee the August 14th execution of convicted murderer Carey Dean Moore? These are the nearly unprecedented questions now facing the Church.

    Whose Lives Are Inviolable?

    Also unprecedented is the use of the term “inviolable” in reference to the lives of those who have committed grave crimes. It is true that all human life is sacred—even the lives of those who commit murder—sacred in the sense that such persons continue their inherent worth as they are made in the image of God. In the doctrinal tradition of the Church that specific term “inviolable” is used to characterize the status of the innocent. For instance John Paul II taught in EV, Art. 57:

    If such great care must be taken to respect every life, even that of criminals and unjust aggressors, the commandment “You shall not kill” has absolute value when it refers to the innocent person… In effect, the absolute inviolability of innocent human life is a moral truth … constantly upheld in the Church’s Tradition and consistently proposed by her Magisterium.

    The saint then declared as infallible teaching that any direct assault on innocent persons is gravely immoral.

    In order for Pope Francis to declare the death penalty “inadmissible” he applied the term “inviolable” to the lives of those guilty of heinous crimes. The Church has not traditionally used this term to designate the moral status of such criminals. Their crimes cause them to forfeit this “inviolability” as is the case with unjust aggressors, thus rendering capital punishment not inherently evil as the new Art. 2267 suggests it is.

    The crusade against the death penalty is consistent with the Christian call for mercy and this theologian supports this opposition. It may indeed be “of the Gospel” in a way that execution of criminals is not. Its practice is not obligatory. Even God spared Cain and Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery. It would be more legitimate to argue that opposition to it is a development of the Church’s pastoral practice, rather than a genuine “development of doctrine.” The Church’s doctrinal tradition that affirms capital punishment is not inherently immoral and the Church has a duty to say so when she proclaims her doctrine on so serious a subject.

    The Church has never taught that the lives of those who commit heinous murder are “inviolable” or that the death penalty is “not permitted.” This is all new. The culture of life may be advanced by the Bergoglio innovation, as well as the practice of the Gospel—but a junk theology has been foisted on the People of God in order to get us there.

  20. Ross Douthat – FrankenPope pushed the JPII synthesis into intellectual crisis

    Lisi Sterndorfer via Gloria.TV – 8/2/18

    Ross Douthat explains on twitter the development of the teaching of the Catholic Church on the death penalty (from tweets on his Twitter)

    The starting point for the current debate is that historically the church has clearly accepted the DP (death penalty) as licit. To describe it as an intrinsic evil would therefore reverse past teaching.

    There are anti-death penalty Catholic thinkers who argue that past teaching on this question was real but not authoritative/infallible, and therefore a reversal is possible.

    The approach that the Vatican has taken since John Paul II has not gone this far, however. Instead, the pope and the catechism made a prudential argument for the abolition of the death penalty in modern wealthy societies, on grounds that it was unnecessary for societal safety.

    This effectively sidestepped the debate about whether the DP was intrinsically evil by seeking recourse in a kind of consequentialism: It might be okay to use it to protect society in some situations but probably not in modern conditions.

    This move never seemed terribly coherent to me, since it didn’t really address the fact that past church teaching had implied that the death penalty was retributively *just* and not merely a form of societal self-defense. But it did not amount to a reversal of past teaching.

    Now we have new language that seems to go further, describing the death penalty as “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” and urging its worldwide abolition.

    That looks more like reversal. And yet — if you read the preamble to the change, there’s still talk about how the change reflects the fact that “more effective systems of detention have been developed.” And “inadmissible” is not the same (or is it?) as “intrinsically evil.”

    So you could argue — and some will — that we’re still stopping sort of reversal, that the church is still emphasizing modern conditions to make a prudential argument rather than an absolute one — even though some of its language is absolutizing.

    But anyone arguing for continuity has to recognize that at the very least this kind of shift turns the traditional teaching into a sort of hermetic secret, available to ppl who read extremely carefully but invisible in the normal public teaching of the church.

    Which is also the effective pattern in other arenas — like divorce — where Francis has sought to shift a teaching without formally using the language of reversal. You can argue that constant teaching remains constant, but no normal person listening to popes would think that.

    Another way to see this is that on both the death penalty and divorce, the JPII synthesis stretched the claim of continuity — with a prudential anti-death penalty arg that *sounded* absolute, and a liberal annulment policy — without making a formal break.

    Now Francis is going further, doing something dramatic enough to be described as “development of doctrine” or a “new paradigm” — but still preserving a touch of deniability on the definitiveness of the change, in which continuitarians can take refuge.

    In this case there may be less uproar, because conservative Catholics (see Brugger or Robert George or others) are less certain and more divided about the authoritativeness of past teaching on DP than they are about remarriage.

    And speaking only for myself prudential arguments for opposing the death penalty seem more reasonable than prudential arguments for a truce w/the divorce revolution, and the DP seems less central to church teaching than marriage, so this shift is less personally faith-shaking.

    But the bottom line is that this is another example of how Pope Francis has consistently exposed the tensions in the post-Vatican II conservative position, and pushed the JPII synthesis into intellectual crisis.

  21. It is a bit deeper than that and beyond whatever “conservative Catholics” from Opus Dei may be piecing together in Ivory Towers. Modernism was already in a serious crisis BEFORE Pope Francis arrived on center stage. Bergoglio is actually just the fulfilment of the modernist heresy and situation ethics from 1960s and 1970s Commonweal and the Spirit of Vatican II. JP2’s pro-life Orthodoxy Lite was just a Band-Aid on Vatican II and where the crisis of the modernist heresy stood under Pope Paul VI. McCarrick’s alleged homo pederasty molestations occurred in 1969 and 1971 when Paul VI was Pope and the Spirit of Vatican II was swinging into high gear. It’s not like everything was fine and then all of the sudden this crazy left-wing modernist Jesuit from South America became pope and materialized situation ethics out of thin air. Bergoglio brought to the papal throne what the Hans Küng, Charles Curran, and Richard McBrien types had been preaching for decades. Progressive modernism and situation ethics didn’t just pop out of Bergoglio’s cap. It is more like Land O’Lakes invaded the papacy. Bergoglio wants to secularize the whole Church on the model of the 1967 Land O’Lakes conference. What that did to Notre Dame and Georgetown, Bergoglio seeks for the whole Catholic Church. The Escrivá initiates can’t stop it and some of them have even jumped aboard the Modernism Express.


    It is not going to stop with marriage and the death penalty. Birth control and sexual morality are next. Get ready.

    Pope Francis is essentially a liberal Protestant of the Bultmann type. He is demythologizing Catholic moral theology in the style of 1960s “death of God” theology which ran through seminaries and divinity schools in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, Bergoglio himself is a product of that era and the modernist heresy which dominated it. He is a retro throwback to 1960s and 1970s progressive liberal modernism ( a heresy).

  22. Liberalism Is A Sin stresses St. Thomas Aquinas’ grave warning about heresy. It is a mortal sin in which are encompassed ALL sins and it is the most damnable of sins insofar as it carries the heretic to the most extreme separation from God possible.

  23. (FROM LIBERALISM IS A SIN, pdf.)
    /
    CHAPTER 4
    /
    THE GRAVITY OF THE SIN OF LIBERALISM
    /
    Liberalism is a mortal sin. But Catholic theology teaches us that all sins are not equally grave, that there is even a distinction of degree in venial sins. There are also degrees in the category of mortal sin, (27) just as there are in the category of meritorious works. The gravity of sin is determined by the object at which it strikes. Blasphemy, for instance, which directly attacks God Himself, is a sin of much graver character than theft, which directly attacks man. With the exception of formal hate against God, which constitutes the deadliest of all sins and of which the creature is rarely culpable unless he be in Hell, the gravest of all sins are those against faith. The reason is evident. Faith is the foundation of the supernatural order, and sin is sin in so far as it attacks this supernatural order at this or the other point; hence that is the greatest sin which attacks this order at its very foundations. To destroy the foundations is to destroy the entire superstructure. To cut off the branch of a tree will not kill it; but to lay the ax to the trunk or the roots is fatal to its life. Henceforth it bears neither blossom nor fruit. St. Augustine, Cited by St. Thomas, characterizes sin against faith in these words: Hoc est peccatum quo tenentur cuncta peccata. “This the sin which comprehends all other sins.”
    /
    The Angel of the Schools expresses himself with his usual clearness on this point: “The gravity of sin is determined by the interval which it places between man and (28) God; now sin against faith, divides man from God as far as possible, since it deprives him of the true knowledge of God; it therefore follows that sin against faith is the greatest of all sins.”
    When sin against faith is simply a culpable privation of the knowledge of God, it has not the same gravity as a direct and formal attack upon dogmas expressly defined by revelation. In this latter case sin against faith, so grave in itself, acquires that degree of gravity which constitutes heresy. It then contains all the malice of infidelity, and becomes an express protestation against the teachings of faith or an express adhesion to a teaching which is condemned as false and erroneous by the faith itself. Besides the deadly sin against faith itself, it is accompanied by hardness of heart, obstinacy, and the proud preference for one’s own reason over the reason of God Himself.
    /
    Hence heretical doctrines, and works inspired by them, constitute the greatest of all sins with the exception of the formal hate against God, of which only the demons in hell and the damned are capable. Liberalism then, which is heresy, and all the works of Liberalism, which are heretical works, are the gravest sins known in the code of the Christian law. (29)
    Liberalism is, therefore, a greater sin than blasphemy, theft, adultery, homicide, or any other violation of the law of God, save in such case as where one acts in good faith, in ignorance, or thoughtlessly.
    /
    It is true that modern naturalism does not so regard or understand the case. But the law of the Church in matters of morals and doctrine is unchangeable; it ordains today as it did yesterday, and heresy is always heresy no matter what the shape it takes. Appearances may be fair, and the devil may present himself as an Angel of light. The danger is the greater as the outward show is more seductive. Heresy has never been so insidious as under its present form of Liberalism. Its range is so wide that it touches upon every note in the scale, and finds an easy disguise in its protean facilities. But its most fatal shaft is in its plea for “liberty of mind.” This in its own eyes is its cardinal virtue. “Intellectual freedom from dogmatism” is its boast, a boast in reality the mask of ignorance and pride. To meet such an enemy requires no ordinary courage guarded by a sleepless vigilance. When encountered it is obligatory upon the Catholic conscience to resist it with all the powers of the soul. Heresy and all its works are sins; Liberalism is the root of heresy, the tree of evil in whose branches (31) all the harpies of infidelity find ample shelter; it is today the evil of all evils.

  24. Welcoming the Catechism’s changes on the death penalty

    [Clueless or worse?]

    By Dr. Jeff Mirus | Aug 09, 2018

    A number of bishops around the world, including the episcopal conferences of Latin America and the United States, have welcomed Pope Francis’ recent revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the use of the death penalty. But as Phil Lawler pointed out in commentaries posted on August 2nd and August 3rd, the revised text manages to be confusing without actually changing Catholic doctrine.

    The new text really makes a prudential argument, in light of both contemporary sensibilities and the modern ability to control criminals without executing them, that the death penalty should never be chosen as a punishment. Under the perceived conditions today, the Catechism states, it is “inadmissible”. In fairness to Pope Francis, we have Pope Saint John Paul II to thank for including a prudential judgment on this question in the Catechism. All Pope Francis has done is to increase the force of the argument John Paul advanced in Evangelium Vitae, namely that in light of today’s penal systems, recourse to the death penalty should be very rare (see especially no. 56). This was already in the Catechism.

    Pope Francis has reflected on steadily shifting attitudes since that time and has concluded that, in our day, recourse to the death penalty should be not just rare but (under his perceived contemporary conditions) inadmissible.

    Of course, one must also conclude that if the conditions Pope Francis cited do not obtain in this or that circumstance, then the death penalty would not be inadmissible. The Pope is not arguing that the death penalty is always and everywhere intrinsically immoral (which would squarely contradict previous Catholic teaching), but that in the current attitudinal climate and given the current range of options, use of the death penalty should not be considered. There is no guarantee that the Pope’s assessment of the current attitudinal climate or the current range of options is accurate, or that these things must necessarily remain unchanged over time. But for now, this represents a practical moral judgment to which he feels confident enough to commit the Church going forward

    Hence after enumerating the changed circumstances, the Catechism concludes: “[T]he Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.” The quotation is taken from a prior address of the Holy Father which is not even close to being magisterial, but it is a strong pattern in secondary Church documents to incorporate papal quotes even from non-magisterial sources.

    Relevant concerns

    There are good reasons to welcome this new emphasis, as many bishops have done. I will come to them in a moment. But for those of us who believe doctrinal precision is as vital to the Catholic community as the skeleton is to the human body, the present formulation is deficient. The distinction between the doctrinal and the prudential is severely muted in the text itself, requiring (for example) the reader to recognize that the word “inadmissible” creates a very different sort of moral statement than we would have if the term “intrinsically immoral” had been used. Moreover, the primary purpose of a catechism is to include precise doctrinal and moral statements, not prudential judgments, which would ordinarily be included only to exemplify a point, without vouching for the circumstantial details.

    In particular, the phrase “the Church teaches” strikes a false note, since the Church cannot really teach that a certain option, not in itself intrinsically wrong, must never be used, for prudential reasons, under any circumstances whatsoever. She can urge a particular approach as “highly desirable” or as “best”, and give reasons for this practical judgment. In fact, she commonly does exactly this in social encyclicals, where she attempts to guide all of us to choose methods of socio-economic and political practice which most reflect the dignity of the human person (recommendations which have at least sometimes proven ill-advised under the actual circumstances in which they would be implemented).

    The problem with using the Catechism for all this, and using the word “teaches”, is that even popes often miss the mark when it comes to recommending the wisest policies to follow in human affairs. In the end prudential decisions in temporal governance, by the Church’s own formal and official teaching, must be left to the laity. Popes and bishops can teach moral principles and offer spiritual counsel. But it is up to the laity to discern, within the range of moral options, which policies will best serve the common good in the context of the circumstances “on the ground”.

    Meanwhile, too many bishops and theologians have referred to “the development of doctrine” to explain the new text, forgetting the distinction between doctrinal truths and moral principles on the one hand and prudential judgments on the other, and also forgetting that one of the signs of authentic development is that it refines our understanding while corroborating what has been taught before. Thus it cannot be a legitimate development of doctrine to deny what the Church has previously taught. The word “inadmissible” can be misinterpreted to do exactly this, yet the text includes no actual doctrinal development whatsoever, being purely prudential in the context.

    Again, we do have Pope Saint John Paul II to thank for this confusion. But John Paul did actually develop Catholic doctrine on capital punishment as follows: Reaffirming that its morality depends on the right of self-defense (as in just war), he refined the Church’s position on the death penalty by teaching, therefore, that it may be used morally only to punish grave crimes (which had long been taught) and only when necessary to protect the community (a legitimate development, making the Church’s teaching more precise).

    In reality, then, the Church’s doctrinal teaching (a moral teaching, derived from the natural law) is now exactly as Pope Saint John Paul II left it—as I explained in an essay in 2004 reflecting on the Catechism text developed under his leadership: Capital Punishment: Drawing the Line Between Doctrine and Opinion. But note: It is a short step from the moral principle (that the death penalty is just only when necessary to protect the community) to the prudential moral conclusion that, if it is essentially self-evident that this necessity does not exist under contemporary circumstances, the death penalty is inadmissible.

    In any case, for better or worse, catechisms have, in our time, rapidly become more comprehensive documents, incorporating not only the bare bones of doctrine but an effort to impart the broader spiritual and moral understanding that is helpful in forming readers for a proper Christian witness in the world. No catechism has ever been without gaps and flaws, of course, and just because something is in a catechism does not mean its formulations succeed in capturing the meaning of each doctrine in a manner both perfect and exhaustive—an accomplishment which is actually humanly impossible.

    Pointing in the right direction?

    In light of what appear to be the larger purposes of catechisms in our day, especially in a modern culture that is dominated by the affective rather than the intellectual, I can well understand why a great many serious Catholics welcome the new text. Doctrinal precision is both important and helpful, but it is not the only criterion for assessing the moral effectiveness of the Church, or of Catholics in general. In Western culture, there has certainly been a general development of caution about the use of capital punishment over the last several centuries, and this caution has steadily increased among Catholic thinkers over the last hundred years at least, with a further acceleration since Pope Saint John Paul II both developed the doctrine and made his own prudential observations.

    While secular cultural influences cannot be discounted, the rising abhorrence of capital punishment among the bishops worldwide cannot be explained entirely by the popularity of the position in the larger society. Otherwise, the bishops would be overwhelmingly in favor of contraception and, despite the weaknesses of the Church in championing a vision of human sexuality which recognizes our God-given nature, this is decidedly not the case. A prudential moral consensus of the worldwide episcopate (which I suggest exists on the death penalty) is not to be discounted as vacuous.

    Moreover, those of us who insist on proper distinctions and clear doctrinal and moral formulations are in a metaphorical sense forced to lead double lives. Most of us advocate the desired clarity while actually opposing the use of the death penalty by the nations in which we live. Many argue that lifelong incarceration is more in keeping with human dignity than execution. I am not sure how one would determine that, since human dignity is such a slippery concept, but it merits serious consideration, and it is one of the points in the new text. Similarly, the new text cites the benefit of providing the maximum opportunity for contrition and conversion, and this too merits serious consideration, even in the face of the (more cynical) counter-argument that nothing is more bracing than the death penalty for prompting “conversion”.

    We must consider several very practical realities as well. First, though it is impossible to control all the variables, studies of the death penalty have found no evidence that it serves as a deterrent to the commission of capital crimes by others. It is difficult to argue, therefore, that execution of convicted criminals is necessary to protect the community from other potential criminals. Second, I do not think it is even possible to argue against the proposition that huge numbers of State executions over the centuries have been blatantly unjust. It is also, I believe, difficult to imagine a government today to which we would willingly accord the right to execute, confident that the power would be used in a consistently just way. Third, as has been proven repeatedly in the United States at least, the number of people who are incorrectly convicted of serious crimes is not insignificant. The death penalty leaves no room for correction of such injustices.

    Conclusion

    Most would argue that a culture of life is fostered by the refusal to execute anyone, and I suspect that is true as long as those guilty of grave crimes can be otherwise prevented from continuing to war against a culture of life. Going deeper metaphysically, surely all of us can profit from the reflection J. R. R. Tolkien offered in The Lord of the Rings on the lips of Gandalf, who warned that those who cannot give life should be very slow to take it away. There is, or ought to be, a strong preferential option for life in the Christian heart, in the Catholic heart.

    All of these considerations rightly prompt us to offer a kind of welcome to the Catechism’s fresh opposition to the use of the death penalty, perhaps the same sort of welcome so many bishops have been willing to express, even some who share my own reservations. I prefer to see positive goals pursued in ways that do not muddle the principles by which we distinguish true and false, good and evil. Moreover, I believe that sloppy analysis is the bane of the Church as a whole in our time. Too many Catholics at all levels use their minds to validate their emotions, which are so frequently manipulated by the larger culture. But when all is said and done, I do not think the death penalty should be used today either, at least not in the situations with which I am familiar, or by the powers I know too well.

  25. What Dr. Jeff left out was Pius XII’s very firm, very correct, very magisterial teaching that certain crimes are so evil as to deprive the offender of his own right to his own life. The criminal forfeits his life by the very nature of his act.
    /
    THAT position squares perfectly with Scripture, the Perennial Magisterium and Scholastic theology.
    /
    Jeff’s position acts to elide, quash and muffle Scripture, the Perennial Magisterium and Scholastic theology.

  26. For a guy who sat out the Vietnam War at Princeton and does not like National Holidays! What can one expect from his typical flawed analysis ? Another anti war wuss posing as a Theologian! Most of his stuff is nonsense ! I have never read anything by him I liked ! He needs to get a real job ! If people pay to read what he says, they need to get a life ! Another Pompous Piss Ant 🐜

Leave a Reply