I’ve seen a lot of confusion in the past year about the Church’s new teaching on the death penalty that was issued last summer when Pope Francis changed paragraph 2267 of the Catechism. One of the key misconceptions I’ve heard is that this new teaching is simply the prudential opinion of the pope and therefore nothing has actually changed and Catholics are free to respectfully disagree. However, I think an attentive reading of the new teaching quickly refutes this misunderstanding. 

This isn’t the first time paragraph 2267 has been changed. The Catechism was first published in 1992, and that edition had this to say about the death penalty:

“If bloodless 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.”

In other words, capital punishment is only allowed when a society isn’t capable of isolating violent criminals from the community. When the second edition of the Catechism came out in 1997 the Church revised that paragraph to say:

“Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, 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.

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.

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.'”

Notice that this revision doesn’t really change the doctrine that was taught in 1992.  Capital punishment is still only allowed when a society isn’t capable of isolating violent criminals from the community. However, John Paul II added the caveat that “guilty party’s identity and responsibility” had to be “fully determined.” The pope also added his prudential judgement that because states are capable of preventing an offender from harming the community that the circumstances that would allow the legitimate use of the death penalty “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

While the difference between the 1992 and 1997 teaching was largely prudential, the 2018 revision is different. The current Catechism says:

“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.”

I’ve heard many people say that all Pope Francis is doing is making the same prudential analysis that Pope John Paul II made but is coming to the more definitive conclusion that “the death penalty is inadmissible.” And if that’s the case then this new teaching is simply the prudential opinion of the pope and therefore nothing has actually changed and Catholics are free to respectfully disagree. However, this interpretation fails to account for what the new teaching actually says.

The Church gives three reasons for the new teaching. The third reason has to do with our capability of defending the community from violent criminals and is prudential in nature because the social, economic, and technological circumstances that make that possible could change at some point in the future. However, the first two reasons the Church lists are not contingent on the reality of modern prisons. 

The Catechism says that the Church today has a greater understanding of human dignity, namely that this dignity is not lost by committing a serious crime. Further, the Church also has an increased understanding of penal sanctions, that their primary purpose is rehabilitation and not punishment. We know this is what the Church means because the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter explaining the change to the Catechism which says:

“The new text, following the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in Evangelium vitae, affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes. This conclusion is reached taking into account the new understanding of penal sanctions applied by the modern State, which should be oriented above all to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the criminal.”

These are not matters of personal opinion or prudence because the Church is commenting on the nature of human persons and the purpose of punishment. Further, this letter refers to the new teaching as a development of doctrine. Development means that things are not the same as they were before, and doctrine means that this isn’t simply the pope’s prudential opinion. 

The Church now teaches, as a matter of doctrine, that the death penalty is not morally acceptable. As Cardinal Dolan tweeted back in June, “With the clear and cogent clarification of the successor of St. Peter, there now exists no loophole to morally justify capital punishment.”

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80 Responses

  1. Avatar Jude says:

    El Chapo???

  2. Avatar Jude says:

    When, I would ask did the church ever teach that human dignity was lost because of the commission of a crime?

    Was it part of the catechism of say 1540 or 1320 that a horse thief was no longer human, or a child of God?

  3. Avatar Marie says:

    Thanks Paul- I’m a little confused though. This bit about prudential opinion vs doctrine. Are we not to take JPII’s ccc 2267 paragraph as doctrine? Do his teaching not say, in simple terms, ONLY IF it is the ONLY possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor can the death penalty be applied, AND the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent? That says to me, aside from him discussing the human dignity of the person, that the death penalty is not acceptable, at least in ALL cases that it has been applied since 1992 in the United States (and likely worldwide)?

    I guess that’s what really annoys me :). Certainly at the time the Catechism first came out, the death penalty, as we know it, was against Catholic teaching. So why all the fuss? I understand Pope Francis has spoken further on us having a greater understanding of human dignity, but I do not see a time in these past decades that can justify the death penalty as it has, and continues to be practiced.

    Where, in JPIIs teachings have Catholics been free to respectfully disagree? As I see it, and have always believed, JPIIs teachings made it very clear that the death penalty is not acceptable unless it is an absolute necessity to safeguard the people, which he clearly said was rare if practically non existent. A Catholic, since 1992 who has supported the death penalty is out of line with Church teaching.

    • Paul Fahey Paul Fahey says:

      There’s nothing in these texts that indicates to me that the 1997 changes are developments of doctrine. I’m open to being wrong, but all I have to go on now is the text itself.

      • Avatar Marie says:

        Paul, I haven’t expressed my point properly. Whether it is development of doctrine or a prudential opinion doesn’t matter in the overall scheme of things in that it has been a teaching of the Church that the death penalty is not acceptable except in a very extreme (if ever) circumstance since JPII. Therefore, to understand Francis’s teaching, we must first accept that the death penalty has not been part of Catholic teaching for more than 25 years, except in theory, in an extreme situation that likely does not even exist. Those who dissent from Pope Francis’s teaching speak as if the death penalty has been an acceptable practice until now. This simply is not the case and I find it troublesome that they argue as if a huge change has occurred. If it has, I simply don’t see it. (I hope round 2 was clearer)

      • Paul Fahey Paul Fahey says:

        You make really good points. Thank you for clarifying.

      • Avatar jong says:

        Paul Fahey
        I think you misses the important Wisdom behind the changes in CCC2267 as the key word to be ponder is “The Church teaches in Light of the Gospel”.why?
        This phrase is connected to St.JP2. Pope BXVI and now Pope Francis and most especially to St.JohnXXIII when he said that Vatican II was born because of the inspired mission of the Holy Spirit to preach the Mercy of God. This is the New Pastoral Mission of the Church and a New Evangelization in the Third Millenuum. We must keep this in mind to fully understand the big picture.
        Pope BXVI said “the heart of the gospel is Divine Mercy” and Pope Francis Bull Mesirecordiae Vultus paragraph 12 affirmed this saying “the Church was commissioned to preach the beating heart of the gospel which is Divine Mercy.”
        But, the bigger picture was described by St.JP2 saying the church enemy will preach the “anti-gospel” towards the Final Confrontation in the end times.
        The gospel is the Divine Truth revealed by Jesus Christ and to openly, repeatedly and willfully oppose it is an “apostasy”. Our Lady of Lasalette prophesied the Great Apostasy will be committed by priest,bishops and Cardinals.
        The Dubia Cardinals, et al are the elect that are being deceived by satan to kill & put a dagger to the beating heart of the gospel because as Jesus revealed to St.Faustina, “satan hated greatly the Mercy of God”.
        So many Rad Trads and even some faithful Catholic are being deceived by the apostate Dubia Cardinals,et al. The latest deception is the 40days Crusade of Protest in disguised as prayer. Pope Francis anticipate their evil plot because they will end the 40days at the ground of Vatican to voice out their protest publicly.
        And so, Pope Francis bravely challenge all the schismatics Rad Trads to come out in the open and identify themselves to expose all of them into the Light of Truth. Pope Francis dared all the wolves and packed of wild dogs trying to divide the Church saying “I am not afraid of schism”.
        We are at war now with the counterfeit catholic church led by apostate Cardinals and Bishops supported by the Council of Media in their attacks.
        Pope Benedict XVI saw this wolves or the Cardinals and Bishops Inside the Vatican occupying numerous powerful position but he cannot remove them unjustly.
        Pope Francis said , let me handle this by introducing AL & CCC2267 and all the Cardinals and Bishops who opposes this teaching definitely is no longer one with Christ as they are opposing the Holy Spirit inspiration. (1Corinthian1:10)
        Remember your article looking for the definition of “rigid catholic” according to Pope Francis.They are rigid because they oppose the Holy Spirit inspirations and same with all who oppose Vatican II Council.
        The dividing line is the Mercy of God the beating heart of the gospel.
        And so, Pope Francis remove all the Cardinals and Bishops whom Pope BXVI sees as “wolves” inside Vatican with a justifiable reasons.
        The famous names are Ab.Vigano, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Muller,etc and there are still who do not want to come out in the open thats why Pope Francis dared all of them to fight. because devils are coward and Pope Francis described their evil tactics of back stabbing like Dr.Marshall who posted a picture with him with his “idiot guide to infiltration conspiracy book” and continue to slander Pope Francis in his TnT channel promoting the evil attitude of “recognize ans resist the Pope”.
        In closing we are now witnessing apostate Cardinals, Bishops and priest and their allies embracing and preaching the “anti-gospel” by openly opposing the Mercy of God, which is Jesus made flesh.
        Thats why the word antichrist said, it will deny Jesus Christ because it will deny the Mercy of God in disguised of protecting Tradition and Doctrines rooted in the justice of God.
        THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY, and Church must upheld the primacy of mercy over justice.
        James2:13
        My Jesus mercy.S&IHMMP4us.Amen

    • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

      Marie, I mentioned this in a previous article, but part of the problem is that JPII didn’t define well what “effectively defending human lives against an unjust agressor” was. Think about it. A DP supporter could point to any single instance where an inmate kills another as an indication that the DP is still necessary. On the other hand, you could have a sense of effectiveness referring to the stability of society at large, even if you have the occasional violence within the prison walls (which is closer to what JPII thought). So what is your standard of effectiveness? This is a different question of asking whether or not a country is effective in the first place. So you have two areas in the past where Catholics had room for disagreement, even though we are all called to come to closer agreement: 1) the appropriate measure of effectiveness, and 2) the facts on the ground regarding whether a system fulfilled it.

      Pope Francis gave the answer to question (1), by stating that certain systems that are established today are already “effective” and so you cannot have the DP (i.e., it is not admissible) in places that have the comparable modern prison system. It also means that you can’t think of the presence of DP as an ok thing even when it is necessary. Countries, in so far as they are able to, are now under the obligation to move towards abolishing it by creating the (now well defined) necessary conditions to protect societies without having to resort to it. However, since question 1) is different than question 2), that means that Pope Francis hasn’t necessarily commented on whether EVERY country has to abolish it. And he can’t. It is in this area where “prudential judgment” continuous to operate. Again, when you look at the end of CDF clarification, Ladaria concluded not that all countries already have effective means, but now that all nations have the the obligation to achieve the proper conditions to enable effectiveness as best as they are able to. But the leaders of the countries themselves are the ones most equipped to know when this is the case, because they actually live in these countries and are totally involved in them.

      The problem is that many people (including me until about a month ago) are confusing question (1) with question (2).

      • Avatar Marie says:

        Thank you Mary Angelica. I think however, when we read JPII’s point as a whole, when he said the cases in which it would be necessary are very rare, if not practically nonexistent, it leaves little wiggle room in reality. It is a big leap to say an inmate who kills another may be an example, since that would not be a rare or practically non existent situation. A rare or practically non existent situation would be just that, not something that has been repeated. I can’t think of one execution that meets that standard, and that is the standard that JPII set. Pope Francis teaching simply continues on this.

      • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

        Marie, “rareness” is not a condition of when to apply the death penalty. It’s also subject to varying interpretations. That’s part of the point. Consider this. How many people do you think were executed in the US in 1992? It wasn’t even in the hundreds. 31 people. last year? 25. Now, I’m not saying that those lives do not matter, but that is a rather small amount in comparison to the almost 180,000 people held in prison for murder. Is that “rare” or “practically non-existent”? I Don’t know about the latter, but it’s very easy to make the argument for the former. And supporters do point to this sort of thing as a way to maintain their positions.

        Now, while one could argue such an approach is not in the spirit of JPII, that doesn’t matter. They only need to be consistent with him. Francis made it more difficult to do this because he clarified the necessary conditions in a way that JPII had not done.

      • Avatar Marie says:

        Thank you Mary Angelica, I completely understand now what you are saying, and that does make sense. I would say however, that the spirit of JPIIs intentions are clear, and when we ‘force’ it open to fit our desire, that’s where the problems begin.

    • Avatar Arthur McGowan says:

      In 2004, in the famous letter that McCarrick concealed, and stood in front of all the bishops and lied about, Cardinal Ratzinger said that a Catholic could, without sin, disagree with John Paul II’s judgment about the application of the death penalty.

    • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

      @Marie

      The CDF under St John Paul II headed by Cardinal Ratzinger aka future Pope Benedict taught as a clarification to his teaching on the Death Penalty (& later had his CDF chief teach under him as Pope) Quote”[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment … he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities … to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible … to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about … applying the death penalty …”end quote.

      I note the current CDF clarification issued to explain Pope Francis’ change to the CCC 2267 says nothing to abrogate any of this and I don’t think a “development” can contradict it. So the only conclusion I have is Paul Fahey God love him is merely mistaken.

      We have already established he said “I could be wrong”. I think he is & you will have to decide for yerself.

      If Pope Benedict is to be believed then the “doctrine” of “the death penalty is inadmissible” whatever it’s “development” is one we are free to disagree with as Catholics. If that is not true then Pope Francis needs to clarify that. Otherwise till further notice my reading tells me this is still a prudent teaching. Not a doctrine per say.

      • Avatar Marie says:

        It wasn’t Pope Benedict that said that, it was Cardinal Ratzinger. Should we also accept as teaching Fr. Ratzinger, who also said in a letter that the divorced, under certain circumstances should be allowed to receive communion? I think this speaks, once again, to the importance of following the Pope, and also, not re- interpreting obvious meanings within our teachings to fit an outcome we desire, but which is clearly different from it’s intention.

  4. Avatar Kevin Davis says:

    “The Church now teaches, as a matter of doctrine, that the death penalty is not morally acceptable.”

    And that’s heresy. It’s at the very least a contradiction (not development), a clear rupture, a departure, etc., in the Church’s doctrine — also known as a heresy. It’s a falsification of the Catholic Church’s claims to doctrinal coherence and unity over time, where genuine development is the fruition of piety, not a contradiction introduced by a baby boomer Jesuit. Even Francis recently admitted that 50 years ago, this new teaching wasn’t possible but now we have a better moral understanding! Yep, the West, with rampant divorce and abortion, has a better understing of life now! I will admit that the confusion began with JPII’s own wavering on the issue, as you rightly point out in the CCC before Francis’ more blatant heretical insertion.

    • Avatar Marthe Lépine says:

      Heresy means something contrary to the teaching of the Church. Now the Church teaches that the circumstances have changed enough to call for a development of that teaching. The teaching of the Church is what is declared by the Magisterium. Not what the Magisterium was teaching some generation(s) ago, but what is actually, and officially, taught now by the Pope and the Magisterium. The Pope has full authority to develop the teaching, and is protected by a special charism from teaching heresy. Therefore, something that the Church, e.g. the Pope and the Magisterium, is teaching cannot possibly be heresy.

      • Avatar ArthurMcGowan says:

        It is heresy to say that a pope is protected from error when making a change in the Catechism. That act does not fall within the conditions for infallibility laid out by Vatican I.

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        Actually it’s not. If you want to say otherwise, please direct us to an authoritative text from a Pope or Council, where it specifically says: “If anyone sayeth that a Pope is protected from error when making a change to the Catechism, let him be anathema”

        If you are able to produce that document, then you have a point. If not, then it is just your opinion you’re spewing, no matter the arguments you invoke. And your personal opinion does not suffice to accuse a fellow Catholic of heresy. Thank you

      • Avatar George Palantine says:

        No. Pope Francis has yet to speak on the subject of the death penalty in an authoritative way. If Pope Francis feels that a true development has occurred, he must speak by means of a magisterial document, explaining what has changed and why a change in doctrine is a true development of doctrine, and not a reversal. (Reversals are not allowed). Once he does this, Catholics are bound to obey, assuming that the magisterial pronouncement is not blatantly false.

        Bizarrely, Pope Francis refused to issue a magisterial document explaining all of this. He certainly could have done so. If he could make the case under Catholic principles of development of doctrine, he should have.

        Rather than issue a magisterial document explaining his discovery of a “new understanding of human dignity” the pope chose to change the Catechism. This is strange, because the Catechism is not, by itself, a magisterial document. It is a summary of Catholic doctrine. It is a handbook, a guide, a summary of Catholic doctrine. It is not the place where new developments of doctrine are exposed to the world.

        The natural suspicion then, is the Pope knew he could not justify his changes as a development of doctrine. He therefore did not issue a magisterial, binding document. Since he could not defend his decision, he chose to fool people by simply changing the catechism. Of course, all this caused was confusion.

        Liberals embraced the change, not because of their deep knowledge of Catholic teaching, but because their pre existing inclinations disposed them to like the change. Conservatives, who like the death penalty, decided to hang on to any opposition to the change in the Catechism.

        The troubling thing is that this pope appears to be unable to defend his pronouncements. That’s what a pope is for – that’s why he exists. Yet he refuses to address things in a authoritative, clear, magisterial way. Instead, he does these strange leadership by indirection moves, which is why he is not trusted by many.

      • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

        The CDF document explains all this. What are you talking about?

    • Avatar Son of the Church says:

      Please, Kevin…..spare me your vapors and pearl clutching. You can’t cherry pick your dogma; and any attempt to do so is the HEIGHT of hypocrisy.

      Here’s the real deal:

      The *development* of Church Doctrine and its interpretation and application regarding the death penalty, is no more “heretical” than the *development* of Church Doctrine and its interpretation and application regarding usury. The doctrinal concepts and official Church stances of both subjects, in their nuances, have metamorphosed over time, with additional understanding and contemporary clarification of their nature, and in what is involved in each.

      You can no more consider one to be, (in your words)“a contradiction (not development), a clear rupture, a departure, etc., in the Church’s doctrine — also known as a heresy….a falsification of the Catholic Church’s claims to doctrinal coherence and unity over time,” than you can consider the other to be the same, since the Church in her wisdom has refined her Teachings and practices for both subjects over the course of many centuries. The conceptual and theological understandings of both usury and the death penalty have greatly advanced since Old Testament times. And they have certainly changed over the span of time since the Church Fathers, along with several early Ecumenical Councils and Supreme Pontiffs, soundly, unequivocally and dogmatically condemned usury and announced anathema on those who practiced it, while at the same time prescribing, advocating and promoting capital punishment – and in many cases, executing it themselves.

      But today, the Church has been given greater light on both subjects, a light that does not in any way preclude, break or dismiss the certainty of earlier interpretations and enactments of doctrine. It simply clarifies it in the knowledge of further revelation, a clearer pathway that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, believes is morally important for our times, and has chosen to promulgate within the whole Church.

      It is diabolically deceitful and monumentally hypocritical for anyone to allege that this is any different than how the Church has treated the issue of usury, and other issues of moral clarity, such as slavery – just because they have problems with this particular pontificate. The Holy Father’s revision of the Catechism with respect to the death penalty, like the Church’s teaching on usury, cannot be defined as a total and complete reversal and rejection of what was taught before, but rather a DEVELOPMENT of moral principles applied to new and divergent circumstances.

    • Avatar Peter Murphy says:

      You forgot to explain the heresy bit!

      You also show great disrespect to the Successor of St Peter by referring to the Holy Father as a “baby boomer Jesuit”. Now that statement might be closer to heresy!

    • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

      @Kevin Davis

      The Pope is not a heretic. People who claim that are extremists. I might have what I think are just criticisms but extremists like you are as useless as persons who think it is Catholic Dogma we have to be fans of Argentina’s Soccer team.

      Heretics have the virtue of being perspicacious. In general many of the Pope’s statements on various topics are ambiguous (& he is not the only Pope who has done this or will do it) & the principle of charity demands we interpret them in the most favorable light till said person clarfifies to the point where ambiguity disappears.

      Now away with ye.

  5. Avatar James Belna says:

    I will give you credit for recognizing that it is not possible to ascribe doctrinal significance (and binding authority) to papal teachings which necessarily depend on the exercise of prudential judgement. However, if we are to accept the proposition that “[t]he Church now teaches, as a matter of doctrine, that the death penalty is not morally acceptable”, we must still find a way to credibly assert that this new teaching does not contradict what the Church has taught in the past.

    A legitimate development of doctrine can only expand upon or clarify past teachings of the Church; it cannot in any way contradict it. The only plausible way in which this can be said to be a development is to assert that JPII himself (as well as Aquinas, Augustine, and the collective wisdom of two millennia of Christian civilization) had an incomplete understanding of the human dignity of convicted murderers.

    I suppose it is possible that Pope Francis has a superior insight into human dignity that somehow eluded his immediate (and remote) predecessors, but surely the burden is on him to explain what the basis of this new insight is. Does Pope Francis believe that the enduring dignity of a convicted murderer is such that it is wrong for the state to put him to death – even in circumstances where the state has determined that it is absolutely necessary to do so in order to defend the innocent? If so, surely we are entitled to know why it is morally superior to allow innocent victims to die in order to preserve the “dignity” of the criminals who prey on them.

    Whether you care to admit it or not, any Pope who claims that the death penalty is not morally acceptable under any circumstances is actually claiming that:

    “The state must guarantee violent criminals the right to kill as many innocent victims as they care to, in as cruel and sadistic a manner as they choose to employ, without having to face even the theoretical possibility of placing their own lives at risk.”

    You are perfectly free to accept this as the binding moral teaching of the Catholic Church, but perhaps you can understand why some of us are reluctant to do so.

    • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

      James, the CDF document answers your question. Consider the last three paragraphs:

      “8. All of this shows that 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. 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.

      9. The new revision affirms that the understanding of the inadmissibility of the death penalty grew “in the light of the Gospel.”[13] The Gospel, in fact, helps to understand better the order of creation that the Son of God assumed, purified, and brought to fulfillment. It also invites us to the mercy and patience of the Lord that gives to each person the time to convert oneself.

      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.”

      The last paragraph in particular address the cases of countries where the DP may still be necessary for the preservation of society. In particular, these countries aren’t being called to ban the DP in spite of its necessity. They are being called to create the conditions necessary for it to no longer be a necessity. How does this tie in to the designation of the DP as inadmissible? The idea is that because we have achieved sufficient conditions in quite a few places, we can no longer say that the DP is a good that need not be improved upon.

      • Avatar James Belna says:

        Mary Angelica – The CDF has issued an ambiguously-worded document which is seemingly designed to evade the most obvious questions raised by the revision to 2267. On this blog alone, even among those who claim that it is binding authority, there is no consensus as to what it allows or prohibits – much less any common understanding as to how the Church’s historical acceptance of capital punishment can suddenly be turned on its head.

        I am sure that Pope Francis has some strong personal opinions about the death penalty, and that he is eager to share them with us, even though there is no reason to beleive that he possesses any unique or particularly well-informed insights into the criminal justice system. We are well within our rights to question or even criticize his personal opinions – or those of any other pope – when we think they are wrong.

        As it would be a grave abuse of the papal office to mislead people into accepting the pope’s personal opinions as binding doctrine, Pope Francis bears the responsibility to clearly and unambiguously inform us when we are morally bound by a papal pronouncement. Also, the Pope is not like the Wizard of Oz or the Oracle of Delphi, who can say whatever he wants and expect us to reflexively obey. He has an obligation to pronounce moral truth rationally, and consistently. As evidenced by this debate, he hasn’t done so here – presumably because any teaching which plainly declared that the death penalty is intrinsically immoral would be per se invalid as a contradiction of the Church’s consistent prior teaching – so I assume that it is not binding authority at all.

      • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

        James,

        First, My response was specifically with reference to what you said here:

        “Whether you care to admit it or not, any Pope who claims that the death penalty is not morally acceptable under any circumstances is actually claiming that:

        “The state must guarantee violent criminals the right to kill as many innocent victims as they care to, in as cruel and sadistic a manner as they choose to employ, without having to face even the theoretical possibility of placing their own lives at risk.” ”

        I was claiming that, should we take the CDF document to be an authorized clarification of his teaching, and assuming logical consistency, this cannot at all be what Pope Francis is claiming, thanks to paragraphs 8-10. (BTW, assuming consistency goes a long way in helping to clarify matters). You didn’t really respond to this.

        Second, while I do hold clarity to be important and the Pope ought to be as clear as possible in promulgating his teaching, confusion can come about not just when the speaker is unclear, but also when people are operating under different frameworks for interpretation. The kind of confusion you describe among all of the people here is nothing new, even though the teaching was consistent. It took decades for the Arian controversy to settle in part because of differences in epistemological and linguistic frameworks even among those who were orthodox (at least roughly so). I personally don’t fully agree with some of the takes of some of the authors in this site in attempting to explain PF’s teachings, because I find these takes to be problematic on a theological level. However, I am under no obligation to agree with them. I am only under obligation to strive to think with the mind of the Church, so I do my best, as do they. To that end, there is a difference between prudential application of the DP and the clarifying of conditions on a theoretical level on when it is permissible. See my response to Jim the Scott below, as well as my response to you in the previous article on the DP. Pope Francis has not done the first, but rather the second. I agree with you: he has not said that the DP is intrinsically evil.

        Now, you say you have the obvious questions. Why not ask a few? Be clear and specific, as you would want PF to be. I can even answer them directly, if you like. I myself had many of the questions you have, but have been able to address a large portion of them simply by doing the above.

      • Avatar James Belna says:

        Okay, I will ask you a specific question. Assuming that the death penalty is “inadmissible”, at least in the context of advanced Western nations, Catholics presumably have a moral obligation to oppose the use of the death penalty under any circumstances in the United States. How is an unconditional repeal of the death penalty any different than guaranteeing violent criminals the right to kill as many innocent victims as they want without even theoretically placing their own lives at risk?

      • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

        “How is an unconditional repeal of the death penalty any different than guaranteeing violent criminals the right to kill as many innocent victims as they want without even theoretically placing their own lives at risk?”

        Two things: First, the repeal is not unconditional. You yourself conditioned it “in the context of Western advanced countries”. It is conditioned on the very fact that we have a prison system that can effectively restrain criminals from hurting these innocent victims. The idea is ” *Given our modern prison system*, the death penalty is unacceptable. But that itself is a condition, and that condition is precisely the sort of thing that eliminates the alleged “right to kill as many innocent victims as they want”. If you can prevent people from doing that without having to kill them, then don’t kill them. That’s the general principle.

        Suppose though that there is some dude who just manages to kill innocent despite the laws. He figures out a way to override such a system, and wreaks havoc on society as a result. Depending on the scope or nature of the new threat, One of at least two things happens 1) Either the conditions no longer apply (in other words, a new situation has arisen, and the Church may have to consider this new circumstance… such a development would parallel something like that development from the early church to medieval Christianity), or it ceases to be a matter of “punishment” and becomes a matter of strict self defense. Part of the issue that distinguishes the DP from mere self defense is that it is an action that is deliberate. You already have the guy under your control. There is a legal process, a trial, etc. At the very least, such a person isn’t harming you or threatening to harm you the moment you kill him, unlike in war or self defense. So more needs to be at stake. But a guy who is wantonly killing people shouldn’t even have a trial if he already was imprisoned for murder. It’s self defense (or just war) now. Shoot to debilitate and if he dies, he dies. I would even say that since this guy is a guaranteed continued threat, one doesn’t have to wait until he is in the act of killing to kill him. He’s already plotting to kill at this point. Here at least, the killer can’t act without a risk to himself. Saying that the DP is unacceptable doesn’t imply that all self defense type killing is unacceptable.

        So to summarize, supposing the killer can be restrained, he can’t be said to have the right to kill innocent victims, because we are preventing him from further doing so. If he can’t be restrained, then his life is at stake because self defense now applies.

    • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

      I like the cut of yer jib. This was well said.

  6. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    Mr. Paul Fahey,

    You should do some reading on theology before you grant yerself powers only Pope Francis has.
    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/09/15/three-questions-for-catholic-opponents-of-capital-punishment/

    You are 100% wrong sir! Pope Francis has not taught “The Church now teaches, as a matter of doctrine, that the death penalty is not morally acceptable.” The CCC doesn’t use those words, you do, and that is dishonest and disengenous for you to use the Pope’s authority to promote yer own agenda.

    Pope Francis’ teaching in fact is merely prudential at best or hopelessly unclear at worst. Pope Benedict (Who is against the DP & called for it’s world wide abolition) taught Catholics are allowed to disagree with the Pope on the application of the Death Penalty. The CDF said this change too the CCC does not change past doctrinal teaching which is unanimously on the side of the Death Penalty being moral in principle. Thus I repeat it is immoral and heretical for you to grant yerself the authority of Pope Francis to bind Catholics too yer own personal opinion.

    I can cite Canon Law that mandates Catholic who publically champion abortion as moral should be excommunicated but where does Canon Law say I can be excommunicated for supporting the Death Penalty or lawfully executing a condemned man? It doesn’t say that anywhere.

    • Paul Fahey Paul Fahey says:

      I’m just saying what the CDF does *shrug*

      • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

        It that all ya got? Weak sauce bro.

        The CDF hasn’t taught “The Church now teaches, as a matter of doctrine, that the death penalty is not morally acceptable” either and the CDF said the change in the CCC does not go against previous doctrine and since previous doctrine has explicitly and unambiguously said the Death Penalty is not intrinsically evil & is permitted in principle therefore your private reading & interpretation of Pope Francis and the CDF is clearly erroneous.

        Yer movie guy.

      • Paul Fahey Paul Fahey says:

        The CDF says this new teaching is a development of doctrine.

  7. Avatar Father James says:

    This website cracks me up. Thanks for the LULZ!

  8. Avatar Stephen Golay says:

    Next comes a rewrite of those pesky “gay paragraphs”. Right?

    • Avatar Jude says:

      As surely as day follows night.

      And who knows, maybe this was just a test case to see if they could actually pull it off. If you can get the church to believe that something that the church allowed and that God Himself actually dictated in the Old Testament is actually immoral… Why can’t you get it to believe doctrine has developed on gay questions as well to the point that what the church has always taught and what God commanded was wrong all the while.

      • Avatar Kevin Davis says:

        Exactly, Jude. It is hard to find a more consistent (and not even remotely controversial for centuries) moral doctrine than that the death penalty is not immoral and certainly not “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the human person,” as the CCC now erroneously claims. If a doctrine this old, this consistent, this universally believed for centuries and rooted in Holy Writ and Sacred Tradition, can be changed in one generation, then obviously the same can be said for the Church’s teaching on sex, likewise rooted in Scripture and centuries of Tradition. As Francis has repeatedly said about the death penalty, we have a new moral understanding now. There is no logical impediment to do the exact same thing with contraception, gay sex, gay marriage, etc., which is why the JPII Institute is being overhauled. This is all not difficult to understand.

  9. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    To further argue my point.

    The sound bite from the CDF cannot be used to justify Paul Fahey’s erroneous claim that the Church now teaches, as a matter of doctrine, that the death penalty is not morally acceptable.

    (even Paul’s statement is itself ambiguous & as a committed Thomsit and Scholastic I don’t fancy it. Morally unacceptable in what sense? Is it immoral extrinsically or intrinsically? In essence or per accidents? Well? Do you even know the difference buddy? It is ok if you don’t but you will have to clarify what you said )

    The CDF said “the Catechism expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium. [fact: the prior Magisterium taught the Death Penalty is permitted in principle and not intrinsically immoral] 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.”END QUOTE

    To quote Ed Feser “It is not open to the Church to teach that capital punishment is wrong intrinsically or of its very nature. The most the Church can teach is that capital punishment is wrong under certain circumstances.” In light of what the CDF says above all I see here is the CDF teaching Capital Punishment is wrong under present circumstances in developed nations(which by definition makes it a prudent judgement not a moral one and via the prior Magisterium the CDF under Ratzinger & later after he became Pope still taught Catholics can disagree with the Pope on the DP. The current CDF document has not explicitly abrogated that).

    All this is really not the same thing as claiming the DP is now intrinsically immoral by nature. Also the language used above taken at face value implies till one achieves a civilization that can house all criminals in prison it is obviously still morally acceptable to have a death penalty in the interregnum while striving for it. Indeed the way the CDF and the CCC phrase it, in light of their interpretation of Pope St John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s teaching, the the teaching of the CCC 2267 can be reversed not by a future Pope but by a nuclear war or some civilization destroying disaster which would force any surviving government to use extreme means to restore order.

    So you are wrong sir. At best yer statement “death penalty is not morally acceptable” is only true if we are as the CDF say talking about r present circumstances in the west not immoral by nature. If the DP was immoral by nature then God could never have commanded it in the OT. Can God command rape or sodomy? No he cannot. He might be able to command the deaths of the Canaanite men, woman & children but He cannot command the Israelites to rape them to death (if you will forgive the rather graphic example). Rape and Sodomy are wrong intrinsically and by their nature. The DP is not and you undermine Pope Francis by claiming it is.

    • Paul Fahey Paul Fahey says:

      Feser does not speak for the Magisterium, the CDF does. It says this new paragraph is a development of doctrine. Submit a dubia if you’re that concerned.

      • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

        >Feser does not speak for the Magisterium, the CDF does.

        I agree but Paul Fahey doesn’t speak for the Magisterium or the CDF either. It is you I am disputing not the Magisterium, not Pope Francis nor the CDF.

  10. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    Paul Fahey writes “The CDF says this new teaching is a development of doctrine.”

    Yes it does and every Jehovah’s Witness I ever met says Jesus Said “The Father is Greater than I” and claim that was Jesus denying his Divinity. We both know that is wrong and in light of that I ask you where does the CDF say explicitly the nature of the development is that the Death Penalty is now intrinsically immoral by nature?

    Sorry but my reading of the CDF document (linked above) to cannot plausibly be interpreted to mean that. Indeed since the CDF said there is no contradiction with the prior teaching than we are obligated to harmonize them not set them against each other. IMHO you are doing that with this extremist interpretation & I am not. It is that simple. No disrespect intended to you or yer fidelity to the Church..

    • Paul Fahey Paul Fahey says:

      Where did I claim that the death penalty is intrinsically evil?

      • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

        You technically didn’t. 😀 Good answer! I am pleased.

        If you read what I wrote above I said “even Paul’s statement is itself ambiguous & as a committed Thomist and Scholastic I don’t fancy it. Morally unacceptable in what sense? Is it immoral extrinsically or intrinsically? In essence or per accidents? Well?”

        So I am submitting a Dubia to you Paul to clarify what you meant. Do you believe the DP is intrinsically evil? Because if you don’t we may not have a conflict. Of course I would also point out if you don’t believe that then you don’t have a conflict with Feser or Cardinal Burke either and we can have an accord as Catholics instead of being at each other’s throats like a bunch of Protestants.

        I hope you don’t believe that as it would contradict the prior Magesterium which the CDF said Pope Francis’ change in the CCC 2267 does not do.

        Cheers.

      • Paul Fahey Paul Fahey says:

        The death penalty is inadmissible as a matter of doctrine, not merely prudential judgement or personal opinion (as Cardinal Burke would have us believe). That is what the text says.

      • Avatar carn says:

        @Paul Fahey:

        You did not answer the “dubium” submitted to you; the dubium was:
        “Do you believe the DP is intrinsically evil?”

        From your attempt at an answer:
        “The death penalty is inadmissible as a matter of doctrine, not merely prudential judgement or personal opinion (as Cardinal Burke would have us believe). That is what the text says.”

        one cannot determine whether you believe that the DP is intrinsically evil.

        Would you please answer the question he asked you?

        To demonstrate how an answer could look like, my answer if i would have been asked:

        No.

  11. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    Doctrine cannot “develop” a contradiction it can only clarify existing doctrine. The existing doctrine taught universally by prior Popes and Church Fathers is that the DP is not intrinsically evil and permitted in principle. With that in mind the Church can teach the DP is wrong under certain circumstances but not wrong in essence.

    An example of Development of doctrine might be oh “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” does not mean all persons who are not formally Catholics are automatically damned. Persons who are not formally Catholic threw no fault of their own but follow any extra ordinary Grace or Light God might grant them for salvation can be saved and they aren’t really technically “extra ecclesiam” either as St Pius X taught they are part of the Soul of the Church. But teaching as heretical liberals do Vatican II reversed ” “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” and we don’t have to preach the Gospel or invite non-believers to freely confess Christ and his Church or that formal membership in the church is absolutely not needed in ordinary circumstances for salvation would be a contradiction.

    Well the CDF says there is a “development: here but it is not clear to me the development means the DP is now intrinsically evil and wrong in principle. Tradition tells us what is obscure should be interpreted in light of what is clear. So clearly I can’t accept Paul Fahey’s interpretation of the CDF or Pope Francis.

    I am glad he said above “I’m open to being wrong, but all I have to go on now is the text itself.” but I should point out to him as Catholics we don’t do Sola Scriptura and I submit we don’t do Sola CDF post August 1 2018 or Sola Francesco. We need to take the whole 2000 year old tradition in totality.

    Cheers.

    I think that is all need be said unless someone wishes to dispute me?

    • Avatar Marie says:

      Jim- “I’m open to being wrong, …” equals humility, “Do you even know the difference buddy?” equals arrogance.

      • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

        Or I could merely be asking a question? I meant no offense & intended none and if I inadvertently gave such offense I apologize unreservedly.

        Let us not make this personal. Deal?

    • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

      ” With that in mind the Church can teach the DP is wrong under certain circumstances but not wrong in essence. ”

      I think this is exactly what PF did. He did it by pointing to the circumstances themselves (i.e., modern prison systems, etc). However, he did so as a sort of witness to what kinds of conditions were meant by JPII et al. It’s like proving an existential statement (in the first order logic sense) by pointing to a witness of the statement being quantified. Note that specifying the conditions under which the DP is wrong or legitimate isn’t a matter of prudential judgment. What is a matter of prudential judgement is on the concrete application of it. We can disagree on whether a state meets the conditions for the DP to be legitimately used. We cannot disagree (as much) on what these conditions are.

      Keep in mind that the Church’s teaching about the death penalty, throughout the ages, and not just with the modern popes, wasn’t simply that it was not wrong in principle. the more official documents point to things like preserving the common good and safety of society, and the early Church was weary of it in practice on grounds of mercy and the sacredness of human life. If we want to reconcile the formulations of the teachings, we can’t ignore these aspects of the tradition either.

  12. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    @Paul Fahey

    >The death penalty is inadmissible as a matter of doctrine, not merely prudential judgement or personal opinion (as Cardinal Burke would have us believe). That is what the text says.

    That doesn’t make any sense? I asked a straightforward question. I’ll try again.

    Do you believe the DP is intrinsically evil? Or better yet do you understand the Church via CCC 2267 to be teaching the DP is intrinsically evil?

    Or better yet do you understand the “doctrine” that “The death penalty is inadmissible” is identical to teaching “the death penalty is inadmissible”.

    The only honest answers here are “Yes” or “No” or “I don’t understand so I can’t answer?” or “I don’t know”.

    It’s not hard. Speaking plainly for myself if the doctrine “the death penalty is inadmissible” isn’t teaching “the Death penalty is intrinsically evil” well I am on board with it. Of course I don’t under stand what is being taught when we say the DP is “not to be admitted too” but if the Holy Father doesn’t clear it up his successor will. That is how this works.

    • Avatar carn says:

      “Do you believe the DP is intrinsically evil? Or better yet do you understand the Church via CCC 2267 to be teaching the DP is intrinsically evil?

      Or better yet do you understand the “doctrine” that “The death penalty is inadmissible” is identical to teaching “the death penalty is inadmissible”.”

      I’ll often do not get why people do this. One asks a question. And they answer something. But it is clearly not an answer to the question asked but to some different question. Sometimes only slightly and then of course it is an unintentional mistake or a misunderstanding.

      But what Paul Fahey wrote:

      “The death penalty is inadmissible as a matter of doctrine, not merely prudential judgement or personal opinion (as Cardinal Burke would have us believe). That is what the text says.”

      is not an answer to:

      “Do you believe the DP is intrinsically evil?”

      but an (attempted) answer to:

      “What does CCC2267 say/mean?”

      Which of course is also an interesting question; but not the one asked.

      Often i suspect that its a case of the one asked thinking he knows that the asker actually wants to know something different, should have asked a different question and/or is stuck mentally and needs help to get out.

      But even that does not explain the non-answer really.

      Cause a:

      “No, DP is not intrinsically evil; CCC2267 instead means … and that is different form intrinsically evil because …”

      would then perfectly do the job of both answering the question and helping the asker to understand that he was asking the wrong question.

      But somehow that seems ot be often impossible.

  13. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    > That is what the text says.

    I know what the text says but what does it mean? Especially in light of previous teaching on the DP. I know Jesus said “the Father is Greater than I” but I also know he said “I and the Father are One” I also know He said “If he will not hear the Church treat him as a tax collector” & I know the Church at Nicaea taught The Son was the same divine substance(consubstantial) with the Father. But of course Nicaea didn’t say anything about the Deity of the Holy Spirit which was why we needed the Council of Constantinople.

    So there is a “development of doctrine” here? What doctrine is developed? To me and too honest critics like Burke or Feser it is not clear. That is Ok. At least for me. Time will sort it out and Matt 16:18 is absolute. But I am convinced your interpretation Paul might be wrong the wrong one assuming that interpretation is “the DP is intrinsically evil”. But if it is not then hakuna matata.
    Cheers.

    PS I miss disqis where I can edit my mistakes and bad Grammar.

  14. Avatar S says:

    The Church’s “new teaching”? Really? The Church has no “new” teaching.

  15. Avatar jong says:

    Thank you Paul Fahey,
    WPI decided not to post my comment again.
    Can I criticize the article?
    Can I criticize the author?
    Can I defend my comment from Marie and Christopher Lake who mentioned my name & criticize my reflections. They both condemned a fallen Cardinal, a victim of Rad Trads relentless evil attacks which I am inspired to defend.
    Im puzzled at the WPI reasoning and logic and whoever decides which comment will be allow to be posted and which one is not.
    I had just uploaded a comment in reaction to this article that ive given a lot of time to finish and it was just thrown away like garbage.
    Thank you for your FAIRNESS! and charity.

  16. Avatar Uconsent says:

    You make the mistake of suggesting the “1992 Edition” was official.

    It was a transition work while awaiting the publication of the Editio Typica which only came out in 1997.

    It was a translation of the French, and it was leaked illegally prior to 1992. At that time, JP II and the CDF decided to make the best of it, allow publication, with a warning that the Editio Typica (the official edition) would be published once it was in Latin. Then, there would need to be a re-translation to ensure it conformed to the official edition.

    It was published under an Apostolic Constitution which said it was a “statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine” From the text itself…

    Ecclesiae Catholicae Catechismus, quem die quinto et vicesimo mensis Iunii p.p. probavimus cuiusque hodie Auctoritate Nostra Apostolica iubemus promulgationem, est Ecclesiae fidei doctrinaeque catholicae expositio, comprobatae vel illustratae a sacra Scriptura, apostolica Traditione atque Ecclesiae Magisterio. Eum declaramus firmam regulam ad fidem docendam, ideoque validum legitimumque instrumentum pro ecclesiali communione. Utinam inserviat renovationi ad quam indesinenter Sanctus Spiritus vocat Dei Ecclesiam, Christi Corpus, in itinere versus Regni lumen nulla umbra foedatum!

    And then, after publication in 1992, there was the Interdicasterial Commission was set up in 1993, to address the shortcomings of the French translation.

    The issue of it being an editio typica is set forth in Laetemur Magnopere. Which also say this “completes” the work of the Council and brings the Catechism to a close.

    From Laetemur Magnopere:

    Enucleatus a Cardinalium Episcoporumque Consilio ad hoc ipsum anno MCMLXXXVI constituto, Catechismus a Nobis est comprobatus atque prolatus dicta superius Apostolica Constitutione, quae omnem suam etiamnum servat vim atque utilitatem quaeque extremam hac typica Latina editione recipit exsecutionem.

    Typica Latina editione hodie foras data, totum perficitur Catechismi componendi opus anno MCMLXXXVI incohatum, feliciterque impletur optatum memoratae extraordinariae consessionis Synodi Episcoporum. In promptu nunc habet Ecclesia novam hanc magnae auctoritatis expositionem unius suae ac perennis fidei apostolicae, quae erit « validum legitimumque instrumentum pro ecclesiali communione » et « firmam regulam ad fidem docendam » necnon « comparationis textus tutus atque authenticus » ad Catechismos singularium locorum enodandos.2

    It was here that the Catechism was brought to a close. It is not something that can be opened up and whacked at every 5 years. Nor can it invert a teaching promulgated by the Editio Typica.

  17. Avatar Frederick Dempsey says:

    The Church’s teaching on capital punishment did not begin in 1992. Doctrines cannot change. Maybe clarified, or different aspects of it might be emphasized more or less in different eras, but moral actions which are permitted or denied, remain so forever. Including adultery, by the way.

  18. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    @Marie

    >It wasn’t Pope Benedict that said that, it was Cardinal Ratzinger.

    He said it with Pope St John Paul II’s permission. Are you suggesting Pope St. John Paul II would let him as CDF chief say what is not true? Also according to Paul Fahey the CDF speaks for the Pope. Are you saying Ratzinger at the time didn’t speak for Pope St. John Paul II?

    Also there is another flaw in you criticism here. Ratzinger repeated this teaching when he became Pope. So it is both Ratzinger and Benedict.

    > Should we also accept as teaching Fr. Ratzinger, who also said in a letter that the divorced, under certain circumstances should be allowed to receive communion?

    Having not read the letter it would be foolish to comment. It is also off topic. I am discussing the Death Penalty here.

    >I think this speaks, once again, to the importance of following the Pope, and also, not re- interpreting obvious meanings within our teachings to fit an outcome we desire, but which is clearly different from it’s intention.

    I agree accept that is my accusation against Paul Fahey (& mind you it is not a personal attack nor an attack on his loyalty to the divine Truth). That is why I reject his interpretation of the CCC 2267 and Francis and the CDF. Indeed the current CDF said this change does not contradict prior doctrine so I don’t see how you can invoke the present CDF against the past without contradicting what the present CDF says?

    Cheers

    • Avatar Marie says:

      Jim- That’s what I get for posting while I was working! Not only do I often wish there was an edit button, but also a 10 minute recall button would be nice from time to time! I re read your post and saw that you said the letter was from him as chief of CDF and again as pope, so I can’t argue if these we part of Church teachings, if in fact what you say is correct. I would like to read this and understand if it was presented in the same way as was the letter that accompanied the change made by Pope Francis.

      Church teaching is church teaching and I accept it as it comes. As a Pope JPII Catholic, I can say at the time the teachings were clear, and if we read the teaching without imposing our views no one can deny his intentions. Whether accommodations were made to allow time for others to get on board, I don’t know. CCC 2267, then and now, are crystal clear. You know it, I know it, and every Catholic who has read CCC2267 knows it. I’ve posted enough now 🙂 Peace.

  19. Avatar jong says:

    Jim the Scott
    You cannot box the Wisdom of God in guiding the Church. It cannot be understood by our finite reasoning it must be view according to the Wisdom of God.
    This is where our disagreement stems, there is one Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth guiding the Church for over 2000 years and it only teaches one and the same thing OBEDIENCE & TRUST in the Church Magisterium, why? It is our God given faith that God entrusted the Church Magisterium, the Pope as it’s Head to feed and guide all Christ flock. We cannot assert that our opinion even all the Dubia Cardinals, Dissenting Bishops and priest and expert theologians even bible scholars is the one who has the right interpretation and must be followed. Either you follow the Church Magisterium as the Holy Spirit inspires them to take this direction in this times or you oppose Church inspirations coming from the Holy Spirit. If you oppose the Holy Spirit then Pope Francis as the Head of the Church simply described the schismatics Trads as “rigid”. Why? they embraced chosen Tradition like the Pharisees and are not docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit. This is the Wisdom why Pope Francis implore all of us to CONVERSION. Paul Fahey recent article said “conversion” is needed to be docile to the Voice of the Holy Spirit and if our heart is not seeking conversion then we cannot understand Pope Francis teachings. Also, if we cannot trust that the Holy Spirit is the one guiding the Pope and the Magisterium then it is the sure recipe for disaster like the schism we are now experiencing since the time of Ab.Lefevbre.
    This is my only suggestion to your embraced arguments, Jesus promised all the Apostles and all their successors the guidance of the Spirit of Truth and the Truth always resides in the Church united to the Pope. Apart from the Vicar of Christ all other interpretation that is not ONE in heart and mind with the Vicar of Christ the Supreme Interpreter,Legislator and Guarantor of Faith is wrong. (1Corinthian1:10 and Romans13:1-2)
    St.Montfort said that satan tactics is like this, he will present truth mix with lies in varying degrees to deceive a lot of faithfuls. That’s how he deceive Eve, satan presented a truth but mix it with an intentional lies. Dubia Cardinals presented the Truth about the Justice of God on all sinners but called the Mercy of God “false mercy” even citing lots of Traditions & Doctrines to justify the justice of God to close the Door of God’s Mercy on LGBTQ and couples in irregular union seeking healing & forgiveness. And your contention on CCC2267 can be simply answer by the beating heart of the Gospel, which is Divine Mercy. The Holy Spirit inspires the Vatican II Church to make reforms and changes on all “non definitive” teachings to fully conform it to the Infinite Mercy of God. CCC2267 changes removing the gray areas in the Church stand by saying death penalty is inadmissable period, magnify the TRUE GOSPEL of Christ and magnifies the Face of God the Mercy of God.
    All other interpretations now has no merit. The Mercy of God is ABYSS, no sins is greater that the Mercy of God.
    Pope Francis is showing us the Face of God the Mercy of God in these end times. Either we are one with the Church Magisterium or we freely choose to join the “rigid Catholic” who are committing “The Great Apostasy” in opposing openly, repeatedly, continuously and willfully the beating heart of the Gospel of Christ which is Divine Mercy.

  20. Avatar Lazarus says:

    So I guess slavery is not unacceptable because St. Paul accepted it? To me the death penalty is like slavery–eventually inadmissible. It’s not like the principles of Catholic Social Teaching points in a different direction. Before it was permissible in certain circumstances and now it is not. If the Church is wrong now, there’s no guarantee it wasn’t wrong then. This isn’t dogma.

    • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

      Slavery,

      In modern times there is mercifully no institutional slavery in Christian countries so Catholic teaching on it is largely an artifact & thus obscure but the Catholic Church in the 19th century taught there where metaphysically two types of slavery. Chattel slavery vs Theoretical Slavery. Chattel slavery is where the slave was seen as at best having the moral status of an animal. At worst an object. Needless to say any slavery institutional or practical that operated on this principle was intrinsically evil and could never be morally permissible.

      OTOH in Theoretical Slavery (the kind you might find in the Bible) the slave had involatile rights under natural law and the moral law which even his/her master could not transgress. In that version you might own yer slave’s labor and the products of their labor but you didn’t really own them as people. You could not unjustly enslave someone which was why the Popes for the past 800 years condemned the slave trade as it often forced an innocent person into servitude who had not been convicted of a crime or owed massive debt. You had to treat yer slave justly. As a Catholic you could not prevent them from going to Mass or taking the Sacraments. You could not treat then cruelly. etc…this was judged by the Church as “Not contrary to the Natural or Moral Law’. Of course that doesn’t mean we should go out and institute Theoretical Slavery. As Feser once explained a Scholastic might point out even thought Theoretical Slavery isn’t intrinsically evil by its nature it is still by it’s nature morally hazardous. In it you still have Absolute Monarch like powers over an individual bound to sever you and the temptation to abuse it will be present. I know during the Civil War some pro-confederacy Bishops wanted the confederacy to adopt a bill of rights for slaves recognizing their rights under the nature and moral law but thanks to Abraham Lincoln the slaves got a better deal( should note by any rational standard American Slavery was on the practical level Chattel slavery ergo immoral and needed to be abolished).
      The Popes for 800 years condemned any unjust depriving of a free person their liberty and reducing them to slavery. They did teach Theoretical Slavery wasn’t against the moral and natural law (which is not the same as saying you should do it mind you). Pope Pius VII started to move the Church into taking a more hard line against even Theoretical Slavery and Pope Leo XIII was fully on board with seeing the whole intitution even its theoretically moral forms abolished.
      With that being said as it pertains to the Death Penalty & I say this as a person who is for the Death Penalty (exercising my right to be so as taught by Benedict XVI and so far not clearly abrogated by Our Current Holy Father Pope Francis) it is perfectly legitimate for the current Pope and his two predecessors to seek to abolish it on prudent grounds. But it is never legitimate to claim the Death Penalty is evil in essence or intrinsically evil.
      Also the Death Penalty is of a different status than Theoretical Slavery. In the OT God commanded the Death Penalty for crimes He never commanded we have slavery or enslave anyone. Also lastly even thought the DP is permitted in principle (and I don’t think the change to the CCC really changes that for reasons I mentioned elsewhere) we must never fall into the Errors of Emmanuel Kant who taught the DP is morally mandated for all potential capital crimes. No sir. We are permitted to grant mercy or refrain from using the DP at all.

      • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

        additional: Theoretical Slavery is not as per the teaching of the Church contrary to the moral and natural law but the same could be said for having a civil government run by an absolute Monarch or Dictator. It is not agains the moral and absolute law to have such a government but why would you want to? Sure a theoretical Christian Absolute Monarchy & or dictatorship would mandate even the King, Emperor or Dictator/Generalecimo cannot act contrary to the natural and moral law BUT when does that not happen? This is the reason why we can’t have Theoretical Slavery either in spite of it’s non-intrinsic evil status. I hope what I said here is clear and nobody starts falsely accusing me of wanting to bring back slavery. I will be very cross if that happens just so you lot know.

        Peace.

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        And yet, Pope John Paul II unequivocally condemned slavery as intrinsically evil in Veritatis Splendor 80. He does not make any differentiation between “theoretical slavery” and chattel slavery. That is a differentiation made a posteriori by apologists trying to clarify the issue and trying to reconcile two apparently contradictory Church teachings

        Something like what Paul and the rest of us have been doing on this blog re: death penalty

  21. Avatar ETY says:

    How do you reconcile this with #33 in the following

    https://www.papalencyclicals.net/leo10/l10exdom.htm

  22. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    Sorry Pedro but if St John Paull II is not making an explicit distinction between Theoretical & Chattel slavery then we must presume he is refering to chatttel slavery only.

    Yer argument is not better than a Feeneyite citing Pope Boniface VIII on EENS and claiming he contradicts Vatican II or Pius IX on the potential salvation of the invincibly ignorant among the non-believers.

    Also Veritatis is citing Vatican II and the examples it given in it’s passing condemnation of slavery are things like ” subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation………..prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit” all of which are clear hallmarks of Chattel slavery.

    Of course we can argue even Theoretical Slavery is against International Law and the law of all civilized countries which means Catholics are obligated to oppose if only on those ground & of course it isn’t against Catholic doctrine to outlaw theoretical slavery just as it isn’t against Catholic doctrine to civily outlaw the use of the death penalty.

    So you statement is in error.

    • Avatar Jim the Scott says:

      Given the context it is clear Vatican II is only refering to chattel slavery otherwise Vatican II would also say it is wrong to keep bonded laborers whose natural law and moral law rights are respected. Who have been placed in their state justly and not unjustly and who are not exploted or treated cruelly. OTOH they could condemn theoretical slavery not on the grounds of it being intrinsically evil but on the grounds it is morally hazardous to have absolute power over individuals with the temptation to exploit it and have it devolve into a chattel situation.

      So I am all for condemning all forms of slavery and even the death penaly provided you do it correctly and I am not seeing that here. Why do you want to do what is right in an erronous ways? That is just plain daft?

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        Actually it it not clear at all that Vatican II is referring only to chattel slavery. You only think it is clear because 1) the apologists (and not the Popes) have clarified it for you and 2) you are open to receive that clarification

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        Correct. The Pope is not making that distinction. *You* are making that distinction. And afterwards gratuitously asserting that we should presume that distinction because you said so. That is not how it works.

        Of course I accept the distinction you proposed, but that’s because I am open for clarifications that, though not official, are nevertheless orthodox. That is why I apply the same logic to the DP.

        You, on the other hand, do not accept that for the DP, therefore if you accept it for slavery, you are being incoherent

  23. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    hey where is my post answering Pedro? He is just wrong man.

  24. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    Or Pedro you are reading into Pope St John Paul what is not really there in the text.

    I quoted the actual text. You made a reference to it and gave me YOUR interpretation.
    I submit THAT is not how this works.

    >Correct. The Pope is not making that distinction.

    He doesn’t need too the context of what he actually wrote tells us he was only talking about chattel slavery.

    >Of course I accept the distinction you proposed, but that’s because I am open for clarifications that, though not official, are nevertheless orthodox. That is why I apply the same logic to the DP.

    I am not doing anything different here either.

    >You, on the other hand, do not accept that for the DP, therefore if you accept it for slavery, you are being incoherent.

    You need to learn how to read big guy. Granted I am limited since there is no edit function here to correct my bad grammar & that might lead you to miss read me but I said it is legitimate for the Church to call for the abolishion of the Death Penalty just as it is licit to call for the abolishion of even Theoretical Slavery.

    What I am saying here is coherent. What is not is what do you think I am saying?

    PS why is my post not here? Come on man! I expect this (& have recieved) this level of restriction from Lifesite. I hold out hope you lot are different and I am jumping the gun.

    • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

      Sometimes it takes a bit for the posts to appear. I had posted a few, only to not see them the next day, only to see them officially there.

  25. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    I think this site ate my post & I think it ate Pedro’s too?

    Here it is…

    Sorry Pedro but if St John Paull II is not making an explicit distinction between Theoretical & Chattel slavery then we must presume he is refering to chatttel slavery only.

    Yer argument is no better than a Feeneyite citing Pope Boniface VIII on EENS and claiming he contradicts Vatican II or Pius IX on the potential salvation of the invincibly ignorant among the non-believers.

    Also Veritatis is citing Vatican II and the examples both give in their passing condemnation of slavery are things like ” subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation…… ………..prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit” all of which are clear hallmarks of Chattel slavery.

    Of course we can argue even Theoretical Slavery is against International Law and the law of all civilized countries which means Catholics are obligated to oppose even theoretical slavery if only on those grounds & of course it isn’t against Catholic doctrine to outlaw theoretical slavery just as it isn’t against Catholic doctrine to outlaw the use of the death penalty.

    So yer statement is in error.

    Ps Really people change this posting system.

  26. Avatar Pete Vickery says:

    Nice article Paul. I guess you live in my neck of the woods (West Michigan). I saw you gave a talk here recently but I could not attend. I would have enjoyed meeting you. So Cardinal Burke referred his Marian Catechist audience to the previous catechism (1997) wrt the death penalty. By doing so he demonstrates his understanding that the catechism is the authoritative teaching of the Church. Logically he should submit then to the revision of #2267. He has taken his profession of faith with it’s allegiance to the pope. Pope Francis has brought the final two paragraphs of 2267 to a cogent conclusion. Some Catholics who don’t like it want it to still be permissible. I remember Christ saving a woman caught in adultery. The death penalty enthusiasts he saved her from were Pharisees and “teachers of religious law” (NIV). We seem to have the same teachers who want to lecture us on how Pope Francis, the successor of Saint Peter, is wrong on this one. Instead of coming on this blog to carp about the loss of their precious death penalty option, why don’t they just take it up with Christ? Or better yet, let’s see how strong their conviction is that they are right. Let’s have them publicly petition their state government to let them be allowed to participate in some way in the execution of an inmate. Would they be hesitant to actually carry out the act themselves instead of someone else? If so, why? Could their conscience be an obstacle at the moment of truth? Cardinal Burke could really convince of how strong his belief in the necessity of the death penalty is by volunteering to participate. After all, what would Jesus do?

  27. Avatar Tony Phillips says:

    Pope Francis is perfectly entitled to be opposed to the death penalty. He is likewise free to espouse vegetarianism or veganism and condemn meat-eating–that’s his personal opinion. What he can’t do–any more than you or me–is to change church teaching.

    The problem is, since Vatican One, popes think they can do anything. Paul VI thought he had the power to abrogate the Mass. Bishops (with 2 exceptions, that I know of) were too cowardly to oppose him, and the result was that millions of Catholics abandoned the faith. Nice one, Montini.

    Now, with this precedent established, Francis thinks he has the power to alter church teaching to suit his whims. Sorry, Jorge, it don’t work that way.

  28. Avatar Dudley Sharp says:

    Paul:

    I think you and the revised CCC made several errors, all of which identify this latest revision as a prudential judgement, hardly prudent and of poor judgement.

    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.”

    Reply: That has been well known and never forgotten, since Genesis 9:6. I am unaware of any Catholic scholar not recognizing that, in over 2000 years.

    Additionally, overlooked, is the obvious fact that it is the criminals who rejects the dignity, established by God. It is still there, for the criminal to reclaim, should they so choose, as a matter of free will, with the grace of God.

    The quote is a prudential and false.

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

    Reply: Understandings about penal sanctions has been reviewed, debated and established, by Catholic teachings and the states, with a 4,000 year history, with nothing new.

    If, all of a sudden, all of those understandings have changed, we have not been informed of it and if such changes have occurred over time, then there is nothing to keep those from changing, again, establishing them as prudential, by reason.

    The quote (2) is without foundation and, therefore, must be prudential.

    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.”

    Reply: All of these are prudential.

    More effective systems of detention do not “ensure the due protection of citizens”.

    We all know, as does the Church, that the current state of the “more efficient systems” is that countless innocents are harmed, everyday and worldwide, because of both human error and the irresponsibility of criminal justice systems, all of which allow criminals to harm and murder, again, in prison, after escape and after improper release, as well as not confining many who should have been confined.

    This is uncontested and very well known.

    This quote (3) is both prudential and false.

    4) Quotes 1-3, allegedly, require us to end the death penalty. We know that to be spurious.

    if they were true, they, allegedly, require us to end the death penalty so that we do not “do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

    When does God say that we are deprived of the possibility of redemption with any death. He doesn’t, of course. We chose our redemption by the grace of God or rejected it by free will, both of which occure, prior to our deaths, not matter what that death may be.

    There are many more problemss with this latest revised 2267. These are the most obvious.

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