Pope Francis recently made statements about capital punishment which are the cause of much discussion. While invoking “development of doctrine” he seems to contradict established Church teaching about the death penalty.
It is as if His Holiness would harmonize these two statements:
- Capital punishment is intrinsically evil.
- Capital punishment is not intrinsically evil.
The principle of non-contradiction suggests to me that these statements cannot be reconciled. But I’m a simple guy.
In my effort to understand the parameters of the issue, I have turned to a 2001 essay by Avery Card. Dulles in First Things called “Catholicism and Capital Punishment.
Take note especially of his point about the virtually unanimous consensus of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church on capital punishment. Also, Dulles makes the observation that opposition to the death penalty has risen in direct relation to the decline in belief in an afterlife. There are many other informative points in his clear piece.
Card. Dulles comes down strongly against application of the death penalty, but in a way that is consistent with the Church’s perennial teaching and in accord with reason. I find him convincing.
This paragraph merits great consideration:
Arguments from the progress of ethical consciousness have been used to promote a number of alleged human rights that the Catholic Church consistently rejects in the name of Scripture and tradition. The magisterium appeals to these authorities as grounds for repudiating divorce, abortion, homosexual relations, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. If the Church feels herself bound by Scripture and tradition in these other areas, it seems inconsistent for Catholics to proclaim a “moral revolution” on the issue of capital punishment.
Along the way you will hear a snip of music from a fascinating modern piece by Garret Fisher called The Passion of Saint Thomas More. It seemed appropriate to use it.
Also, I include at the end a snip of a lovely and soothing Chinese pentatonic rendering of the Ave Maria. It is on an amazing disc.