Pius XII: coercive power, death penalty NOT “conditioned by historical circumstances” for they have “a general and abiding validity”

I was recently reminded of a 2013 article at Crisis by Fr. George Rutler about capital punishment” “Hanging Concentrates The Mind”.

Among other things in his piece, Rutler writes of the guy I wrote about yesterday, Mastro Titta, the official Papal Executioner in the 19th c. Rutler has more details. He provides, in addition, quite a few papal anecdotes about the death penalty. He also mentions the great little Roman church dedicated for my favorite onomastico, San Giovanni Decollato. However, it was a quote of Venerable Pius XII that really caught my attention.  Mind you, Rutler has, by this point, mentioned Pius’ distinctions of medicinal and vindictive aims for punishment:

“All other considerations of the machinery of death aside, this paramount regard for the human soul is quaint only if belief in eternal life is vague. Pope Pius XII was so eager for vindictive penalties that he lent the help of a Jesuit archivist to assist the prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials. He personally told the chief United States prosecutor, Robert Jackson: “Not only do we approve of the trial, but we desire that the guilty be punished as quickly as possible.” This was not in spite of, but issuing from, his understanding of the dual role of healing and vindication. All this should not be remaindered as historical curiosities, for, as Pope Pius XII said, “the coercive power of legitimate human authority” has its roots in “the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine” and so it must not be said “that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances” for they have “a general and abiding validity.” (Acta Apostolica Sedis, 1955, pp.81-82).

I looked it up in AAS 47 (1955) and there it is.  … “Facevamo anche notare che la Chiesa in teoria e in pratica ha mantenuto la doppia specie di pene coercitivo della legitima autorità umana.  Non si dà a questa asserzione una risposta sufficiente, osservando che le fonti anzidette contengono soltanto pensieri corrispondenti alle circostanze storiche e alla coltura del tempo, e che quindi non si può attibuire loro un valore generale e sempre durevolve.  Poiché le parole delle fonti e del magistero vivente non si riferiscono al contentuo concreto di singole prescrizioni giuridiche o regole di azione, ma al fondamento stesso essenziale della potestà penale e della sua immanente finalità.  Questa poi e tanto poco determinata alle condizioni del tempo e della coltura, come la natura dell’uomo e la società umana voluta dalla natura medesima. – Ma qualunque atteggiamento del diritto positivo umano su questo problema, per il Nostro presente scopo basta di mettere in chiaro che in una totale o parziale remissione delle pena anche le pene vindicative (non meno medicinali) possono od anche debbono essere prese in considerazione.”

There’s a great deal to be mined in this second part of Pius’ considerations about crime and punishment.

I cannot fathom that anyone who worked on the CCC change looked at this important contribution by a Roman Pontiff.  The second part of the address is HERE.   The online PDF of AAS has some OCR typos, but it is readable.  There is a lot to consider in there.

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28 Responses to Pius XII: coercive power, death penalty NOT “conditioned by historical circumstances” for they have “a general and abiding validity”

  1. Unwilling says:

    Wouldn’t they just say that in the past it was thought that such moral conclusions had “a general and abiding validity”, but nowadays by ever deepening insights we see that such conclusions were historically conditioned and not true for us now?

  2. Chuck Ludd says:

    This post is exactly why the “little change” is such a big deal. From a policy perspective for the United States, I continue to be strongly opposed to the death penalty (but I cannot judge the circumstances of another country’s need for it in order for that other state or community to remain secure, qualified of course by an assumption of just process), but I am enormously troubled by the “little change” this week and what it portends for the ability of the Holy Father to “change” Church teaching. Even the official spokesman, Greg Burke, a man of considerable theological training, called it officially a “change.” Moreover, my view is that the Latin term “non posse admitti” is far stronger than the bizarrely used English word “inadmissible.” The “non posse” suggests the teaching is getting as close to calling it intrinsically evil as possible without using that term. How this could be changed has left me baffled and confused.

    The Church’s magisterium is dripping in deep philosophical and theological thought but this “little change” seems at best based on thin sentimentality and at worst based on a very dangerous (and startling) notion of “dignity” — as if dignity is conferred by the outside and is not inherently interior.

    And more troubling than even the words is that I have never been this troubled by an act of a Holy Father. That makes me uneasy to even be troubled. Not to say I haven’t cringed at this or that or have agreed with every prudential opinion of a pontiff, but this gets to the heart of Church teaching. Yes, this change is troubling in itself, but is something more diabolical at work here? — the worse feature is that it would leave people who try to be intellectually (and actively) faithful to the Church’s teaching doubting the divine protection? This “little change” has hit me to the quick.

    And one more question, has this ever happened before on a matter of morals?

  3. cengime says:

    It’s not historical circumstances that Pope Francis says have changed, it’s our recognition of human dignity. Ven. Pius XII did not know that murderers are human, but San Francesco della Lista di Attesa does.

  4. chantgirl says:

    I cannot say it better than Peter Kwasniewski says it here:

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/popes-change-to-catechism-is-not-just-a-prudential-judgment-but-a-rejection

    It is clear to me that it is inadmissible for a pope to change Catholic teaching, and yet he has attempted to do just that, and in a very official manner. Sadly, I don’t expect much resistance from the hierarchy to this. If they weren’t willing to defend Christ in the Eucharist or marriage from the ravages of Amoris Laetitia, I doubt that they will suddenly find their courage to challenge Francis on this. After all, the death penalty is pretty unpopular among Catholics. At its root, though, we are not dealing with an argument about the concrete circumstances surround modern application of the death penalty; we are dealing with the authority of a pope to change established Church teaching. He simply does not have this authority.

    The cynic in me suspects that this is more of a political move on Francis’ part. It deflects attention from the homosexual scandals engulfing the hierarchy (and claims of malfeasance in this area have been made about Francis and some of his cronies- Maradiaga and Danneels). It also deflects our attention from the rumors surrounding a retooling of Humanae Vitae, the study group working on female deacons, the rumblings about the future Amazonian and youth synods. It also hands the Democrats in this country, including those among the bishops, some huge ammunition for the upcoming elections. Now Catholics can claim, with Papal approval, that the seamless garment renders democrats “pro-life” who are pro-abortion but anti-death penalty. Just watch- catholic voting guides will begin to reflect this, and people like Fr. James Martin and Mark Shea will bludgeon pro-life Catholics with the heresy stick that Francis has handed them.

    In any case, this attempted change to the Church’s teaching cannot be accepted.

  5. excalibur says:

    “Dignity”. Well, isn’t a major group promoting homosexuality using that name? Yes, and now the clarion call for “dignity” emanates from the Vatican. Now first using the death penalty as its focus, and on what country is this particularly aimed one might wonder. As if President Trump were having anyone executed? Smacks of TDS.

    From the letter to the Bishops:

    “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.”

    A “mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life”. A pro homosexual undercurrent in all of this blares out at anyone with eyes to see, ears to hear. Step by step we go.

  6. Andy_P says:

    Matthew Arnold’s show “Happy Hour” (this past Friday.. it’s on youtube or the virgenmostpowerful.org website) does a great job covering this topic. He also emphasizes the importance Pius XII and the Nuremberg trials post WWII.

  7. Andy_P says:

    This is their website. (I left out the radio)
    http://virginmostpowerfulradio.org/

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    I think that the catechism text expresses what is the application in today’s circumstances of the perennial teaching.

    But my thoughts have been clarified by this incident that the aspect of maintaining a grave offender in life imprisonment (at great cost to society in fact) as unmerited and a mercy (and mercy a greater good than crime is an evil) can only be understood if it is understood that a death penalty can be basically just. Even Jesus dying on the Cross in atonement for our sins can only be comprehensible of it is comprehended that death itself is a consequence of original sin and humans can actually deserve to be put to death for their actual wrong-doing. It can’t be the will of the Father that His Son should suffer a punishment that senselessly exceeds what the sins of humanity actually deserve. And apparently we do deserve it (think about the Great Flood and ask yourself if it is not possible that most of us deserve it, and look at how many people get assumed directly into heaven) even though we are made in the image of God and have human dignity. So, part of the point of Jesus dying to pay our debt is that that is actually what the payment of our debt and our redemption entails. Having been saved at such a price we are called to show Mercy to others. Isn’t that the basis for why we must prefer to imprison people for life rather than put them to death? Ironically there is some danger of Pope Francis’ approach leaving an understanding of mercy out of it since it could lead people to assume someone made in the image of God couldn’t merit death. When really the image of God in us is the basis for the human capacity for morally responsible or culpable actions. It’s also a capacity for mercy!

    I think this is yet another confusing Pope Francis moment but I don’t think any actual teaching on faith or morals actually changed.

  9. Adam Michael says:

    Elizabeth D.,

    The new catechism text clearly states that the Church now teaches that the death penalty is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. Attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person are always evils and sinful. If the death penalty (in general and not in its particular forms, which are not treated at all in the catechism revision) enacts such attacks on human dignity it is sinful and evil. Unless you can provide examples of attacks on the inviolability and dignity of people that are not sinful, there is no way to argue that the perennial teaching of the Church that supports the general morality of the death penalty is preserved in this catechism revision.

    But be of good cheer, the traditional teaching of the Church remains, just ground yourself in the historic Catholic Faith and stay close to the sacraments and our beautiful devotions. May God bless you.

  10. aguernz says:

    Here’s an English translation of the full speech in context.
    https://medium.com/@aguernz/addresses-of-pius-xii-on-purposes-of-punishment-and-the-death-penalty-47ced4c9130e
    The relevant part is this:
    “In Our discourse of 3rd October, 1953, to the Sixth International Congress of Penal Law (Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, Vol. XV, p. 352), and also on the present occasion (Osservatore Romano, 6th -7th December, 1954), we called attention to the fact that many, perhaps the majority, of civil jurists reject vindictive punishment; We noted, however, that perhaps the considerations and arguments adduced as proof were being given a greater importance and force than they have in fact. We also pointed out that the Church in her theory and practice has maintained this double type of penalty (medicinal and vindictive), and that this is more in agreement with what the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine teach regarding the coercive power of legitimate human authority. It is not a sufficient reply to this assertion to say that the aforementioned sources contain only thoughts which correspond to the historic circumstances and to the culture of the time, and that a general and abiding validity cannot therefore be attributed to them. The reason is that the words of the sources and of the living teaching power do not refer to the specific content of individual juridical prescriptions or rules of action (cf. particularly Ep. to the Romans, xiii, 4), but rather to the essential foundation itself of penal power and of its immanent finality . This in turn is as little determined by the conditions of time and culture as the nature of man and the human society decreed by nature itself. But, whatever the attitude of positive human law on this problem, it is sufficient for Our present purpose to make clear that in any total or partial remission of punishment, the vindictive penalties (no less than the medicinal) can, and even should, be taken into consideration.”

  11. JabbaPapa says:

    Adam :

    The new catechism text clearly states that the Church now teaches that the death penalty is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. Attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person are always evils and sinful.

    Adam, that’s exactly the crux of the pro et contra arguments about the death penalty that have been ongoing in the Church for about 1800 years or more …

    I am starting to have a clearer idea about what the new wording of CCC 2276 does, and what it doesn’t do.

    It does not declare that the Civil Authority cannot institute the death penalty

    It does not issue any declarations condemning those who participate in the death penalty, nor those who individually might support it

    It does establish that the death penalty is unacceptable to the Church — but it’s important here to understand that the principal effect of this is that the Church can no longer provide teachings in favour of the death penalty, nor establish any Canon Law supporting nor accepting it, and so on (I do not know what the consequences of this upon home religious and moral education might be)

    It does establish that seeking to have the death penalty abolished everywhere is, basically, a missionary purpose of the Church

    And yes, it does establish that the death penalty is objectively immoral — this has been a VERY long-standing question within the Church

    Some people seem to think that this contradicts doctrine — not so.

    First, the doctrine established that the secular Authority is the agency that institutes the death penalty. This is not changed by CCC 2276. And it is not an infallible doctrine by any means.

    It’s important to realise here, and it’s non-obvious, that this doctrinal declaration that the death penalty is a secular matter makes it therefore impossible that support for the death penalty could be considered as Church teaching. Rather, the Church simply permitted individuals to be publicly in favour of it. This too is not changed by CCC 2276, although some long-argued reasons for perhaps doing so have now been officially denounced, so that this possibility is now significantly weaker than it was.

    Second, it established (and this is particularly well expressed by Pope Pius XII in those extracts provided by Father Z, especially in the quote in Italian) that the secular nature of the death penalty is theologically robust, along the lines of “Reddite ergo quæ sunt Cæsaris, Cæsari: et quæ sunt Dei, Deo“, but some may not realise the full extent to which this goes both ways.

    The Faithful live both within the Church, and within the World. As such, we are subjected to two sources of Authority in our lives, the secular and the ecclesial. Pope Boniface VIII’s bull Unam Sanctam establishes this very strongly, despite the horridly poor translations of it that are generally consulted.

    BUT, Unam Sanctam also establishes, very strongly, that in religious matters, the secular Authority is subjected to the Pope, and this is the Authority that has been invoked for this revision of CCC 2276.

    The Pope does have the right, and without any so-called “heresy”, to declare some provisions of the secular law to be unacceptable to the Church in its religious Authority, where that law might violate doctrine. The death penalty is not separate from that fact.

    The doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person is a far more authoritative doctrine than the non-infallible teaching of the Church on the death penalty. Indeed, I’d propose that the doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person is quite likely to be infallible, and the Church has certainly provided teaching appearing quite strongly to suggest as much.

    Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on respect for human life, 1987 : The intervention of the public authority must be inspired by the rational principles which regulate the relationships between civil law and moral law. The task of the civil law is to ensure the common good of people through the recognition of and the defence of fundamental rights and through the promotion of peace and of public morality. In no sphere of life can the civil law take the place of conscience or dictate norms concerning things which are outside its competence. It must sometimes tolerate, for the sake of public order, things which it cannot forbid without a greater evil resulting. However, the inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state: they pertain to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his or her origin.

    Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard: a) every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death

    See also :

    Gaudium et Spes 27 : Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

    ——-
    Now, because of what the revised CCC 2267 does not do (it does not repress the right of the civil Authority to establish its laws on these matters ; it does not repress diversity of individual opinion on this question, albeit that some reasons for such opinions can no longer be considered as being pertinent), the arguments about this question have therefore not been settled.

    But at the very least, proponents and supporters of the death penalty should seriously consider their opinions in these matters, with a vue to examining in conscience if those opinions are coherent with the Catholic doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person, and the doctrine of the right to life.

    Personally, I’ve always felt that there is an incoherence to being anti-contraception, anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-eugenics, but to support the death penalty.

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    Why would Jesus be executed by the state if that is not within the realm of what could be a just temporal penalty for our misdeeds? Was Jesus’ death on the Cross not a real redemption price He paid to atone for our sins? It doesn’t make sense to me that the Crucifixion would be a demonstration of the injustice of capital punishment, since we are taught that Jesus did not deserve this punishment that but took on our sin and the punishment we were deserving of, and that for instance St Dismas confesses himself to be getting what he deserved for his deeds though Jesus has done nothing wrong. Jesus’ response seems to warmly imply that Dismas has spoken rightly, is that not partly because of Dismas accepting the temporal punishment due to his sin? Who can contend with this issue, much less claim they are basing their teaching on the Gospel, without contending with this? Also, why take Mercy out of the equation as the reason why we do NOT want the death penalty carried out even on the guilty? Maybe Christians could say to the guilty “I spare you not because you personally merit to live but because you who chose to violate and destroy the life of another bear also the image of the One Who is Life, and Who came not to destroy but to save, and I reverence His image in you and hope for you to participate in His Life by grace, that you may have not only natural life but eternal life.”

  13. Lurker 59 says:

    ~Jabba Papa

    It is not inconsistent with being pro-life and pro-death penalty, for those who support the State’s recourse see it as an exercise and participation in God’s own Divine Justice. The contra argument has to take this into account by either arguing that the State does not have a right to participate thusly or that Divine Justice does not actually entail death (which is manifestly false as people die).

    Your argument has a few flaws. Permit me to point out a foundational one: You argue that both the Church’s teaching that the State (and by implication Catholic members of the State, as well as the Christian State, as well as the Vatican State) has right and obligation of recourse to the death penalty is doctrinal and that Pope Francis’ teaching (and we must say Pope Francis not the Church for the teaching is by Pope Francis who cites only himself) to the contrary is also doctrinal. This right here violates the principle of non-contradiction. You simply cannot have contradictory doctrinal statements being true in all times and in all places.

    Thusly, the argument need not proceed as it is flawed at the premise.
    —–

    The more dangerous thing here is not that Pope Francis thinks that he can change doctrine, but rather that the assumption here is that such a stance is part of the missionary mandate of the Church. What is the missionary mandate of the Church? It is to proclaim the Gospel, which is that the Second Person of the Trinity became a man, to die for our sins, and to thusly offer redemption and salvation to those that he so calls. The missionary mandate of the Church is not a social program intent on building a just society here on earth, a social utopia. That members of the Church do form and agitate towards a just earthly society (Christendom) is a by-product of the reception of the Gospel, not the missionary mandate.

    Even still, a just society is one in which the State (even a Christian State even the Vatican State) does wield the sword of justice.

    I do want to go back and stress again that saying that recourse to the death penalty is inadmissible is not the Gospel. The Gospel is that God, through the incarnation of the Son, allows a path back from damnation NOT that there is no eternal damnation. Sin causes one to be cut off from communion and society — to be cast out, deprived of unity and life. When we sit around and posit that the death penalty is inadmissible we, in fact, are saying that nothing ultimately can cut us off from community and society — that one’s “inherent inviolable human dignity” means that one cannot ultimately be cut off from society and communion due to their sins, both from temporal society and, by implication, the heavenly society of which the temporal society is only but a reflection.

    That is the problem and the heresy underneath this all. It is the belief that humans are owed communion because of their mere existence, both in terms of temporal society and communion with God and that nothing can or should cut that off. Communion is a gift received and something that can be ultimately rejected. God does justly cast individuals out inclusion in heavenly society to a second death and the State does justly cast individuals out of temporal society with the death penalty.

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    Lurker :

    You argue that both the Church’s teaching that the State (and by implication Catholic members of the State, as well as the Christian State, as well as the Vatican State) has right and obligation of recourse to the death penalty is doctrinal and that Pope Francis’ teaching (and we must say Pope Francis not the Church for the teaching is by Pope Francis who cites only himself) to the contrary is also doctrinal. This right here violates the principle of non-contradiction.

    First, “the Christian State” and “Vatican State” are civil Authorities.

    Pope Francis’ teaching (and we must say Pope Francis not the Church for the teaching is by Pope Francis who cites only himself) to the contrary

    CCC 2267 does not contradict the doctrine that the civil Authority establishes the civil Law.

    You’re seeing a “contradiction” that just isn’t there.

    Your objection is “flawed at the premise”.

    —-

    As for the rest of your post, I can only read it as an expression of the ongoing arguments in this question of the death penalty, which by no means have all been resolved by this revision of CCC 2267.

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger : There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty

  15. Adam Michael says:

    Jabba Papa,

    “It does not issue any declarations condemning those who participate in the death penalty, nor those who individually might support it”

    There does not have to be canonical penalties mentioned in a catechetical text. However, if I support something objectively immoral, it is sufficiently clear that I should repent.

    “I do not know what the consequences of this upon home religious and moral education might be”

    If you accept the catechism revision, you would be required to teach others to avoid it as you would regarding any other affront to human dignity. And if they supported capital punishment, you would teach them to repent for embracing evil. Why would home religious and moral education have a different stance than public authority regarding issues of sin? In fact, belief and practice recognizing the new teaching on capital punishment would start in home religious and moral education, which would undergird the Church’s public efforts to eradicate the newly understood evil of capital punishment.

    “And yes, it does establish that the death penalty is objectively immoral — this has been a VERY long-standing question within the Church”

    No, it wasn’t. There was no question at all in the Church that capital punishment was objectively moral in principle until Pope Francis began questioning the essential morality of this practice. There was questioning from the usual dissenters, but that is not the voice of the official Church.

    “First, the doctrine established that the secular Authority is the agency that institutes the death penalty. This is not changed by CCC 2276. And it is not an infallible doctrine by any means.”

    The principled acceptance of the morality of capital punishment was taught by all the bishops in communion with the Pope and through them to all the faithful for centuries. This is the ordinary, universal magisterium and it, too, is infallible because it is the faith of the whole Church. St. Vincent of Lerins taught us to look to this universal criterion of faith in order to know the truth. However, you argue that it was fallible. According to you, the entire Church bound herself to an inadequate understanding of sin, morality, and human dignity for centuries. This is false and is not the Catholic Faith, which is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). If you are right, maybe the teaching of just war and killing in self-defense are also fallible. How do you know? These teachings, too, were taught by the fullness of the Church outside ecumenical councils (in particular, killing in self-defense) or ex cathedra papal statements. Your idea of the evolution of doctrine and morality into its opposite leads you to be unsure about the basic understanding of right and wrong.

    “It’s important to realise here, and it’s non-obvious, that this doctrinal declaration that the death penalty is a secular matter makes it therefore impossible that support for the death penalty could be considered as Church teaching. ”

    Most ethical issues are medical issues in the sense that doctors and hospitals are principally involved, yet the Church provides doctrinal/moral guidelines that govern her members’ relationship to their services. Likewise, business and national/international economies are thoroughly secular, yet the Church has a robust body of social teachings on the integrity and dignity of the worker that all Catholics, in conscience, must accept. Your comment comes close to a radical division of the spiritual and social realms that is contradicted by the Church’s body of medical and business ethics, which would not exist if the Church’s Deposit of Faith was unable to doctrinally teach on the Catholic’s relationship to secular concerns. Under your understanding of the Church’s doctrinal authority, there would not exist much moral or social doctrine since much of this doctrine focuses on the ethical requirements of individuals and structures no less secular than juridical processes of crime and punishment. If the Church can doctrinally bind Catholics to medical and business ethics, she can do the same with their relationship to capital punishment since the former is no less secular than the latter.

    “Rather, the Church simply permitted individuals to be publicly in favour of it.”

    No, rather the Church required individuals to accept its intrinsic and general morality. Only after this fundamental agreement, did the Church permit individuals to agree or disagree with its particular applications.

    “This too is not changed by CCC 2276, although some long-argued reasons for perhaps doing so have now been officially denounced, so that this possibility is now significantly weaker than it was.”

    As a Catholic, I am permitted to support public attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person (a very serious sin)? Your faulty understanding of the relationship of the spiritual and temporal realms is contracting basic Catholic morality. This extreme laicization of life is antithetical to the Church’s immemorial teaching and practice.

    “The Pope does have the right, and without any so-called ‘heresy’, to declare some provisions of the secular law to be unacceptable to the Church in its religious Authority, where that law might violate doctrine. The death penalty is not separate from that fact.”

    True, but one of the doctrines is that of the intrinsic morality of capital punishment. If doctrines can change to state their opposite, there is no longer a sure doctrinal foundation upon which to evaluate secular legislation. For your statement (which is an accurate statement of the Church’s practice) to work, the doctrine must remain solid in order for the Church’s legislator to properly evaluate secular trends. To argue otherwise is epistemologically unsound since it obscures the knowledge the Church requires to pass effective judgment on temporal issues in the light of her Faith.

    “The doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person is a far more authoritative doctrine than the non-infallible teaching of the Church on the death penalty.”

    Again, you are ignoring the ordinary and universal magisterium that I discussed earlier. This is an incomplete understanding of the Church’s teaching authority that will erode your faith if not corrected.

    “Indeed, I’d propose that the doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person is quite likely to be infallible, and the Church has certainly provided teaching appearing quite strongly to suggest as much.”

    It is already infallible because of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church. But because you have compromised this by your rejection of this magisterial witness regarding capital punishment, you are left with uncertainty regarding a foundational moral principle (basic human dignity).

    “it does not repress diversity of individual opinion on this question, albeit that some reasons for such opinions can no longer be considered as being pertinent), the arguments about this question have therefore not been settled.”

    Are Catholics allowed to have diversity of opinion on attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person (aka evil and sin)? Certainly not. If you accept the Catechism revision, you are bound to affirm that one may have a diversity of opinion on whether one may commit sin (attacks on human dignity) in order for your statement to stand.

    “if those opinions are coherent with the Catholic doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person”

    No “ifs”, Jabba. The revision says that that capital punishment attacks human dignity. Maintain the traditional and only doctrine of the Church, not new innovation, it will only corrupt your Catholic Faith. May God bless and guide you.

    “Personally, I’ve always felt that there is an incoherence to being anti-contraception, anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-eugenics, but to support the death penalty.”

    No incoherence for those who accept that the Church, founded on the two-fold Sources of Scripture and Tradition, has always accorded the state the authority to fairly execute the guilty whose dignity sometimes demands reparation for the welfare of the community. However, there is a real incoherence in condemning capital punishment as an general attack on human dignity, while supporting just war (isn’t this similar to multiple capital punishments, often in worse ways than the death penalty?) or killing in self-defense, which is not that different front capital punishment, except that is administered by the individual and regularly with less certainty of the need than is judicious capital punishment.

  16. Adam Michael says:

    Typing corrections:

    “Canonical penalties are not required in a catechetical text. However, if I support something objectively immoral, it is sufficiently clear that I should repent.”

    “which is not that different from capital punishment, except that is administered by the individual and regularly with less certainty of the need than is judicious capital punishment.”

  17. chantgirl says:

    If, as the Holy Scriptures tell us:

    -the wages of sin are death

    – that Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate of the forbidden fruit

    -those who were not supposed to touch the Ark of the Covenant but did anyway, died

    -Dismas declares that he is getting the punishment he deserves

    -several early Christians are struck dead after being deceitful with their donations

    -Jesus acknowledges the authority Pilate has to have Him executed

    Then we cannot realistically argue that the death penalty is against human dignity. In fact, the death penalty acknowledges that human beings have such dignity, that when we commit certain sins we merit death. It also acknowledges the dignity of the victims. We also know that God can delegate this action to men on earth- in the Old Testament He called for the killing of various transgressors.

    Does this not also strike at the very authority and justice/mercy of God? After all, He is the one who revealed to us that sin has the very real consequence of death. If the death penalty (and life in prison as Francis has commented on elsewhere) are against human dignity, what about Hell and eternal punishment? Is God Himself against human dignity?

    Is it not mercy for a man to have a serious chance to atone for his crimes on earth (to his ability, the Cross of Christ still being necessary) rather than suffer eternal punishment in the afterlife?

    JPII’s catechism at least acknowledged the possibility of recourse to the death penalty, as the Church has long taught. Francis has not made a prudential judgment here based on modern prison conditions, but has attacked the principle of the death penalty itself, which contradicts scripture and Tradition, including the words of several popes before him.

  18. JabbaPapa says:

    Adam Michael :

    There was questioning from the usual dissenters

    Saint Augustine of Hippo, Letter to the magistrate Macedonius :

    In no way, then, do we approve of the sins that we want to be corrected, nor do we want the wrongdoing to go unpunished because we find it pleasing. Rather, having compassion for the person and detesting the sin or crime, the more we are displeased by the sin the less we want the sinful person to perish without having been corrected. For it is easy and natural to hate evil persons because they are evil, but it is rare and holy to love those same persons because they are human beings. Thus, in one person you at the same time both blame the sin and approve of the nature, and for this reason you must justly hate the sin because it defiles the nature that you love. He, therefore, who punishes the crime in order to set free the human being is bound to another person as a companion not in injustice but in humanity. There is no other place for correcting our conduct save in this life. For after this life each person will have what he earned for himself in this life. And so, out of love for the human race we are compelled to intercede on behalf of the guilty lest they end this life through punishment so that, when it is ended, they cannot have an end to their punishment.

    However, you argue that [the Magisterium] was fallible

    I cannot recall having suggested anything even remotely of the sort.

    To point out that one doctrine was not infallibly established is not to question the Magisterium in toto.

    one of the doctrines is that of the intrinsic morality of capital punishment

    Nowhere has the Church declared capital punishment to be intrinsically moral.

    Again, you are ignoring the ordinary and universal magisterium that I discussed earlier

    No I am not.

    Me : “Indeed, I’d propose that the doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person is quite likely to be infallible, and the Church has certainly provided teaching appearing quite strongly to suggest as much.”

    You : It is already infallible because of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church. But because you have compromised this by your rejection of this magisterial witness regarding capital punishment, you are left with uncertainty regarding a foundational moral principle (basic human dignity).

    No, not all doctrines declared by the Church are endowed with the Charism of infallibility.

    I did look for a declaration of the doctrine of the inviolability and dignity of the human person where its infallibility is manifest through wording, but I was unsuccessful in my search.

    I lack the magisterial Authority to declare these or those doctrines to be infallible, and so I refrain from doing so.

    This is not from “confusion”, but from unwillingness to take the Law into my own hands.

    Are Catholics allowed to have diversity of opinion on attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person (aka evil and sin)? Certainly not.

    Whilst I would not disagree with your interpretations of that doctrine, as they seem to serve you well, I think that you still need to learn more about the varying degrees of doctrinal Authority.

    Catholics are not permitted to have diversity of opinion on attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person, but not because the doctrine is formally infallible (as far as I can tell, it has never formally been declared such), but because it has been authoritatively provided by the ordinary Magisterium.

    you are bound to affirm that one may have a diversity of opinion on whether one may commit sin (attacks on human dignity) in order for your statement to stand

    No I’m not, and I most certainly would never claim any such absurdity !!

    You seem to rely overmuch on syllogism. It is no guarantor of truth.

    No “ifs”, Jabba. The revision says that that capital punishment attacks human dignity.

    Neither you nor I have the Authority to provide such interpretations, and then proclaim them as true into the public sphere.

    I am dependent on answers to these questions of a more practical and down-to-earth nature on the instruction in these things to be provided by my Ordinary and by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (though I doubt your apparent suggestion that sin and attacks on human dignity are synonymous — not all sins are against human persons, whereas all sins are against God)

    No incoherence for those who accept that the Church, founded on the two-fold Sources of Scripture and Tradition, has always accorded the state the authority to fairly execute the guilty whose dignity sometimes demands reparation for the welfare of the community. However, there is a real incoherence in condemning capital punishment as an general attack on human dignity, while supporting just war (isn’t this similar to multiple capital punishments, often in worse ways than the death penalty?) or killing in self-defense, which is not that different front capital punishment, except that is administered by the individual and regularly with less certainty of the need than is judicious capital punishment.

    Again, I refer to Cardinal Ratzinger’s instruction that there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty.

    You seem to want to deny me this, by claiming that only one opinion on the death penalty is true, and “infallibly” at that.

    If the doctrine had been infallible, Cardinal Ratzinger would certainly never have provided that instruction to the Faithful.

  19. TonyO says:

    Father Z, thank you very, very much for continuing to teach the Catholic faith whole and intact, in season and out. God bless you for it, as He always blesses those who do His will.

    For those who have doubted the perennial teaching of the Church about the liceity of the death penalty, I offer this thought: the core meaning of the Incarnation was for God the Son to be the Redeemer of mankind through suffering for us the just punishment due for our sins. He suffered death so we would not have to. It is not only infallibly taught by the Church, but a core and essential aspect of the faith, that God imposed on Jesus what justice required for our sins. It was a just punishment, though not a matter of being just TO JESUS, it was a matter of being merciful to us. From God’s point of view, death is a just punishment for our truly grave sins. Hence, it is contrary to the Catholic faith to even doubt whether death can be a just punishment for our evil acts.

    Secondly, God delegates his authority to punish, to men. This is, again, incontrovertible, as it is the explicit teaching of St. Paul in Romans 13:1-4. God does this sometimes in one-off special circumstances, but in other ways as a general grant of authority, which Paul makes clear happens with regard to civil authorities: by the very nature of being civil authority, the civil government has from God the power and right to punish on His behalf, doing His work of redressing justice. This just is the core nature of punishment in the civil order. St. Peter says the same thing: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.”

    The only question remaining, then, is not whether the death penalty “violates the dignity of the person”, but whether the CIVIL government’s reach of authority to punish includes even so awful a punishment as death. And, again, St. Paul gives us the answer straight out: the prince has the power of the sword to avenge wrongdoing. The sword was used to kill. In particular, the Greek word used refers to the Roman short sword, which all soldiers had to carry, and they were all trained to use in combat to stab to kill. (You don’t need a 4-foot sword to reach the heart or liver or kidneys in close fighting when you stab with it, and that’s how they trained.)

  20. TonyO says:

    If the change to the CCC is meant to indicate that the official Catholic teaching now is that the prudential conclusion that formerly held for most cases of DP is to be applied to ALL cases of DP – namely, that it is unnecessary because we can keep people safe without it – and that new official teaching REMAINS in form a prudential judgment, then certain things follow.

    One thing that follows is that the prudential judgment thus stated would be understood to apply to the conditions now present, but it would not necessarily apply to other conditions. So, for example, it might not apply to conditions tomorrow, or next month, or next year, when conditions are different from those the Pope understands to be present now in August 2018.

    In fact, we should be able to take the phrasing of the new teaching and examine it to see what conditions, specifically, it is pointing to that make the DP not admissible right now. And here they are: “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”.

    But “is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person” are conditions that – at least according to the Pope – apply not only to all persons today, but apply to all persons of all times, in all situations and cultures. This is because they apply merely in virtue of their being human.

    Yet this is the very same thing as saying that the DP is wrong from the very nature of the human person. Or: that the DP is intrinsically contrary to human nature. I.E. the DP is intrinsically evil.

    It is true that the CCC does not explicitly say that the DP is intrinsically evil. But the reason it gives for it being inadmissible cannot be logically separated from asserting that DP is intrinsically evil. So, it appears that we can either have it that the Pope’s change is illogical or it is asserting a change to what was before taught immemorially, universally, and infallibly by the Church, that the DP is, in principle, morally licit.

    And there is a nuance to the “it remains a prudential judgment” approach: Prudential judgments about the application of general moral principles to particular cases are not generally the stuff of “teachings to which we owe religious submission”. The Church does not, and has never, claimed for herself the divine protection for the application of prudential judgment to cases. She claims that protection for teachings that can be right in principle, and at the level of principle. If the new CCC teaching remains at the level of prudential judgment, it remains at the level of something to which we can object or disagree without sin: it does not bind the conscience. It is ONLY if it is a teaching of a principle that it can get a new reach that JPII’s version of 2267 could not get, that could bind us to assent. So, pay attention to arguments that the CCC remains at the level of a prudential judgment – but then go on to assert or simply assume that because the Pope’s new text leaves no room for “disputed concrete cases”, we are now obliged to agree with the position that the DP is inadmissible in all cases. That doesn’t work: the Pope can have a text that remains at the level of prudential judgment but at the cost of remaining something that leaves us free to disagree with his conclusions, upon sufficient study and work to discern.

  21. TonyO says:

    If the doctrine had been infallible, Cardinal Ratzinger would certainly never have provided that instruction to the Faithful.

    This is, unfortunately, simply not true. The Church, and in particular the CDF, often and widely refuses to spend time nailing down the things that have been taught infallibly by the Ordinary Magisterium and thus declaring them to have been taught infallibly by that method. There are (at least) two important reasons the Church does not undertake to do this as a general task.

    First, because doing so would give the inadvertent and pernicious impression that if the Church or the CDF had failed to so declare specifically in favor of X teaching, that this must mean it had not been taught infallibly. This is definitively NOT the case, and she doesn’t want to lend weight to the mistaken impression that it is the case. The teaching in Humanae Vitae against contraception was infallibly taught before Humanae Vitae, by the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium, and Pope Paul re-iterated that perennial teaching firmly and clearly. But he did not state in that document that “this has already been taught infallibly by the Ordinary Magisterium”, either. Nor did he declare it elsewhere. The Church declines to allow the question of “what has been taught by the Ordinary Magisterium” to be captured in a game of “it hasn’t been taught by the Ordinary Magisterium until there is an official Vatican document that SAYS it has.” That would unseat the very concept of the ordinary teaching office that resides in the bishops individually and as a body.

    Secondly, while there are some teachings that can unmistakably be recognized as having already been taught infallibly by the Ordinary Magisterium, that recognition is indisputably dependent on a record of historical details. One (or more) of the criteria in that recognition depend specifically on the length of time and the number of persons and occasions in which the teaching has been stated: duration and frequency of repetition matter, though they are not the sole criteria. It is, therefore, absolutely inevitable that some teachings are at varying stages of satisfying those criteria BEFORE they can be recognized as indisputably having satisfied the criteria for having been taught infallibly. And, it is unavoidably part of the nature of the historical perspective that is intrinsic to the work of historical analysis of factors capable of degree, that they are fairly and uprightly judged differently by wise men of good will: Where some holy scholar will judge that X teaching “has indeed satisfied the criteria, though only barely”, another holy scholar will judge that X teaching “has not yet satisfied the criteria, though it is close.” I.E. there can be real doubt about difficult cases, even if there is no doubt about others. The Church is not in the business of cutting short that work by wise and holy scholars who must evaluate the historical record, nor to simply demand of the Holy Spirit to tell her point blank “are these bishops now teaching right, or are they in error?” The Holy Spirit has his own time table for allowing certainty to be gained, and it is not our role to speed that up for our convenience.

    If the Church were to go about and regularly declare which teachings had been taught infallibly by the Ordinary Magisterium, this means that the Church would speak positively only in the most obvious cases, and this would leave under an unnatural epistemic cloud the cases that were not quite as obvious but STILL HAD in fact been taught infallibly. She would thus undermine the proper deference and submission that is due these teachings that have been taught so long, consistently, widely, and coherently, by failing to grant them the positive declaration that they had now achieved the status of “have been taught infallibly”.

    No, the Church has a different view: teachings by the bishops are due the respect that belongs to them by the nature of the teaching. Teachings that have been taught without surcease in and out of the ages, by Fathers and Doctors, by theologians and saints, that have been woven into a coherent picture of devout and Catholic faith, are owed immense respect and submission even when they have not quite certainly and definitively satisfied the criteria of having been taught infallibly. Rejection of them, or even doubt of them, can constitute a defect of faith even when the Church has not yet said that they are infallibly taught.

    We absolutely and certainly CANNOT rely on whether the Pope, the Vatican, the CDF, or a cardinal has not declared it to be infallible.

    There is a third reason, not as universal but also significant: Although Ratzinger is an immensely well-educated theologian, he is not immensely well-educated about every single aspect of the faith. The question of whether, through the ages, there has been ENOUGH teaching to make the position about the DP infallible requires an historical study of great depth and breadth: it is entirely possible that Ratzinger simply never undertook that difficult study and worked it out – and nor had anyone in the CDF. He would, then, rightly refuse to speak on the matter without having done the research.

    On the other hand, Professor Edward Feser and his colleague Joseph Bessette HAVE done that research – or, at least, a very large portion of it (since there is always additional material elsewhere). And their decided conclusion is that the thesis HAD been taught infallibly by the Church: the DP is, in principle, morally licit. Their argument is well-laid out in their book, “By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed.”

  22. Pingback: The Death Penalty Monday Edition – Big Pulpit

  23. JabbaPapa says:

    TonyO, so Professor Edward Feser and his colleague Joseph Bessette are figures of greater Authority in these matters than the Church Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, who established the doctrine of the inviolability of human dignity, than the former Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (an obvious incompetent) and former Pope Benedict XVI, than Pope Saint John Paul II, particularly in his Evangelium Vitae, than the Roman Pontiff, than the present Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its Prefect without whose considered agreement this change to CCC 2267 were impossible, and in a nutshell than the entire body of the Ordinary teaching Magisterium, and the extraordinary ?

    Amazing.

    I for one am quite loathe to start declaring anything in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be “wrong” or “heretical” or anything.

  24. Adam Michael says:

    “Saint Augustine of Hippo, Letter to the magistrate Macedonius”

    Don’t forget Lactantius, who is a more appropriate witness to buttress your arguments. While I disagree with your interpretation of St. Augustine, I will rather focus on the problem of utilizing one person to oppose my comment regarding dissenters. I was referring to those dissenters who opposed the consistent witness of the Church in modern times. Citing individual Fathers of the Church who shared an alternate opinion is hardly a body of dissenters. If the presence of divergent patristic views forbade one from calling out dissenters, the Church would have been unable to criticize the Reformers who denied the sinlessness of Our Lady because St. John Chrysostom accused her of a venial sin.

    “To point out that one doctrine was not infallibly established is not to question the Magisterium in toto.”

    There you are wrong. The Church’s sure and infallible truths are not limited to those taught definitely by the Church in her extraordinary episcopal or papal magisterium, but rather also encompass those teachings of faith and morals that are proposed to be definitely held by the faithful. Monsignor G. Van Noort maintains, “If a truth is capable of being declared an object of divine –catholic faith through the force of this ordinary and universal teaching, there is required such a proposal as is unmistakably definitive . . . The major signs of such a proposal are these: that the truth be taught throughout the world in popular catechisms, or even more importantly, be taught by the universal and constant agreement of theologians as matter belonging to faith” (Dogmatic Theology: The Sources of Revelation and Divine Faith, p. 222). This is certainly the case with the intrinsic morality of capital punishment. The Dictionary of Moral Theology demonstrates this by noting, “A Catholic may accept or reject the doctrine of capital punishment on the basis of circumstances, but he may not state that the application of this penalty is a violation of the natural law” (p. 1009). If the Catechism revision had been limited to affirming that in light of current circumstances, capital punishment is inadmissible, it could be narrowly within the Church’s teaching. However, by affirming its inadmissibility on the basis of its attack on the human person (violations of whom are always violations against the moral law, which can never be contradicted by the natural law), the revision contradicts the sure teaching of the Church. By removing yourself from the sure teaching of the Church regarding capital punishment you contract Pius IX on the authority of the ordinary and universal magisterium: “By divine faith are to be believed those things which, through the ordinary teaching of the whole Church throughout the world, are proposed as divinely revealed and, as a result, by the universal and constant consent of Catholic theologians are held to be matters of faith” (Letter to Archbishop Scherr of Munich, 1863). This denial of the authority of the ordinary magisterium risks rejecting the Magisterium in total since it is hardly better than classical Protestants who still consider themselves bound to parts of the extraordinary magisterium (e.g. the first seven ecumenical councils). One must obey the totality of the Magisterium of the Church in order to manifest true faithfulness to the Church’s teaching authority.

    “Nowhere has the Church declared capital punishment to be intrinsically moral.”

    Many and repeated times has the Church taught this truth. Unless the Church lacks the authority of definitely teach outside of ecumenical councils and papal ex cathedra statements, she most certainly has taught the intrinsic morality of capital punishment. Was I taught a free opinion or an uncertainty in my pre-Vatican II catechisms when they told me that the 5th Commandment does not prohibit capital punishment? Did Leo X teach an uncertainty when he evoked his authority to condemn Luther’s proposition, “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.”?

    “Whilst I would not disagree with your interpretations of that doctrine, as they seem to serve you well, I think that you still need to learn more about the varying degrees of doctrinal Authority.”

    I always need to learn more. I do think that you need to understand more fully the doctrinal authority of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church since you appear to be limiting infallibility to the extraordinary magisterium of the Church, when the ordinary and universal magisterium has equal weight under the conditions I mentioned above. In passing, it should also be noted that you are attributing too much emphasis to the doctrinal labels attached to different teachings of the Church. These labels (excepting when theologians are unanimous in declaring something “of faith” since their unanimity is, itself, an act of the ordinary universal magisterium) were constructed by theologians who do not possess an official magisterium in the Church. For this reason, theologians sometimes differ among themselves regarding which teachings are “theologically certain” or are true because of their connection to essential truths of revelation, etc. as well as the appropriate censures attached to their denial.

    “You seem to rely overmuch on syllogism. It is no guarantor of truth.”

    I find that many arguments are ill-proposed and delivered with basic inconsistencies. This is why I often employ syllogism.

    “Neither you nor I have the Authority to provide such interpretations, and then proclaim them as true into the public sphere.”

    I merely quoted the catechism revision, which states, “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.” Note the words, “death penalty . . . is an attack on the . . . dignity of the person.” This is not an interpretation, but are the words of the catechism revision, itself. Your comment demonstrates how little some are actually reading the catechism revision (maybe because the message is too clear?) before they engage in commentary on its meaning.

    “(though I doubt your apparent suggestion that sin and attacks on human dignity are synonymous — not all sins are against human persons, whereas all sins are against God)”

    I only meant that sins against human persons are considered sinful by the Church, not that all sins are against the person.

    “Again, I refer to Cardinal Ratzinger’s instruction that there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty. If the doctrine had been infallible, Cardinal Ratzinger would certainly never have provided that instruction to the Faithful.”

    You are misinterpreting Cardinal Ratzinger’s reference to the diversity of opinion granted to Catholics on issues of warfare and capital punishment. Unlike abortion or euthanasia, war and capital punishment do not possess a uniform moral status in their application (thus the reason why the difference of opinion is on “waging” war and “applying” the death penalty and not the actions, in general). While abortion and euthanasia are always immoral, some wars and state executions are justified, while others are not. There may be a diversity of opinion on whether any particular war or application of the death penalty is legitimate (as, indeed, there was in 2004 regarding the Second Iraqi War, which John Paul II condemned). It was this legitimate diversity that Cardinal Ratzinger referenced in his text, not the permissibility of disagreement with the teaching of just war or principled morality of capital punishment, both of which were taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2004 (a text, which as a sure norm of Catholic belief, Cardinal Ratzinger could hardly have permitted doctrinal disagreement).

  25. WVC says:

    @ Adam Michael
    I want to commend you for your thoroughness and patience. Your comments have been as crystal clear as is possible, and you have argued your point admirably. I strongly doubt they will in any influence Jabbapapa, whose reliance upon an absurdly narrow understanding of the teaching authority of the Church and the preposterous idea that the Church could endorse as legitimate an action that is intrinsically immoral seems absolute. Perhaps this discussion has now reached the point of diminishing returns?

    Regardless, you have acquitted yourself admirably.

  26. Alexander Verbum says:

    @ JabbaPapa

    Fesser has demonstrated, using the authority of the Church and Scripture, why the Death penalty is not always a violation of human dignity. Your statement implies it’s him and his colleague’s stance vs. the authority the Church. Hardly.

    The current opinions of Popes and the Catechism are not infallible. No one can change natural law and natural justice. Previous Popes etc. have contradicted the current ones – so they both cannot be correct.

    The Death Penalty is justice served in the natural law first – not solely for the protection of society.

    What has happened is that “human dignity” has become a demi-god. An excessive interpretation was applied to “human dignity” thanks to reactionary theology and philosophy (reactionary against WWII and Communism, and adaption of personalism, et al.). The result is errors and heresy (mutual submission of husband and wife, destruction of the proper ends of marriage and their ordering, death penalty being always wrong, etc.)

    Examples from other authoritative sources (taken form One Peter Five):

    “It must be remembered that power was granted by God [to the magistrates], and to avenge crime by the sword was permitted. He who carries out this vengeance is God’s minister (Rm 13:1-4). Why should we condemn a practice that all hold to be permitted by God? We uphold, therefore, what has been observed until now, in order not to alter the discipline and so that we may not appear to act contrary to God’s authority.” –Pope Innocent I, Epist. 6, C. 3. 8, ad Exsuperium, Episcopum Tolosanum, 20 February 405, PL 20,495.

    o Condemned as an error: “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.” –Pope Leo X, Exsurge Domine (1520)

    o “The power of life and death is permitted to certain civil magistrates because theirs is the responsibility under law to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Far from being guilty of breaking this commandment [Thou shall not kill], such an execution of justice is precisely an act of obedience to it. For the purpose of the law is to protect and foster human life. This purpose is fulfilled when the legitimate authority of the State is exercised by taking the guilty lives of those who have taken innocent lives. In the Psalms we find a vindication of this right: ‘Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all evildoers from the city of the Lord’ (Ps. 101:8). –Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, 1566, Part III, 5, n. 4

    o “Even in the case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life.” –Pope Pius XII, Address to the First International Congress of Histopathology of the Nervous System, 14 September 1952, XIV, 328

    ***Since these contradiction the current “mind of the Church,” then we must uncover the truth instead of acting like legal positivists.

  27. Adam Michael says:

    WVC,

    Thanks so much for the kind words. These are trying times, but I pray that we all may preserve our Catholic Faith, unchanged.

    God bless you!

  28. JabbaPapa says:

    Alexander Verbum says:

    Examples from other authoritative sources (taken form One Peter Five):

    None of those has superior teaching Authority to the Roman Pontiff nor the present Catechism of the Catholic Church nor the current text of CCC 2267, whereas no Pope can bind the teaching of future Popes.

    That some people greatly dislike this change is obvious, but you’ll need some stronger evidence than that to demonstrate that the Roman Pontiff had not the Authority to make it.

    [Try… The Principle of Non-Contradiction.]