Pope Francis changed the Catechism about the death penalty. What next? Wherein Fr. Z opines.


I wonder if the recent move of the Holy Father to change the text – the teaching of the Church – of the paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the death penalty will generate enough buzz to knock anger at McCarrick and Rodriguez Maradiaga’s seminary out of the news cycle.

With a Rescript, the Pope changed the Church’s teaching on capital punishment. 

Being concerned about this move does not mean that a person is for the death penalty, even in only extremely restricted conditions.  Concern about this stems from other considerations.  You can be entirely against the death penalty and still be deeply concerned about what this change means.  I’ll spin that out, below.

Letter from the Prefect of the CDF. Card. Ladaria, states that this is an authentic development of doctrine.   The Rescript provides the changes in major modern languages but has, inexplicably, excluded Latin.

This is tedious, but let’s look at the texts, before we think more about them and this change with my emphases:

2267 Traditionalis doctrina Ecclesiae, supposita plena determinatione identitatis et responsabilitatis illius qui culpabilis est, recursum ad poenam mortis non excludit, si haec una sit possibilis via ad vitas humanas ab iniusto aggressore efficaciter defendendas.

Si autem instrumenta incruenta sufficiunt ad personarum securitatem ab aggressore defendendam atque protegendam, auctoritas his solummodo utatur instrumentis, utpote quae melius respondeant concretis boni communis condicionibus et sint dignitati personae humanae magis consentanea.

Revera nostris diebus, consequenter ad possibilitates quae Statui praesto sunt ut crimen efficaciter reprimatur, illum qui hoc commisit, innoxium efficiendo, quin illi definitive possibilitas substrahatur ut sese redimat, casus in quibus absolute necessarium sit ut reus supprimatur, « admodum raro […] intercidunt […], si qui omnino iam reapse accidunt ». 177

(177) Ioannes Paulus II, Litt. enc. Evangelium vitae, 56: AAS 87 (1995) 464.

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
“If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
“Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]

THE NEW TEXT of 2267 removes language about “traditional teaching” and “not exclude”:

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

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

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.


[1] Francis, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017, 5.

Note well that word: “inadmissible”.  The Italian says: “inammissibile”.  The French says: “une mesure inhumaine”.  The German says: “unzulässig”.  The rest of the languages are along this line.  French is not.  We don’t know what the official text is.  However, we can be pretty sure that it won’t go farther than “inadmissible”.

It does not and will not say in Latin that the death penalty is “intrinsically evil”.

Back in October 2017, Francis talked about changing the Catechism.  At that time he said that the death penalty is “per se contrary to the Gospel” and it was “dictated by a mentality more legalistic than Christian.” Hence, the death penalty is “inadmissible.”

How do we square that with innumerable sources which affirm that the Church has always taught, from Apostles times through the Pontificate of John Paul II in Evangelium vitae, that the death penalty – though highly cautiously – admissible?

Christ Himself upholds Pilate’s authority to kill Him (John 19:11).  St. Augustine, writing to the prefect of Africa Macedonius, begged for clemency for a man condemned to death, but he upheld the rights of the state (epp. 152-155).   St. Thomas Aquinas, though his teaching is not coterminous with the Church’s, taught in the Summa Theologiae and in the Summa Contra Gentiles in support of the death penalty.  Thomas’s arguments are subtle and in no way “dictated by a mentality more legalistic than Christian.”  Neither did John Paul’s.  Numerous examples are found between Christ and modern pontificates.

The student of theology and Joe Bagofdonuts in the pew will want to know how this change to the Church’s teaching is an “authentic development of doctrine” when it seems to fly in the face of the pretty much universally accepted explanation of development of doctrine described by Bl. John Henry Newman: Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. 

In essence, Newman points out that when a development changes the doctrine so that it no longer is what it was, then that is not authentic development of the doctrine.  He would call that a “corruption” of doctrine.

Granted that Newman’s view is not coterminous with the teaching of the Church, Francis does not seem to understand “authentic development” in the same way that Newman does.

Remember, too, that Francis seems to think, given his teaching in Amoris laetitia that the teachings of the Lord and of the Church concerning marriage and adultery are some sort of idea to which people – at least all people – cannot be expected to adhere.  Some can’t.  Hence, they can legitimately receive the Eucharist even though, objectively, they are committing what the Church has always identified as mortal sins.

All this is tied into the notion of theology based on “lived experience” and, as Francis puts it – indeed, one of the four principles inscribed in Evangelii gaudium which he gleaned from the 19th c. Argentinian caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas:

Realities are more important than ideas.

So, if there is an idea (the Church has always permitted the death penalty though in highly restricted cases) the reality is that, as the CDF Letter to Bishops states, there is “a growing public opposition to the death penalty” and “growing number of countries”.   This is lived experience, you see.

While the Letter does in fact mention public order and legitimate defense of society, it emphasized the increasing recognition of dignity of the human person.  Hence, it also cites the fact that there are better prisons and an emphasis on reform of criminals.

I suppose we should assume that less developed nations should have these also, even though I don’t think we should assume that, right now, they want them.  In other words, those countries have been judged to be backwards: they should be like us.  I guess that we are someone who can judge.

I have to ask myself: is there really a growing public opposition to the death penalty?  I’m not expert on this matter, but I wonder about that.  Maybe, since John Paul II, more countries have abolished the death penalty.  I don’t know.  However, what sheer numbers of people think and how many countries have this or that law has never and must never be the basis for a doctrine of the Church.  Also, this “growing” might be among those who do not practice their Catholic Faith, or any other faith.

But this seems to be part of the grounding of the “lived experience” approach that turns doctrines into ever shifting, morphing, vanishing, reappearing targets.

So, setting aside the thorny problem of whether or not there really is a “growing” opposition to the death penalty and growing move to reform, etc., what are we left with?

I ask, if we are now setting aside Newman’s view of development of doctrine, as this move to change the Catechism suggests, then will we see this new notion of development of doctrine applied to other issues, hitherto thought to have been long-settled?

How much do you want to bet?

As a mind exercise, I tried to substitute some terms into the basic argument of the Letter to Bishops.  Without being closely systematic, how does this strike you?

Marriage is a building block of society.

Society must be defended from undermining by same-sex marriage.

But, today, there is growing approval of same-sex marriage.

Many countries have abolished laws about homosexuality and have legalized same-sex marriage.

The Church teaches that we must in all ways respect the dignity of homosexuals.

While the Church today affirms that society must be defended from forces that undermine it, realities are greater than ideas.   There are ideals and there is reality lived day to day.

Hence, because it doesn’t seem that same-sex marriage is really harming anyone, we recognize by our lived experience as a authentic development of doctrine the right of same-sex couples to marry.

How does that strike you?

Wile E. Defarge, thwarted in one aspiration might be happy in the long-run.

Now two major camps will be at odds: One camp will struggle to show that this change is coherent with what the Church has always held and that it is an authentic development of doctrine.  The other large camp will adhere to the traditional teaching and will work to show that this change is not authentic development.

In fact, we might see several camps, even within camps: One camp will work to show how this change to the Catechism is an “authentic development of doctrine”.  another camp will swiftly apply the reasoning in this argument to approve of sodomy and various other strange things, like Communion for, basically, anyone.  Another other camp will work to show that Pope Francis has now taught heresy.  Some will focus on the fact that the change says “inadmissible”, which is pretty weak, hence people can still believe the “traditional teaching” without being a heretic.  Yet another, simply assuming that he has, without further proofs, will argue that Francis has lost his office or that, after a trial for heresy, will lose his office.

Whatever we see will not be unity in doctrine.

Some reading is in order.

Start with Edward Fesser and Joseph M. Bessette

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment (May 29, 2017)


More… check out the late Avery Card. Dulles 2001 article on capital punishment in First Things.   Dulles puts his finger already on the argument that Francis would use about human dignity.

His article pretty much puts apart the argument that seem to inhere in the CDF Letter to Bishops.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mepoindexter says:

    If he wants to say it’s inadmissible, fair enough. But that’s like the punchline at the end of a mountain of Natural Law theory.

  2. Nicholas says:

    That book is fantastic, and you are now the second person I’ve seen recommend it today.

    One thing about the book, though, is that it actually argues for the death penalty. The ones in the Church who argue positively for the death penalty out of a true sense of justice, as I do, are really going to have a tough time of it.

    “Even when there is question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life … by his crime, he has already dispossessed himself of his right to life.”
    -Pope Pious XII

  3. BrionyB says:

    This is rather worrying, particularly the comment about the death penalty depriving the person of redemption – in fact the words of our Lord himself to the two thieves crucified with him would seem to contradict that. It is surely never too late to (sincerely) repent and be redeemed?

    Myself, I was always 100% against the death penalty in any country with the resources to build secure prisons, because it seemed unnecessary when the person could be locked up for life instead. Now, though, with mobile communications etc., there are worrying stories of “lifers” still exerting an influence outside the prison, not to mention Islamic fanatics being able to communicate their poisonous ideology – especially as it is considered inhumane to keep a prisoner in complete isolation for extended periods of time. So… lesser of two evils, in certain circumstances? Possibly.

  4. JamesM says:

    I am gravely troubled by this. Not because I am a huge proponent of the death penalty, but because I believe that the Church cannot err in matters of faith and morals.

    I can’t see how this isn’t something that contradicts what the Church has previously taught. Logically that would suggest the Church was in error previously. If the Church was wrong on this, then what else might it be wrong about?

    My anguish is really over how this appears to undermine the teaching authority of the Church. It really seems to undermine everything else.

  5. Geoffrey says:

    I do not see the reason for this. I have always been sickened by the mere thought of the death penalty, but the Church’s teaching was clear: it is a legitimate power of the state but in modern times, is deemed no longer necessary to protect society, etc. The state has the legitimate power, but does not need to do it. The end. Simple.

    Stock up on your catechisms now…

  6. twoadaydanny says:

    JamesM, I’m in the same boat you are. While I am opposed to capital punishment, this action sows doubt in my mind over whether the Church truly teaches with authority on matters of faith and morals. I was struggling with doubt even as the Extraordinary Synod on the Family was being conducted. The publication of AL aggravated those doubts. And Francis’ conduct after the publication of AL made things much, much worse. Now, this.

    The least problematic interpretation I can come up with is this: Moral rules concerning capital punishment have not changed, but the facts–the condition of the world–has changed. Capital punishment was once rarely permissible, if necessary to protect innocent human life. In light of the present condition of the world though, capital punishment is not necessary to protect human life now, so it is no longer permissible.

    I don’t know that I love the argument, but it at least avoids the conclusion that the Church either has taught or is currently teaching error on this question of morals.

    I wish Pope Francis would show mercy towards those Catholics he is confusing–who are suffering in confusion and doubt because of his actions.

  7. Dad of Six says:

    Wag the Dog.

  8. Sawyer says:

    I don’t see how this can be considered authentic or legitimate. How can the Catechism be revised based on an informal address that the pope gave? If the pope wants to change Catholic doctrine on the death penalty, he can do so via an encyclical or an apostolic letter/constitution — a formal decree, in other words. He didn’t do that. He changed the Catechism to reflect his opinion, not to reflect a formally, officially issued doctrinal document.

    This is a big problem because now the Church is faced with:
    1. A Catechism that has been adulterated with unofficial, incorrect “teaching”.
    2. A pope and CDF that are proposing that the faithful must hold what is contrary to Revelation and Tradition.
    3. Maybe these are signs that Francis isn’t the pope after all, and Benedict XVI still is.

    I’m not with those who hold #3, but this will give them more ammunition.

    This development is not helpful and not good, IMO.

  9. rhhenry says:

    Well, count this member of the Bagofdonuts clan as confused.

    Is the Pope raising his personal prudential judgment that the death penalty is *never* warranted to the level of a doctrine that is now binding on all the faithful? How much assent must I give to this?

    On a practical level, this teaching is not too far away from my current position (that the death penalty need be applied very rarely, if at all), but I, like other commenters on this thread, am concerned about what this says about the Church’s teaching authority and the consistency of Her teachings.

  10. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Christ Himself confirmed that Pilate had authority from God to execute him when he said “Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin.”

    If the Pope now claims to hold a higher authority still, he could by the same logic change any article of the catechism. For instance, he could deny the divinity of Christ opening rather than, as here, by implication only.

  11. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Fr. Z says: “I ask, if we are now setting aside Newman’s view of development of doctrine,… then will we see this new notion of development of doctrine applied to other issues, hitherto thought to have been long-settled?”

    One could ask is the teaching in Humanae vitae next – in this 50th anniversary year of its publication?

    Does the “lived reality” and the oft cited (by libs, anyway) “sensus fidelium” suggest a change in the catechism on the moral use of contraceptives to space children is a “development of doctrine,” too?

    Is Dad of Six on to something in light of the recent explosive news about h0m0se*ual abuse?


  12. revueltos67 says:

    JamesM: Thank you for your clear and succinct statement of the problem this causes for many.

  13. majuscule says:

    I saw two comments on Facebook—for what that’s worth—that interested me. I admit that I haven’t read exactly what the pope said, just comments about it.

    One person said that the pope also saw life imprisionment as equivalent to the death penalty and that it should not be used.

    Another person asked: If I shoot and kill a home invader, is that considered an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” that would have killed and robbed me?

    The people who made these statements might even be readers of this blog. I’m just presenting the thoughts because they made me do a double take and they were worth pondering.

  14. e.e. says:

    Thank you for this, Father. I struggle a lot with this. On the one hand, like rhenry said above, this isn’t practically a whole lot different from my belief that in modern Western countries, the death penalty is almost always unnecessary and inhumane. BUT I know full well that there are other countries where the prison systems are not adequate to protect the population from certain criminals. And I also think that this change is in direct opposition to centuries of Catholic teaching, and I worry about what this means. What other moral teachings might change?

    Raised evangelical Protestant, I became Catholic during the height of the abuse crisis in the early 2000s. I strongly considered Orthodoxy then and found I disagreed with some of their theology (and still do), and ultimately joined the Catholic Church because I believed it was the Catholic Church and its moral teachings that were the full truth. I find myself drifting more back toward Protestantism over the past 5 years of Francis’ papacy. To lose the Eucharist and the sacraments seems unthinkable. And yet… here I am, struggling and feeling ever more drawn to certain more traditional/sacramental Protestant denominations.

    Sigh. May God have mercy on His Church.

  15. Sonshine135 says:

    Aquinas doesn’t mince words-especially when discussing persistent heresy:

    “With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death. ”

    Is the Pope saying Aquinas was wrong?

  16. Sonshine135 says: Is the Pope saying Aquinas was wrong?

    Yes, and no.

    If I am not mistaken, he would say that, back in Aquinas day, that’s what they did and that was right by the terms of the day: legalistic. But today, lived experience suggests that we are now more enlightened and we have more modern means. Hence, Aquinas is wrong today.

  17. taylorhall95 says:

    This whole affair is disgusting. I’m physically sick. We have clerics high up in the Church who have committed sodomy. Now the Pope changes the language in the Catechism to imply that the death penalty is contrary to the Gospel (utterly ridiculous proposition). Where are the prelates willing to call Pope Francis out directly? This needs to be done. All the headlines around the world say “Pope changes teaching.” Catholic teaching can’t change, even if the Pope obscures the language. The future will be the judge of this pontificate, and it will not be favorable (read: probable anathema). I’m at the point of wanting to get a pitchfork and drive the rot of the Church. If a bishop with authority won’t do it? Who will? Of course we must wait on the Lord and Our Lady, but we must do something.

  18. Cafea Fruor says:

    Could not the reasoning against the death penalty because of the dignity of the person be used to say that just war could not exist because the aggressors have their dignity, that you can’t morally shoot a person in self-defense if he’s trying to kill or rape you because he’s got dignity, etc.? Where does it end?

  19. rhhenry says: How much assent must I give to this?

    This is a problem. John Paul II said that the CCC was a sure reference. However, does that mean that all subsequent changes enjoy that same level of surety? Maybe yes. Maybe no.

    The fact that there is now confusion about that says something.

    To my mind, since the wording is hedged, “inadmissible”, it seems that Catholics can continue with the traditional teaching.

  20. JabbaPapa says:

    Well, this is an interesting one …

    Interpreting it in the most literal manner I’m capable of, from the Italian dictionary definitions of inammissibile, CCC 2267 is saying that arguments in favour of the death penalty cannot be accepted (rather than directly condemning that punishment), as well as saying that they cannot be accepted in a Court of Law (i.e. in a Church Tribunal), and that the Church is to do everything possible to see it abolished everywhere.

    This is not a dogmatic doctrine, but a disciplinary doctrine. A binding disciplinary doctrine.

    So really, it’s something that’s required principally of Catholic Bishops, theologians, lawyers, and canonists rather than being more directly intended for most Laity Religious, and Priests for the time being ; but that state of affairs will change just as soon as each Bishop and Abbot or Superior each in his own time will implement measures derived from the canon in his Diocese or Order etc.

    Catholics therefore should wait for communications from their Ordinary before supposing to guess what might be required of them for the purposes of this canon.

  21. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Have you noticed that, whenever he fears God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, the Holy Father hides in the bushes of the vernacular?

  22. taylorhall95 says:

    And Father, the Pope isn’t merely saying it’s wrong now, he’s saying it’s contrary to the Gospel. It’s bad enough that he said “our new understanding of human dignity” (as if the Church didn’t understand human dignity before). But the statement it’s contrary to the Gospel implies that he thinks there is something intrinsically wrong with the death penalty. This is 100% not Catholic teaching. We’ve really got to start calling Francis out (in a respectful, but forceful manner). We’ve tolerated Amoris, we’ve tolerated his letters that imply he supports intercommunion, we’ve tolerated his scandalous Scalfari interviews (that were never repudiated), and now we’re faced with this change with the death penalty. Father, when does enough become enough?

  23. Geoffrey says:

    I once saw an interview or something with Cardinal Schönborn, who said that Pope St John Paul the Great wanted the Church to condemn the death penalty outright, but could not. The language in his edition of the Catechism was the best that the saintly pontiff could do, in order NOT to contradict the teaching of the Church. I think this worked.

    If only the current Holy Father respected the teaching of the Church as much as St John Paul did.

    Sancte Ioannes Paule Magne, ora pro nobis!

  24. JabbaPapa says:

    rhhenry :

    Is the Pope raising his personal prudential judgment that the death penalty is *never* warranted to the level of a doctrine that is now binding on all the faithful?


    Language supporting such an interpretation is not present in the canon.

    He’s saying that arguments in favour of the death penalty are no longer admissible in any “official” theological discussion.

    A layman could, with the condition that his Ordinary had not forbidden it, propose private arguments in favour of the death penalty ; but a Bishop or a theologian and so on can no longer do so lawfully. But wait to see what your Ordinary will require before trying to guess what that will be.

  25. Anneliese says:

    I wonder if pro-choice Catholics, or pro-abortion Catholics (which ever title they prefer these days), will now say that abortion is inadmissible? I hear the argument frequently from pro-choice, both Catholic and non-Catholic, say that a person can’t really be pro-life if they are in favor of the death penalty. Now that the Pope has come to the conclusion on the issue the death penalty, will people change their minds on abortion?

  26. Mike says:

    If this innovation is inerrant doctrine, then the inerrant authority of previous Catholic teaching is under attack. If it’s just the pope’s opinion, then what is it doing in the Catechism?

  27. jhayes says:

    Regarding which version is the original text, the note at the end of each language version says “Original text: Italian”

    So, “inadmissable” comes from “inammissible”

    The 1992 version said ”
    Today…the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

  28. WVC says:

    Fr. Z says, “To my mind, since the wording is hedged, “inadmissible”, it seems that Catholics can continue with the traditional teaching.”

    It says quite a lot about the current pontificate when we are leaning hard on the hedging of words in order to continue to believe the One, True, Authentic Catholic Faith. I would say this is true not just of this issue (Capital Punishment) but about EVERY issue (homosexuality, divorce, women priests, Communion with heretics . . .etc.)

    What wretched times we live in. All the more reason to buckle down and rebel against the evil of this world. I’ve always had a rebel’s heart – finally, I can put it to good, authentic, “lived in” use!

  29. jhayes says:

    …and now, 26 years later, Francis says they are non-existent – and therefore the death penalty is inadmissible.

  30. JabbaPapa says:

    Well, last one, I won’t be addressing every single post by worried persons …

    Sawyer :

    If the pope wants to change Catholic doctrine on the death penalty

    He didn’t, he changed Church discipline on how questions regarding the death penalty are to be treated, i.e. with a view to its abolition.

    It does not condemn supporters of the death penalty, although any theologian who supported the death penalty from now onwards would by definition have committed an act of schism (whether he would actually be punished for it is a different question)

    1. A Catechism that has been adulterated with unofficial, incorrect “teaching”.

    Not really, a) it’s certainly NOT “unofficial” b) as for “incorrect” there has never been any Church teaching declaring the death penalty to be justified, but instead it’s been a matter of disagreement among us for probably close to 2000 years.

    2. A pope and CDF that are proposing that the faithful must hold what is contrary to Revelation and Tradition.

    There is no language in the canon to require assent to anything.

    The discipline that is requested is to refrain from proposing arguments in favour of the death penalty.

    3. Maybe these are signs that Francis isn’t the pope after all, and Benedict XVI still is.

    tum te tum …

  31. Elly says:

    Is it possible to read the change as the death penalty is inadmissible “now” but could some day become admissible again? Like if the effective systems of detention that have developed are no longer available?

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  33. Unwilling says:

    I take no satisfaction in the death of incorrigible and dangerous capital criminals. We should think of their victims first in sadness. But feelings are one thing, clear doctrine another. It is important to the whole-cloth of the Good News that the State has its own Providentially-established authority and has the duty to wield the sword. To save infallibility as I understand it, I read this latest revision of the CCC as a well-meaning but very imprudent way of stressing the life-saving intention of the development in the current (already revised) CCC.

  34. revueltos67 says:

    Fr: Yes, in a way the whole thing formally hangs on the meaning of “inadmissible.” Certainly not a word with a precise theological meaning. In fact, it’s a word that could be followed by a phrase seen quite often with regard to Francis’s teaching as in: Francis says the death penalty is inadmissible, whatever that means.

  35. Fr. Zuhlsdorf says: John Paul II said that the CCC was a sure reference. However, does that mean that all subsequent changes enjoy that same level of surety? Maybe yes. Maybe no.

    If the CCC was a sure reference as constituted when John Paul II declared it to be so, and one of its articles is later changed to contradict what it had said in John Paul II’s day, I don’t see how the new CCC could be judged to be a sure reference.

    The devil is really putting in a lot of overtime.

  36. Ariseyedead says:

    THE NEW TEXT of 2267 concludes with:
    “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.”

    So where all does the Catholic Church teach that? Sure, it looks like Pope Francis said it once, if the footnote is to be relied upon. And now it is repeated again here. But where or when else has it been taught. Am I wrong to think that there really ought to me more sources that one can point to in order to support a teaching of the Catholic Church? How many other teachings in the Catechism rely on a single statement by the pope from an address he gave to some group at the Vatican?

    Just asking…

  37. Antonin says:

    Countries with Most Confirmed Executions

    Countries with most executions in 2017 (note only one on the list is predominately Christian. 6 of the 8 are primarily Muslim).

    Those countries most influenced my Christianity have abolished it.

    1. China (1,000)
    2. Iran (507+)
    3. Saudi Arabia (146+)
    4. Iraq (125+)
    5. Pakistan (60+)
    6. Egypt (35+)
    7. Somalia (24)
    8. United States (23)

  38. Kathleen10 says:

    The Church has got it wrong for 2000 years.
    Why should I or anyone else listen to what the church is saying now.

    Note: I do not believe the church has got it wrong for 2000 years.
    He does not have the authority to say this. This exceeds his papal authority.
    Where is the man who will say this to his face. Please God, embolden that man to be another St. Paul, today, and resist this pope to the face!

    This is nothing but another quick maneuver designed to keep us all off-balance and talking about him. HIM. “Look, see? There is nothing to see here, no homosexuals touching boys or committing egregious sins…look at this bright, shiny object…talk about this instead….”.

  39. mburn16 says:

    From the standpoint of protecting innocent life, and only that, this seems entirely reasonable: you would be hard-pressed to find a society that lacked the capacity to keep the nost viokent individuals isolated from innocent society; and harder-pressed still to find one that lacked both the capacity and the ability to develop said capacity. And if you could find such a society…well, we never ask people to do the impossible. Going from “only when its the only option to protect life” to “its basicslly never the only option to protect life” can be seen as a natural development.

    My concern is from the perspective of justice, and almost the complete lack of reference to justice on this matter. To say that the worst society could sentence a willing mass murderer to is several decades of being housed, fed, and medicated on the taxpayer dime is troubling to me. Is that really a just sentence?

  40. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    My advice is for Catholics, in this and every other issue, to simply follow their own “personal consciences,” which is what Frances Kissling citing Dan Maguire and Rosemary Reuther said Vatican II was all about–believe and do what you want. .

  41. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    Fr. John Hunwicke will probably observe that this marks the either (1) the beginning of the suspension of, or (2) the suspension of the papal magisterium.

    This is planned virtue signaling by a coordinated group of unvirtuous men in the pontiff’s “Magic circle of 9 Cardinals,” which is led by the abuse coverup Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras, protector of the now resigned Bishop Pineda, a flagrant sex abuser and embezzler.

    Maradiaga is now fomenting the Honduran Bishops to crush and destroy the 48 faithful seminarians of Honduras, who wrote an open letter revealing the total moral corruption of the seminary under Maradiaga’s iron fist.

    Will the Pope of mercy liberate these good young men of Christ, and retire Maradiaga, or will he allow Maradiaga to destroy them?

  42. wojo431 says:

    For those interested here’s a link to an article at first things by Cardinal Avery Dulles on capital punishment from the year 2001. It’s interesting to speculate that under this idea of the death penalty being inadmissible, it’s possible that if Jesus were on earth preaching today and met Pilate at his arrest and trial, he would not be eligible for the death penalty (i.e. crucifixion) but would perhaps be forced to spend years in prison with the hopes that he would be rehabilitated and redeemed.

  43. Il Ratzingeriano says:

    I can only hope that this will trigger a crisis that envelopes the whole Church and encompasses not only the teaching on the death penalty but also all the rest: communion for the divorced and remarried, clergy who flout the celibacy requirement, and the modernism that permeates this Pontificate. We are done if the orthodox bishops and laity take this laying down.

    Two aspects of how this was done are telling. One is that it is out of the blue, with no debate or consultation. So much for collegiality. Two is that it comes at the outset of the August holidays, when everyone has just begun vacation. Pope Francis, astute politician that he is, has taken a page right out of the playbook of American presidential politics: when you want to avoid debate about a release of information, make the release on the eve of a long weekend.

  44. frjim4321 says:

    The Catechism is a teaching guide for Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Catechists; it’s not an ex-cathedra statement nor does it enjoy infallibility. So, I don’t see what the fuss is all about.

  45. Lurker 59 says:

    I don’t have it in front of me, but then Card Ratzinger explicitly wrote and taught that the CCC was not a super-dogma and that its authority was not in it of itself but only extended in so far as the authority of it’s sources. Will post tomorrow or tonight late.

    Hense, it is not a truism that “the Church teaches X” because X is printed in the Catechism.

    Personally, I would argue that it is manifestly false that “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] ” as the source for this is only a papal address by someone who has a demonstrated tendency to give non-clear addresses where presentation of doctrine is manifestly lacking.

    This position is not
    1. something that the Church teaches
    2. traceable back to the Gospel
    3. correct in seeing the application of the death penalty fundamentally an attack on the dignity of the person of the criminal. (strawman argument).

    It may be printed in the CCC but it is not something that the Church teaches, even if the CCC says so. Because it is so printed does not make it so.

  46. Mick Mombasa says:

    Reading all these posts it seems to me that people may not really understand the serious ramifications of this change by Pope Francis. If the Pope changes this teaching then doesn’t this invalidate the whole of Catholic teaching rendering all of it irrelevant as never having being inspired by the Holy Spirit in the first place? This then brings into question everything we believe. The only reason we have to believe that Jesus is God, and in the Church that He established, is in the belief that it is guided by the Holy Spirit, who cannot make mistakes and does not change his mind. We further believe that the Pope’s are guided inherently by the Holy Spirit in declarations of matters pertaining to Faith and Morals. For one Pope to fundamentally change the teachings of past Popes destroys all credibility for all Catholic teaching by any Pope. Whether you believe in the death penalty or not is irrelevant to the issue. Past Popes were either correct or Catholicism and Christianity are founded on a lie. Pope Francis’ move in changing, not developing, past doctrine completely undermines all belief and opens the way for the destruction of the Church as we know it as the Catechism has become an opinion piece of an individual, rather than the inspired teaching of the Holy Spirit. To me this is a crisis for the Church. Is our Faith true or based on a fantasy?

  47. MitisVis says:

    Think test balloon. If one surveys how to change doctrine without presenting a blatant contradiction, the weapon of choice is ambiguous wording and to establish a precedent. A perfect example is altar girls or communion in the hand as developments of tradition in our modern interpretation. With the replacement of Cardinal Muller at the CDF and many other key appointments including Cardinal Farrell as head of Laity, Family and Life the meeting in Ireland may go much worse than we anticipate. I have often wondered about our Lord’s words concerning many saying “I am Christ”. If we end up with shepherds all giving contradictory teaching as if they are doctrines His word’s will come to pass, and there is all probability and certainty He spoke these words in Truth.
    So trying to imagine IF this will happen is mute, it is when and what will be our response. I see strong reactions already coming from defenders of the church, but I’m afraid they will be ignored as before. I was told by the liberal elite back in the 70’s that if Augustine and Thomas could be dismissed or relegated to medieval thinking, even the words of Christ himself could be interpreted in a modern light. I don’t believe we can assent to these modern “interpretations” but hold fast to what we know the church has always taught.

  48. Eric says:

    I share JamesM’s concern. I have read the Feser/Bessette book. It was execellent and convinced me who started from the incorrect proposition that the Church was against the death penalty in principle. The camp that isn’t addressed is the “I have had enough” camp, that the Church is contradicting itself and therefore cannot be the true Church of Christ. Troubling.

  49. Ave Maria says:

    One day a strong, holy, and faithful pope will undo all these things being done right now. Probably then many more will leave the Church because they do not like being a true Roman Catholic.

    How much more will be destroyed first?

  50. AA Cunningham says:

    This is quite simply deflection to take the focus off the confirmation of the decades old rumors about McCarrick, the CYA being engaged in by those who knew about his behavior and did nothing about it and the existence of numerous homosexuals masquerading as Deacons, Priests, Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals. Pay no attention to the St. Gallen mafia behind the curtain.

  51. WVC says:

    For the record, I am 100% in support of the Death Penalty. I felt like someone needed to say that with all the hand-wringing and “oh I’m against the Death Penalty, BUT. . . ” That’s stuff and nonsense. There is no logical reason to be opposed to the Death Penalty as a concept, and it’s perfectly moral as the Church has CLEARLY taught for thousands of years. If you want to argue the system in a particular place is not working correctly, that’s fine, but folks who preen and fawn over criminals often have a very “this world” view of life. Life in this world is NOT the ultimate goal, therefore Death is NOT the ultimate horror. If, by facing his death, the consequence of a seriously heinous sin that the criminal was tried and found guilty of, a criminal REPENTS and seeks forgiveness, that is a FAR FAR BETTER THING than a criminal living to the ripe old age of 135 without ever having truly repented.

    I say this because folks like Sr. Prejean have gone out of their way to make criminals believe they are VICTIMS and have done what they could to keep criminals away from the road to repentance. That leads to ETERNAL DEATH, and that’s a far worse thing than any hangman’s noose.

    Sorry for all of the capital letters. I’m too ornery for my own good today.

  52. tho says:

    In the land of lets pretend there lived a kangarooster. half of him was kangaroo the other half was rooster. Pope Francis is making his papacy a vehicle for confusion and ambiguities, and we struggle, with trying to comprehend his turning over the table of sound doctrine. What is he trying to do? Without resorting to name calling, what are we to do. Heinous crimes deserve the death penalty. To upset 2000 years of solid dogma, with half baked ideas, that are impractical, is the work of someone bent on destroying an institution founded by our Lord. Of course no Pope can do that, but an unsound Pope can sow chaos.

  53. Imrahil says:

    Reverend dear Fr Jim,

    well, but the Catechism is also about the Compendium of Catholic teaching as a whole (except for, as it were, detail matters that have not “made it to Catechism level”). And in any case, it is magisterial; though of the fallible Magisterium.

    Hence, if what the Church has taught consistently, including in the Catechism, is rejected in favor of a new and provably wrong idea inserted into the Catechism, I do understand what the fuss is about.

    And of course even the catechists you mentioned are responsible to teach Catholicsm to the world, or at least to the Catholics.

  54. Kerry says:

    Human nature, and The African Queen.

    Charlie Allnut: What are you being so mean for, Miss? A man takes a drop too much once in a while, it’s only [lived experience].

    Rose Sayer: [Lived experience], Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.

  55. JabbaPapa says:

    WVC :

    the Death Penalty as a concept [is] perfectly moral

    That seems exaggerated — is it then “perfectly moral” for Christ Himself, the Apostles Peter, James, Paul, Mark the Evangelist, Christians thrown to the lions, victims of ISIS brutality to have been subjected to the death penalty as they indeed were ?

    Is it “perfectly” moral when a man in fact wholly innocent of the crimes he is accused of and yet condemned for them anyway is executed by the public Authority ?

    These are NOT instances nor examples of any “moral perfection” in the death penalty, and it is unsustainable as an argument to claim that any such perfection could be found in such worldly judgment.

  56. Rob83 says:

    Last month the Vatican managed to put out a definition of virginity that excludes the Virgin Mary. This month it happens to say the Church teaches not X when it has clearly taught X up until now (regardless of the magisterial weight of the CCC, there is no way I can see to reconcile the last sentence of the new version of 2267 with the known truth). I am really not looking forward to September’s adventure in developed definitions.

    The way this paragraph is re-written betrays a certain lack of awareness concerning the supernatural end of man. When someone’s crimes are so serious that there is no question of letting them rejoin society in this life, the death penalty is justly applied, but that does not mean they are beyond redemption. Facing death as the penalty for their actions can in fact be the redeeming action.

    As it is modern society prefers the sentence of death as much as it ever has, except that it thinks it isn’t death if it just waits long enough so that time makes the final blow. Life in prison is still a death penalty, except that it is death in prison at an uncertain time by uncertain means rather than a certain time by certain means.

    Whether a person is innocent or guilty, knowing the time and place of one’s own death allows proper preparation. For the innocent, they can offer up their sufferings, make a good confession at the end, and join the heavenly choir with confidence. For the guilty, they are offered as solid a chance as they will ever get to confess their sins before death and steal heaven. Rotting in a cell for 50 years seems designed to induce despair.

  57. TonyO says:

    I am sick at heart, sickened by the evils sown by so-called “shepherd”, dismayed by the damage done to Truth and to the Church and her people.

    Assuming, for the moment, that what Professor Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette showed in their book was correct: Of course this act is not de fide or infallibly taught, and since it directly contradicts prior infallible teaching, it is both outright error and has no viable standing as a teaching. It must be rejected by every Catholic who listens carefully to the Church. People should beg their pastors and bishops to repudiate this act, and to refuse to be bound by it, as it is empty of validity.

    Now, is it possible that Feser and Bessette are right and the Pope is wrong? Yes, I think it is: the Pope issued this thesis relying only on his OWN personal opinion stated in an informal presentation. It has no history in the Church, and it directly contradicts the teaching of SAINT Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism (only 26 years ago), which he stated relying on vast swathes of prior Church teaching. A Pope cannot reverse definitive Church teaching EVER, but if a Church teaching were taught immemorially but not definitively, the Pope certainly cannot overturn it by merely referencing his own personal opinion and inserting it into a text that does NOT otherwise carry definitive authority. That is to say, in order for a Pope to overturn a teaching of extremely long, immensely distinguished pedigree, and nearly universal approval, he could only do so by an act of overwhelmingly assertive authority – and this ain’t it. In effect, the pope asserted his personal opinion, and here he repeats it and tries to con the rest of us into going along with it.

    I have a suggestion for Pope Francis: if he really thinks that his formulation is Catholic teaching, then try and assert it as an ex cathedra statement and make it incontrovertible. But I suggest he make out his will beforehand, because he may not survive the attempt: God will not be gainsaid.

    Think test balloon. If one surveys how to change doctrine without presenting a blatant contradiction, the weapon of choice is ambiguous wording and to establish a precedent.

    So true. This is why ALL faithful Catholics must be speak up and be heard: whether you like capital punishment or not, the very possibility of doctrine is at stake here, and Francis is trying to undermine it. We must make our pastors and bishops understand how important this is to stand against it, and to push back at the Pope for his errors.

    JabbaPapa’s theory of how to wiggle out of this is a nice attempt, but it does not actually work. Francis did not say that arguments are inadmissible, he said that the _act_ was inadmissible. Moreover, the rationale for the thesis is not juridic, but in principle, so (if it were valid) would apply not as a juridic obligation only, but as a binding TEACHING.

    And so if the statement now being inserted into the Catechism is TRUE, and if we are obliged to assent to it, it follows naturally that all Catholics would be obliged not only to support laws to abolish CP, but we would be obliged to THINK that CP is inadmissible. And this obligation would not only fall on pastors and bishops and theologians, but also on Catholic legislators, but also (with regard to assenting to the thesis) on ALL Catholics. But fortunately, the Pope’s act of inserting it into the Catechism, based only on the Pope’s prior mere personal opinion, and contrary to prior teaching of immense time, weight and authority, cannot be binding on the faithful.

    I am glad that Fr. Z pointed out the fuzziness and ambiguity of “inadmissible” as a concept in this use. It cannot be discerned exactly what is meant: whether the act of CP is, say, intrinsically evil, or some other basis of non-admissibility. Some might suggest that this alone makes the teaching not binding, but I would suggest this does not say enough about it: the Church does often gradually clarify a prior ambiguity without saying the prior teaching was “wrong”, just “unclear”. But what we have here as “inadmissible”, whatever the precise idea Francis has in mind, still directly contradicts what Pope JPII said, which is that it IS admissible. So I suggest that this is not an instance of a teacher making a point that is ambiguous but capable of being cashed out compatibly with all prior doctrine. In this case, it seems that the teaching he is proposing cannot be cashed out as compatible with prior teaching, regardless of the complete balderdash added about “In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. ” and other silly nonsequiturs. While it is good to respect the available room for ‘interpreting’ the expression “inadmissible”, that alone is not enough to deal with this.

    I urge all good Catholics to write both their pastor and their bishop, and any cardinals they can think of, to reject this act of intellectual tyranny for what it is: a sheer error by the Pope. Do so in absolutely respectful manner, giving both the person of Francis and his office all possible respect and due honor. But at the same time, without giving an inch to his error. The bishops should make it known to his priests and people that they are not obliged to change their understanding of Catholic teaching based on this novel theory, that it is not binding. They should tell the publishers of the Catechism that they will NOT support buying new versions with the new wording – and that they will make photocopies or any other dodge around new editions as necessary. They should tell teachers in the diocese not to incorporate the new language as if it were Church teaching, but to stick to the old language which is Church teaching.

  58. Lurker 59 says:

    Continuing from where I left off.

    Fr. Z pulled the book with the quote from then Card. Ratzinger. There is more to it than that, but everyone should go and read the introduction in full. Card. Ratzinger is the epitome of careful reasoned thinking that cannot be reduced to soundbites. What a beautiful and holy mind the man has.

    Fr. Jim wonders why the fuss. Well, his comment explains why. Something that is manifestly untrue has been injected into a document meant to function as the catechetical standard / go to book for those whose job it is to pass on whole and intact, without addition, the Catholic Faith.

    It is not trivial as those that do this thing want to do so much more.

  59. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    So Pope Francis has “updated” Catholic doctrine that completely rules it out. He has also opposed life imprisonment.

    How does the pope propose that society punish murderers (who are already serving life in prison) who murder other prisoners or guards? Donald Nash, a hitman, who killed at least five people (three of them were CBS employees who walked into his kidnapping of a victim) and subsequently went to prison for life, eventually murdered a prisoner. Then there was the case of Lemeul Smith, who serving two life sentences for two murders, who murdered a female guard in prison.

    It should be noted that nations that pride themselves on having banned capital punishment such as Great Britain, Israel, and Spain, sent military “hit teams” to kill terrorists. We also heard how the very anti-death penalty nation of France bombed the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, which resulted in one death.

    A few years ago, Obama’s justice department told the Supreme Court that it had the right to kill U.S. citizens it deems “enemy combatants” without any due process. Far more people, including innocent civilians, were killed by drone strikes–which Obama greatly expanded–than were executed.

    Again, I am trying to understand why the pope is trying to win the favor of those who hate the Church.

  60. JabbaPapa says:

    TonyO :

    JabbaPapa’s theory of how to wiggle out of this is a nice attempt, but it does not actually work.

    I’m not trying to “wiggle” anything, it’s just simply untrue to try and put forward that CCC 2267 was a doctrinal statement, when it simply isn’t.

    CCC 2267 contains no language of the sort “the Faithful are required” or “it is defined by the Church that” or “it is to be definitively held that” or so on — and without such phrases or similar, no binding doctrine is ever established.

    The word inammissibile means what it means, which in Italian is something like “not pertinent for inclusion in serious discussion” and/or “incapable of being presented for the consideration of the Court”. Which is probably BTW why the French translation uses a more muted phrase rather than French inadmissible which has a stronger meaning than the Italian, and one probably incompatible with the sense of the canon.

    What it means is that the Church has now formally declared that the Church will not accept arguments in favour of the death penalty, and the Church will seek for the abolishing of the death penalty everywhere.

    It does NOT mean anything at all along the lines of “all supporters of the death penalty are heretics”, or “none of the Christian Faithful may support the death penalty”, nor anything else so exaggerated …

    CCC 2276 provides NO condemnation of anyone whomsoever, nor any requirement of assent except onto those who are required for their vows to agree unconditionally with all of the teaching of CCC, in other words principally Bishops and theologians.

    Francis did not say that arguments are inadmissible, he said that the _act_ was inadmissible.

    I think you’re missing my point about the meaning of the word inammissibile in Italian

    viz. :

    Moreover, the rationale for the thesis is not juridic

    It is precisely juridic, given that the core meanings of inammissibile in Italian are juridic meanings

    but in principle, so (if it were valid) would apply not as a juridic obligation only, but as a binding TEACHING.

    That it is binding is clear, even though for any individual Catholic who is not a Bishop or theologian or etc, future teaching for them from their Ordinary on the question is what will be so in a more specific manner — but the canon does not say “the death penalty is forbidden”, it says “the Church … works with determination for its abolition worldwide”.

    If CCC 2276 had overtly forbidden the death penalty then it would have been a doctrinal teaching, and the Pope would then have been expected to proclaim it not in this manner, but as an Encyclical or even an ex cathedra statement. But CCC 2276 doesn’t do that, but it declares instead that the Church does not accept the death penalty, and it imposes a discipline whereby the Church will act for the abolition of this punishment.

    Yes this does mean that the Church intends that the death penalty be considered as being immoral.

  61. WVC says:

    @JabbaPappa – or like Hutts throwing prisoners to the Rancor?

    You’re arguing about abuses of the concept, which does not invalidate the concept. Also, ALL judgments we make in this world are worldly judgments. That doesn’t invalidate our judgment or the concept of judgment. If only “heavenly” judgments were valid, than nothing we can conceive of would be moral or immoral, and that would be total chaos.

    Rather, your argument is what is completely untenable (for a Catholic, at any rate). Either the concept of the Death Penalty IS perfectly moral, or you have to argue that the Church either knowingly taught that something that is NOT perfectly moral was absolutely acceptable for thousands of years, or the Church and all of her theologians were complete idiots and didn’t understand the concept of “human dignity” for thousands of years. Either direction, I can’t see that position holding up very well.

  62. Pingback: Pope Francis and the Death Penalty: Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean….inadmissible? – Da Tech Guy Blog

  63. Staupostek says:

    As I think on what has happened, I can’t help but wonder what, in the long run, this will mean for the Church’s official teachings in other areas. What about the fact that God used an execution to redeem humanity, which some might find offensive in this modern, “enlightened” world. And what about the Eucharistic sacrifice made in the Mass? I know that many today see the Eucharist as merely a symbol, but what about the official teachings to the contrary? Please forgive me if these concerns are misplaced or exaggerated, but I can’t help but worry about the souls that might be lost before the ultimate victory that we know will come.

  64. vandalia says:

    On the ground, the response to those who argue that this is not a legitimate development of doctrine is “slavery.” So one must either argue against history that Revelation and Tradition don’t teach that slavery a divinely approved institution, or one must argue that slavery is a perfectly legitimate option today. A second lesser objection arises from the Terry Schiavo case; that since the Church has not taught through the ages that there is a right to IV fluid, this also must be thrown out as a valid development of doctrine. If the Church can argue that X is now mandatory as of a certain date, it can equally argue that Y is now forbidden as of a certain date.

    I have my own response to these, but I am interested in what yours is, because this is an objection that must be addressed.

  65. Uxixu says:

    “By sinning man departs from the order of reason, and consequently falls away from the dignity of his manhood, in so far as he is naturally free, and exists for himself, and he falls into the slavish state of the beasts, by being disposed of according as he is useful to others. This is expressed in Psalm 48:21: “Man, when he was in honor, did not understand; he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them,” and Proverbs 11:29: “The fool shall serve the wise.” Hence, although it be evil in itself to kill a man so long as he preserve his dignity, yet it may be good to kill a man who has sinned, even as it is to kill a beast. For a bad man is worse than a beast, and is more harmful, as the Philosopher states (Polit. i, 1 and Ethic. vii, 6).”


    One is naturally going to hear about how things have changed since St. Thomas’ day… then there’s numerous examples since, most recently:

    Pius XII (1952): “Even when there is question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already dispossessed himself of his right to life.”

    St. Pius X (1908): “ It is lawful to kill when fighting in a just war; when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime.”

    Leo XIII (1901): “The death sentence is a necessary and efficacious means for the Church to attain its ends when rebels against it disturb the ecclesiastical unity, especially obstinate heretics who cannot be restrained by any other penalty from continuing to disturb ecclesiastical order. “

  66. WVC says:


    Slavery is a misunderstood concept. In and of itself, there is no moral dimension to it. It is an economic relationship. Put it in the same box as serf, peasant, servant, apprentice, or modern day sweatshop grunt. The coal miners in West Virginia during the early 20th century weren’t any more free than the serfs of the Middle Ages or the slaves of ancient Rome. You can even compare it to modern day debt-slavery, which accomplishes more or less the same thing although on a more indirect path (if anyone with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage loan debt thinks they’re “free” – think again). So long as Christian principles are followed and fair recompense is made for labor, it is not intrinsically evil. Otherwise it would be absurd for St. Paul to put God in the role of a slave master. Could anyone (and I speak foolishly here) put God in the role of an abortionist and think it would be okay? Of course not. Because one is intrinsically evil and one is not.

    The problem with us modern fools is we can’t think past our own connotations. People thing slavery and then instantly think of Roots and whips and Amistad and such. Forget that the actual history of slavery in North America is far more complicated than Hollywood and Academia would have us believe, that is not the end all or be all of slavery across all of time.

    However, I grant you, none of this matters if you’re trying to win an argument. We live in the “triggered” world where individual human “liberty” is the highest of all possible goods, so the second you even say the word “slavery” you’ve probably already lost any chance of having a reasonable discussion.

  67. Albinus says:


    With the Latin now available (https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/08/02/0556/01209.html#latinook) what do you think?

    The essential passage, in my opinion: “Quapropter Ecclesia, sub Evangelii luce, docet “poenam capitalem non posse admitti quippe quae repugnet inviolabili personae humanae dignitati”[1] atque Ipsa devovet se eidemque per omnem orbem abolendae.”

    Is it possible to understand the “quae” clause as restrictive? In other words, is it possible (contrary to the English translation) to see this as condemnation of capital punishment *only if* the act of capital punishment is done in a way that is “repugnant” to “the inviolable dignity of the human person”?

  68. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    An argument can be made that Pope John XXIII supported capital punishment.

    The Vatican City State abolished the death penalty under his successor in 1969.

    Here’s a list of executions that took place in the Papal States, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_executed_in_the_Papal_States

    (It would be interesting to compare the application of capital punishment in the Papal States to those other nations after the Protestant Reformation. Were Protestant countries more or less merciful in executing criminals convicted of major crimes or about the same?)

  69. JabbaPapa says:

    WVC :

    Rather, your argument is what is completely untenable (for a Catholic, at any rate).

    oh deary, deary, deary me … See, that’s the attitude that starts heresies. “I’m right, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re not Catholic”. Martin Luther used similar tactics …

    Either the concept of the Death Penalty IS perfectly moral, or you have to argue that the Church either knowingly taught that something that is NOT perfectly moral was absolutely acceptable for thousands of years

    You are falsely claiming that the Church has taught the death penalty as a doctrine. NO — the Church has never provided any such teachings about the death penalty, regardless of the opinion of St Thomas Aquinas on the question of the death penalty.

    The foundation of your argument is wrong, which by itself invalidates the argument wholly.

    No, all that the Church has ever done is to recognise that secular Authorities have the power to institute the death penalty, but it has refrained from making any doctrinal statement on the rightness or wrongness of such punishments. CCC 2276 makes no such statement either.

    No doctrinal condemnation of the death penalty exists, not in CCC 2276 either —- but no praising of the death penalty as a good exists either.

    The teachings of the Church on this question have never been dogmatic, nor are they now, but they have only ever been pastoral and disciplinary.

    Council of Trent :

    Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment- is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.

    See ? This is the description of a power of the Courts of the civil Authorities, that the Church refrained from condemning, did not praise, and basically adopted a neutral stance over, even though it also characterised some reasons why some of the Faithful were in favour of it.

    BUT — it merely describes the penalty as being “lawful” and “legal”, which does not constitute “perfect morality” nor any dogmatic statement about the death penalty, binding onto all Catholics — but in Trent, a pastoral and disciplinary teaching against theological claims against the legality of the punishment.

    Nowhere in the Deposit of Faith is it stated that the death penalty were a good that all Catholics are bound to accept.

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger : if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

    Cardinal Ratzinger would NOT have written of this legitimate diversity of opinion if, as you have suggested, the death penalty were characterised as being endowed of “perfect morality”. It is NOT therefore “heretical” for the Pope to have declared the death penalty as being inammissibile.

    It cannot be “heretical”, because the legitimacy of this diversity of opinion obviously cannot and does not establish only one opinion in that diversity (yeah yeah, I know, the dreaded d-word … :-( ) against all others as if they were established in that freedom of opinion as constituting “heresy”.

    I am fully aware that some famous priests in History have been supporters of the death penalty.

    This is of no importance whatsoever for determining whether CCC 2276 might be “heretical”.


  71. Pingback: Pope Francis changes Church’s position on death penalty: It’s inadmissible | PagadianDiocese.org

  72. JabbaPapa says:

    Albinus :

    With the Latin now available (https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/08/02/0556/01209.html#latinook) what do you think?

    The essential passage, in my opinion: “Quapropter Ecclesia, sub Evangelii luce, docet “poenam capitalem non posse admitti quippe quae repugnet inviolabili personae humanae dignitati”[1] atque Ipsa devovet se eidemque per omnem orbem abolendae.”

    Is it possible to understand the “quae” clause as restrictive? In other words, is it possible (contrary to the English translation) to see this as condemnation of capital punishment *only if* the act of capital punishment is done in a way that is “repugnant” to “the inviolable dignity of the human person”?

    Almost — “non posse admitti is interesting, because “posse” is semantically middle voice and “admitti” passive grammatically, so to try and clarify the meanings, though I’m strongly periphrasing them, and so not at all a literal translation (perhaps Father Z can provide far better), maybe : “One cannot accept the death penalty from the intrinsic defect of its contradicting of the inviolable dignity of the human person”

    The “posse” is the hardest to render into English, as the modern language lacks the correct verb.
    Its basic meanings are “to be capable in itself of”/”to be empowered in itself to” and similar. In its stronger forms of usage, it’s actually a pretty powerful word, that is unfortunately (and rather ironically given its meaning), incapable in itself of being accurately translated into English.

    So it’s saying, basically, that “the death penalty cannot from its own intrinsic characteristics be admissible for the reason that it is contradictive against the inviolable dignity of the human person”, except in a Passive Voice which is unachievable I think in English.

    Don’t know if that’s helpful, but perhaps Father Z could potentially manage a more elegant rendering ?

  73. HeatherPA says:

    I am not a bloodthirsty person who wants the death penalty applied to persons unrestrictedly.

    However, I do believe there are persons who pose an extreme threat to humanity and will not stop, even incarcerated.

    Charles Manson is one who had groupies who would follow his instructions from prison. He didn’t show the slightest remorse for what he did.

    Ted Bundy escaped and killed again before recapture. His lawyer knew he would kill if ever released and was worried if he was allowed to be around any people that he would kill even in prison.

    I think that there must be extreme prudence and judgement in use of the death penalty. There is just no possible way to say that imprisonment will always, always be able to stop some of these people from continuing their acts.

    Also there are many countries that do not have the means to contain dangerous persons the way that more prosperous countries do, sadly.

    I struggle mightily with this because I have always referred to my Catechism as my sure guide in these times of turmoil and confusion. I don’t know what to think if it too is tampered with in a way I am unsure of.

  74. WVC says:


    Eh . . . you seem to really be avid about splitting hairs to defend your position, but it’s not a hobby I enjoy. The Church clearly says, in your own quote, that the civil authorities have the LAWFUL right to execute guilty prisoners. So, you’re saying the Church (and St. Paul in Romans) can state that the civil authorities have a lawful right to do something immoral? That’s nonsense talk, and you know it. Either the Death Penalty is PERFECTLY MORAL – which is what I stated, I did not say that the Church encourages it – or it is NOT perfectly moral. If you are saying it is NOT perfectly moral, than you have to explain how the Church claimed (and St. Paul in Romans) that the civil authorities had the LAWFUL right to exercise that power.

    Think of it in terms of something that is clearly intrinsically evil. Could the Church claim that the civil authorities have the lawful authority to perform abortions? Of course not.

    You can continue to split hairs on this issue, but you’re clearly trying to force facts and words to fit your predetermined opinion. I have no interest in this game.

  75. SanSan says:

    In recent years, we have been purchasing a Quarterly package for an inmate who my husband knew back in high school. This man killed his wife and her boyfriend in front of his young son…..he did not “catch” them together (crime of passion), he drove many miles in anger and vengence and planned on killing them. He received life without parole 30 yrs ago…….now however, because of our insane govt in CA, inmates like him may soon be let out of prison for good behavior while in prison. I don’t “know” this persons soul, if he’s amended his life etc…..but I do know that two people are still dead and a little boy has grown up without his mother and the witnessed his father brutally kill her and another. I don’t think this man should be paroled. I pray that he stays in prison and continues to work out his salvation before he dies, and that God has mercy on him. I pray that his son may someday find his way to God and to salvation. I wish that this man’s wife and her boyfriend could have lived long enough to confess their sins and amend their lives before such a brutal horrific death (done with a knife). The jury ruled life without parole even though this was a premeditated, brutal and violent murder. The death penalty is “rare”. Convictions without parole, should stand.

  76. Ranger01 says:

    Nothing was wrong with the old wording. It was more than adequate.
    The pope was simply waiting for the right time to release this nonsense.
    McCarrick’s exposure was the right time. It is a distraction from the homosexual scandals now so obvious to even the most casual pewsitter.
    The pope, his lieutenants and the Catholic lavender mafia all play for keeps. Bet on it.

  77. JabbaPapa says:

    WVC :

    The Church clearly says, in your own quote, that the civil authorities have the LAWFUL right to execute guilty prisoners. So, you’re saying the Church (and St. Paul in Romans) can state that the civil authorities have a lawful right to do something immoral? That’s nonsense talk, and you know it.

    It is blatantly true that the civil authority has the right to establish laws, and it is blatantly true that not all of those laws will be coherent with the True Law.

    But really, to call this “hair splitting” is really quite silly indeed !! This isn’t about the splitting of hairs, it’s about the chopping off of people’s heads.

    I am not responsible for any incoherence between the Catholic moral doctrine and the secular law — which permits all manner of horrors, such as abortions, re-marriage, gay “marriage”, and et cetera ad nauseam.

    The civil authorities grant themselves the legal right to establish and impose immoral laws every single day. It is extraordinarily unreasonable to accuse me of “nonsense” in the face of this banal reality.

    Isaiah {10:1} Woe to those who make unfair laws, and who, when writing, write injustice

    Luke {11:53} Then, while he was saying these things to them, the Pharisees and the experts in the law began to insist strongly that he restrain his mouth about many things.
    {11:54} And waiting to ambush him, they sought something from his mouth that they might seize upon, in order to accuse him.

    Galatians {5:14} For the entire law is fulfilled by one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

  78. Unwilling says:

    Some interesting stats provided above. I have calculated the proportions (Wiki data)
    Executions MilsPop Ex per M Pop
    China 1000 1400 0.71
    Iran 507 80 6.34
    Saudi Ar 146 32 4.56
    Iraq 125 37 3.38
    Pakistan 60 193 0.31
    Egypt 35 96 0.36
    Somalia 24 14 1.71
    USA 23 326 0.07

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