@JamesMartinSJ attacks Justice Barrett, Laura Ingraham replies, @FatherZ adds more.

And there’s this.

The Supreme Court of the United States – presently with all the seats filled (thanks to Pres. Trump and the GOP lead Senate) – has allowed the execution of a convicted rapist murderer. The sentence was carried out. Bryer, Sotomayor and Kagan dissented. HERE

That led to this on Twitter.

Jesuit homosexualist James Martin attacked Catholic Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Laura Ingraham (quondam SCOTUS clerk) responded.

Justice Barrett co-authored an article in 1998 in Marquette Law Review about Catholic judges and capital cases. (Evangelium vitae was issued in 1995)  HERE

They are obliged by oath, professional commitment, and the demands of citizenship to enforce the death penalty. They are also obliged to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.


To anticipate our conclusions just briefly, we believe that Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty. This means that they can neither themselves sentence criminals to death nor enforce jury recommendations of death. Whether they may affirm lower court orders of either kind is a question we have the most difficulty in resolving. There are parts of capital cases in which we think orthodox Catholic judges may participate-these include trial on the issue of guilt and collateral review of capital convictions. The moral impossibility of enforcing capital punishment in the first two or three cases (sentencing, enforcing jury recommendations, affirming) is a sufficient reason for recusal under federal law. But mere identification of a judge as Catholic is not a sufficient reason. Indeed, it is constitutionally insufficient.

There is an important footnote about their choice of the word “orthodox” which is worth attention.


Affirming Chandler’s conviction has the effect of sending him to death. And the appellate judge knows this, because he does his job after sentencing (not before, like the trial judge). But his cooperation is also material rather than formal. In reviewing the sufficiency of the indictment, the jury instructions, and the trial procedure he takes no position on the issue of capital punishment. He would reach the same conclusion if the defendant were sentenced to life in prison. Apart from its unintended consequences, his act (reviewing the fairness of the trial) is a good and just thing to do. If he did not sit on the case someone else would, with the same result. On balance, this seems like the kind of material cooperation that is morally acceptable.

To affirm a sentence is not to approve it.  To affirm a sentence means that the higher court thought the lower court did its job.   It seems that review of a request for a stay of execution would also fall into the shadow of review of a lower court’s sentence.

By the way, Justice Barrett writes in the paper in regard to review of death sentences:

There is a real moral cost to undermining the legal system, even in small ways. If the system were completely corrupt (as, say, the regime in Nazi Germany was) we could ignore this consideration. But it is hardly possible to make that claim about our own legal system. It has flaws-the death penalty is one. On the whole, though, it is a decent and just institution that judges should take care to preserve. If one cannot in conscience affirm a death sentence the proper response is to recuse oneself.’ If the judge does no moral wrong in affirming, he should enforce the law in easy cases, even if he could save a life by cheating.

The whole article is really interesting.

Clearly Justice Barrett has put strenuous effort into working through the dilemma of being Catholic and faithful to the Church’s teachings and being a judge and justice faithful to the Constitution.

I think I’ll go with her on this rather than with the Jesuit’s semi-formed imaginings.

Here’s another thing the Jesuit doesn’t understand.

Just because Francis imposed a self-referential paragraph 2267 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t mean that the Church’s teaching on capital punishment has changed.

In Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (US HERE – UK HERE) Joseph Ratzinger wrote:

The individual doctrines which the Catechism presents receive no other weight than that which they already possess. The weight of the Catechism itself lies in the whole. Since it transmits what the Church teaches, whoever rejects it as a whole separates himself beyond question from the faith and teaching of the Church.

In the same section, Ratzinger said that the CCC is not a “super-dogma”, which can repress theologians in their free explorations.

Let’s stress: “as a whole”.

The Church teaches that capital punishment can be inflicted by the state.

The content of the Catechism is not true because it is the catechism.  When you look at the paragraphs in the Catechism you will see that they are founded on Scripture and on what the Church has perennially taught.  They are grounded on something solid.

Francis, in changing the paragraph on capital punishment made reference only to something he himself opined shortly before.

I wrote about that HERE.

St. Pope John Paul II taught in Evangelium vitae that capital punishment should not be inflicted in today’s modern context.  However, he didn’t try to teach that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong, like abortion or euthanasia.  He left the door open, but he said that we shouldn’t go there if at all possible.  Catholics in the judiciary have to take that seriously.

Francis, in that murky change to CCC 2267 might have been making a “pastoral plea” to the world, but the language is so confusing that we don’t know what the real impact of the paragraph is.  He tried to make it seem like he was saying that the Church changed her teaching because he said something once.

The role of Popes is to make things clearer, not more confusing.

The bottom line is that Laura Ingraham understands this better than the Jesuit… which isn’t a surprise.

Check out also Edward Fesser and Joseph M. Bessette

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


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    We live in such confused times. Is not the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church crystal clear?

    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.” (Ps 101:8)
    – Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III, 5, n. 4 (1566)
    [emphasis mine]

    So the just application of the death penalty is an act of paramount obedience to God’s Commandments. An area wherein the Church’s magisterium has fallen silent in recent decades concerns understanding “when” and “why” the death penalty is the just punishment for certain crimes. Related are moral questions as to the negative consequences for society when civil authority fails to avenge crimes with fitting punishments, especially the most grave crimes.

    Evangelium Vitae and the 1997 Catechism seem to punt on those matters, and things have become only more confusing since they were promulgated.

  2. Titus says:

    It’s actually rather worse, vis-a-vis Fr. Martin’s take, that is.

    1. You actually can’t tell from that order how Justice Barrett voted or whether she participated at all. That’s an unsigned per curiam order that recites three dissents. There are nine justices, which means the order would have entered either over Barrett’s dissent or without her vote. It is not standard to note the vote tally on procedural orders of that kind: justices who want their dissents noted have to request that, and they usually only do so to make a particular point. [Great point.]

    2. This was not a merits appeal.* It was a motion to dissolve a last-minute injunction entered by a lower court in a collateral proceeding (that is, not on direct appeal from the conviction or sentence, but in a new proceeding brought after the fact). The rules governing review of criminal sentences and convictions in collateral proceedings are complex and significantly restricted by federal statute. When you get into the realm of last-minute injunctions and stays, the weeds get even taller.

    So this isn’t a situation in which any of the judges involved were able to look at the case and just say, in a free-wheeling manner, “I do [or do not] think this person should be executed; so let it be written, so let it be done.” That’s not how these federal habeas proceedings work. And if judges—at the District or Supreme Court—started treating them that way, it would absolutely swamp a system that is already heavily loaded with criminal cases and these types of collateral habeas petitions. [Ditto.]

    The free-wheeling power of clemency lies in the executive, [RIGHT!] and Fr. Martin, the Pope, and others can make a powerful argument that in the modern United States it should be exercised to commute death sentences. But flopping about on Twitter insisting that appellate judges should be deciding cases as if they were exercising the power of clemency, without regard to the law applicable to the cases before them, is, if not a direct attack on the rule of law, perilously close to one. [And yet consider whom we are talking about.]

    * Crash course in appellate procedure for the benefit of those following along at home: after a trial, the losing party has the right to take a direct appeal to ask a higher court to look at the way the trial court applied the law and even, to an extent, the way the jury or the trial court found the facts. That’s a direct appeal, and it goes to the merits, or correctness, of the original case. Criminal defendants who are convicted (but not most civil parties who lose) also frequently have the right to bring post-conviction petitions “collaterally” (i.e., not via direct appeal) attacking their convictions. These are either via the common-law petition for the writ of habeas corpus or via a statutory substitute. In those cases you generally can’t just argue that the judge or the jury “got it wrong”; you have to show that there was something fundamentally wrong with the way the trial was conducted or the way you were sentenced. A federal statute called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 creates a whole panoply of procedural and substantive hurdles for federal prisoners bringing those sorts of petitions.

  3. Justice Scalia came to a different conclusion about Catholic judges and capital punishment in this 2002 article in First Things. https://www.firstthings.com/article/2002/05/gods-justice-and-ours

    [Great article.]

  4. Gaetano says:

    This is far from the first time that Fr. Martin has opined authoritatively on a subject upon which he has a puddle-deep understanding of the issue.

    He opposed the most recent Mass translation, but his comments evidenced a thorough lack of understanding of Latin grammar. That was shot down by a cadre of Latinists. He backpedaled, saying he wasn’t a Latin scholar.

    He attempted to play Bible scholar & linguist on the translation of “pais” as catamite as a gloss on the healing of the Centurion’s servant. A gloss not recognized in the first 2,000 of the Church, not even among the heretical sects in the Patristic era. He backpedaled, declaring that he was not a scripture scholar.

    Now he opines in a Tweet (that great scholarly platform) upon the morality of Justice Barrett’s vote in this case. This despite the fact that he is not an attorney – and Justice Barrett published a lengthy academic treatment on the exact issue.

    But this is Fr. Martin’s standard modus opereandi. So I anticipate a backpedaling once again, with yet another averment that he is not an expert in this field.

    It further raises the issues: (1) why Fr. Martin feels compelled to inject himself authoritatively into so many areas upon which his knowledge is so limited, and (2) what exactly is he qualified to do after 11 years of Jesuit formation, since it clearly does not include Latin, scripture, law – or moral theology for that matter?

  5. James C says:

    Sadly so many think Pope Francis changed Church teaching at the stroke of the pen.

    Deacon Steven Greydanus, who writes for the National Catholic Register, is already calling for Justice Barrett to be denied Holy Communion. “May God have mercy on her soul”, he writes. So a speech by Pope Francis has suddenly made what Justice Barrett did a mortal sin?

  6. James C: Where did Greydanus write that?

  7. tho says:

    Anita Moore… Thank you for that article by Justice Scalia, to paraphrase Hamlet ” we shall not meet his like again”.

  8. Titus says:

    Here is the tweet in question.

    He may not be an attorney, and he may not understand the moral implications of the differences between procedural posture of this case and the hypothetical case described in the highlighted language from Justice Barrett’s article, but I guess he stayed a Holiday Inn Express last night. Or something.

  9. iamlucky13 says:

    Father Martin is mistaken in claiming that Justice Barrett voted to execute someone, as in issuing a sentence.

    I note that CCC 2267 only instructs us the death penalty is no longer admissible. Setting aside the theological question of how we reconcile that with the previous text of the Catechism, it has to be pointed out that Catechism does not give us guidance how a Catholic should respond if assigned a civil duty that seems to be in conflict. In this case, the conflict is indirect. Justice Barrett is not being asked whether execution is morally permissible, but whether a specific US law blocks this specific execution due to certain FDA regulations.

    Put another way, the Church has not “accompanied” Justice Barrett to help her determine a way reach a different conclusion when balancing her obligation to witness to Catholic teaching and her duty to adjudicate disputes over the secular law as it is written. If her honest analysis was that the law indicates the stay of execution should be vacated, but she voted that the law upholds the stay, she would be lying.

    If Father Martin can help resolve that tension, then he would have meaningful input instead of a flawed legal and moral critique.

    That said, for the sake of Mr. Hall, and out of respect for the the office Pope Francis holds, I will pray that God guide our legal system to a solution that preserves his life, and that regardless of whether that comes to pass, he experience contrition for his sins and be redeemed.

  10. Lunchbox catholic says:

    So like Dred Scott type rulings, chalk this one up to being morally wrong, but legally right?

    I think the Catholic Church’s history on slavery might help inform us on how some things may be lawful, but still wrong. Capital punishment, like slavery, is wrong. Capital punishment bears no fruit, neither in the name of vengeance or justice.

    Is anyone willing to admit, that on slavery the Catholic Church got it wrong? Or is that to scary a possibility?

    Scalia: It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby.

    Chrsitians Every Sunday: Thank you Jesus!

  11. Fr. Kelly says:

    Lunchbox Catholic and all others who are insisting that Capital Punishment is always wrong, I caution you.
    You are directly contradicting God’s command in Genesis 9:6
    6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.

  12. Beltway Catholic says:

    If Justice ACB were to vote in support same-sex so called marriage, would Pastor Jim object that she was defying the teaching of the Church on marriage? As I ask the question, I think I know the answer.

  13. Lunchbox catholic says:

    Fr. Kelly, no doubt. But it turns out that some people are found guilty of shedding someone’s blood then found to be innocent. Man, in his pursuit of meting out God’s justice, do what man often does, screw it up. Maybe, we leave those things to God and seek a better way, while abolishing capital punishment.

  14. NOCatholic says:

    In evaluating Church teaching on the death penalty, I place much more emphasis on Pope St John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae than the reworking of the Catechism, for reasons Father Z has already explained. (I also don’t take my moral teaching from a wayward Jesuit who plays footsie with that teaching).

    In Evangelium Vitae, St John Paul made a prudential judgement, that capital punishment is not necessary to defend society in the modern era (see EV 56). But a prudential judgement is different than a doctrinal statement. While Popes have authority to teach doctrine, prudential judgements are a different matter.

    Also, the Church has taught that punishment by civil authorities has 3 purposes: defense of society, rehabilitation of the criminal and redress of the injustice caused by the offense. St John Paul’s teaching in EV addresses only one of those 3 purposes. The other 2 could still be valid reasons for the death penalty in some cases, even in modern society.

    An authoritative statement by a Pontiff should always be taken with the utmost gravity. However, based on the above, and after much prayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that a faithful Catholic can still uphold the death penalty in the modern era.

    In addition to the book by Edward Fesser and Joseph Bessette, this short article might be helpful to people like Lunchbox Catholic: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7453.

  15. GregB says:

    Perhaps Fr. Martin has taken the staying at the Holiday Inn Express joke a little too seriously.

  16. TonyO says:

    Why would anyone think comments by Fr. James Martin (KGB-LBQNKVD) are anything but idle twaddle and crud? He hasn’t a rational bone in his body.

    Lunchbox Catholic and all others who are insisting that Capital Punishment is always wrong, I caution you.
    You are directly contradicting God’s command in Genesis 9:6

    You are also contradicting JPII’s explicit confirmation (reflecting 2000 years of Catholic teaching) that capital punishment is NOT wrong as such. His teaching (and the infallible teaching of the Church before him) is that capital punishment is not per se wrong, which means that if it is wrong in a given case (of capital guilt determined justly), it can only be wrong on prudential grounds.

    The interesting thing is, Pope Francis’s comment that he caused to be recorded in the Catechism does not reverse that result: it remains a prudential issue, not a per se issue.

    Another thing Pope Francis did not change is the Catholic Church’s teaching that it is the office of CIVIL GOVERNMENT to make determinations about the prudential matters of the best punishment to apply in given circumstances (within, of course, the per se bounds of licit punishments). That is, in a society such as ours, the office of the judge and jury, not the Pope and some bishops. A pope and bishops have not the competence to speak definitively on such issues.

    In fact, ACB’s journal article gave far too much deference to the position of the pope at the time (i.e. JPII’s) personal view of how and when the death penalty was warranted.

    To anticipate our conclusions just briefly, we believe that Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty.

    just is not a true and proper representation of Catholic teaching, either then or now. Catholic judges, if they are faithful to the teaching of the Church, are morally obliged to listen carefully and take into consideration the pope’s prudential judgment about the matter, but is not bound to agree with the pope’s prudential judgment. The pope, having neither infallible guidance nor special competence, can err, and a Catholic judge should take that into account.

    It may be the case that a Catholic judge would be RIGHT that in most capital cases, the death penalty should not be used. But even so, a judge (whether Catholic or not) is morally obliged to hear appellate cases on the narrow issues before him or her on appeal, and those may or may not extend to the rightness of the lower court’s prudential judgment in favor of the death penalty. An appellate judge does not get to replace the trial judge’s prudence with his own.

  17. eamonob says:

    So…when will Fr. Martin post the same about Biden in regards to his public support for abortion, which is actually an intrinsic evil, unlike the death penalty?

  18. WVC says:

    @NOCatholic – I actually agree with your comment although I’d even go so far as to say John Paul II’s prudential judgment that the Death Penalty was no longer necessary was flat out wrong and naive.

    Sadly, one of Francis’s lasting effects will be the degradation of the authority of the papacy. His consistently vague, glib, and contradictory ramblings, both in writing and off-the-cuff, continue to make it impossible for any thoughtful person to consider papal statements with the “utmost gravity.”

    One bright side to Francis, though, is he’s given the YouTube guys at Lutheran Satire plenty of material.

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    There have been escapes from maximum-security prisons. There have been lethal plots ordered or coordinated by prisoners.

    Lunchbox Catholic: Your attempt to ridicule Justice Scalia fails, take a closer look at your own words. Also, as Fr. Kelly cautioned you, your call to abolish capital punishment is against God.

    TonyO: Good point about competency.

  20. Lunchbox catholic says:

    TonyO, what about slavery? It too was 1900 years of infaliable Catholic teaching. And yet, no one in their right mind would defend slavery as an institution.

    Semper, I wasn’t ridiculing Scalia, just trying to make the point that Jesus was an innocent victim of capital punishment.

    But, I’ll put this question to you, Semper: is advocating the abolishment of slavery also against God?

  21. Semper Gumby says:

    Lunchbox Catholic: This is well-trodden ground.

    WVC: Good point about the degradation of the papacy.

  22. Fr. Kelly says:

    When God commanded capital punishment, do you suppose He was unaware that men would sometimes use it unjustly? Even so, He commanded it.

  23. Lunchbox catholic says:

    Simple question, Semper. Is it or is it not? Or perhaps, not anymore? Not trying to be a jerk, just asking because there’s a lot of OT commandments from God concerning slavery and Jesus didn’t seem to be against slavery. I need to read more on that myself.
    -Fr. Kelly, I don’t know and I wouldn’t pretend tk know any of God’s thoughts. But, with Jesus, we have a clear example of how he handled a capital punishment case and he choose clemency.

  24. NOCatholic says:

    Lunchbox Catholic: When was slavery “1900 years of infaliable Catholic teaching”? The complex history of slavery and the Catholic Church, whatever else can be said about it, simply does not support such a categorical statement of approval.

    WVC: I don’t doubt that St John Paul II was wrong. But calling him “naive” is a bit much.
    Given his life under Nazi occupation and in Communist Poland, he likely distrusted criminal executions. But I believe that one can take his teaching in EV completely seriously, and still support capital punishment.

    As to your comments about Pope Francis, I pretty much agree.

    eamonob: Given how Fr Martin pointedly declines to condemn the intrinsic evil of same-sex acts, I don’t look for him to take Joe Biden to task on abortion. That also means, of course, he should not be taking Amy Coney Barrett to task on capital punishment, which even St John Paul admitted is not intrinsically evil.

  25. Semper Gumby says:

    Lunchbox Catholic: This is well-trodden ground, please focus.

  26. GregB says:

    From what I’ve read about the death sentence in the Old Testament it was more prescriptive, to show the seriousness of the offense. The death penalty was very hard to enforce. Wikipedia has an article titled “Capital and corporal punishment in Judaism” :
    Dr. Brant Pitre covers the woman taken in adultery in a video titled “What Did Jesus Write in the Sand?”
    Towards the end of the video he goes into how the events that take place in this story are structured to make it a violation of Jewish law for the woman to be stoned.
    Having said all of this, in a modern world of increasing secularization, many people do not subscribe to the Judeo-Christian world view. Laws and punishments have to take into account people who have no faith tradition to constrain their conduct.

  27. Semper Gumby says:

    “I need to read more…”

    There you go.

  28. Fallibilissimo says:

    Parsing through this issue isn’t simple for those of us not in this particular field, but it’s infinitely interesting especially to see different elements converge on this case.

    One consoling news item (for me anyway) is that Deacon SDG retracted and apologized for his hasty comment on ACB.

  29. EC says:

    You will be shocked at what Thomas says on something similar… the judge who knows that the defendant is innocent but cannot prove it must nevertheless sentence him, even to death!

    We did not just discover mercy in the Church. Somehow, every pope and saint and approved moralist just didn’t understand how to interpret the message of the woman caught in adultery, but now we finally do, because some prisons are more secure sometimes in some countries? I don’t think that is plausible. The State does not have the same moral position as human beings.

    If you have not read Dr. Feser’s book, I highly recommend it.

  30. WVC says:

    @Lunchbox Catholic and anyone else who somehow thinks the Death Penalty should be abolished. Christ Himself stood before Pilate. Pilate told Christ, “I have the power to put you to death.” Christ did NOT say, “No, you don’t” or “Your claim is immoral” or “Only because you are unjust.” (Let it be remembered that Christ never shied away from telling those doing unjust or immoral things to repent from their evil ways)

    Christ, instead, CONFIRMED to Pilate that he had received that power (the power to put a criminal to death) from above (that is from God Himself). And this is right before what can only be called the most gross abuse of that power in all of the history of space and time. God Himself was WRONGLY executed, but even then God Himself gives testimony to the validity of the Death Penalty.

    So if you don’t like the Death Penalty and believe it’s immoral and want to abolish it, don’t complain to me or Fr. Z or even the Pope. Go take it up with Jesus Christ.

  31. WVC says:

    @NOCatholic – Sorry – didn’t mean to infer that JP2 was naive in all things. But his opinion that criminals could be safely incarcerated for life and thereby society would be protected was, in fact, naive. There are entire drug cartels run from prison. And the condition and effectiveness of prison systems vary wildly from country to country (as well as from age to age). And the condition for the safety and livelihood of the prison guards as well as the less violent or wicked criminals, stuck in the same place with some of the most vile monsters imaginations can conjure up, merits some consideration.

    Hardship and experience in one situation doesn’t necessarily make one wise in another, different situation. I don’t hold it as defamatory towards JP2’s character to point out his assertions about the state of modern penal systems were both uninformed and optimistic to the point of naiveté.

    Personally, I think the whole Death Penalty argument is a modernist plan to legitimize sexual deviancy. Once they can demonstrate that Catholic moral teaching on the Death Penalty can be “developed” to the point where it goes 180 degrees and says the exact opposite of what it used to say, they’ve carved the path to “change” the Church’s “understanding” about homosexuality. For starters, most if not all the loudest cheerleaders against the Death Penalty also support a more “understanding” approach to homosexuals. For second, do you really think they care a fig about hardened convicts? These are usually the same folks who are also making excuses for pro-abortion politicians.

    As a sidebar, I think the “seamless garment” argument that tries to tie Capital Punishment with Abortion is another modernist misdirection. Not only does it confuse the thinking of a lot of Pro-Life type folks, but at its heart is an assertion that one’s moral acts carry no agency with regard to the state of one’s life. Basically, they claim there’s no difference between a convicted rapist and murderer and an unborn child – because moral acts do NOT determine one’s value. Therefore, if one’s moral acts aren’t really the way to judge one’s character, then homosexual acts aren’t that big a deal, either.

    You don’t have to listen to modernists long before you figure out almost everything they think has something to do with some form of sexual perversion. It’s one of the few places in which they’re remarkably consistent.

  32. WVC says:

    @Lunchbox Catholic – Regarding slavery (can of worms, I know), the Church hasn’t changed her teaching. That’s because slavery, if it follows the requirement laid out by St. Paul, does not have a moral component to it. It’s an economic situation that’s no more or less moral than being a serf or a sharecropper or a West Virginia coal miner or an Amazon wage slave. In many regards, if it follows St. Paul’s prescriptions, it’s actually much better than most of those alternatives.

    This is consistent with what the Church has said. The Church has condemned slavery that is based on economic exploitation of people, especially when it treats those people as subhuman (and most race-based slavery had, at its heart, the assumption of a particular race being less than human). The Church has NOT condemned slavery where in the master recognizes his slave as a fellow child of God, honors his slave’s human dignity, and always supplies the laborer his fairly earned wage. That’s because such a thing is perfectly moral.

    So, no, you’re wrong, Church teaching didn’t change, you just failed to actually comprehend Church teaching or history or Scripture.

  33. Lunchbox catholic says:

    “Semper Gumby” more like Semper Grumpy lol.

    Thank you GregB, EC, WVC, NOCatholic, and Semper. Found some good books, blogs, and info from some of the thoughts you’ve generated.

    I do have a question. How does the Catholic Church judge itself when considering the people it burned for “heresy?” Was it justified, was it wrong but right at the time. Was it msitaken? It may be “well trodden,” but I’m looking for some honest answers.

  34. NOCatholic says:

    Lunchbox Catholic: WVC makes a good point in his summary of Church teaching. We tend to think of slavery as the chattel slavery of the antebellum American South, in which slaves were legally property, based on their being considered “subhuman”. The Church has always condemned that. But where slavery, at least in principle, was considered as simply servitude, that is, where service was owed to another in exchange for sustenance, the Church has not always opposed it. But the Church always taught the humane treatment of slaves or bound servants is necessary.

    This is a good Catholic Encyclopedia discussion (from 1912): https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14039a.htm

    Here is a good discussion of Papal teaching since the Middle Ages (including how the American Church was less than diligent in applying that teaching): https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/popes-and-slavery-setting-the-record-straight-1119

  35. NOCatholic says:

    WVC: I appreciate the clarification on St John Paul II. I don’t think his own experience made clear to him the danger posed by violent criminals even in maximum security prisons.

    In my opinion, the drive to abolish the death penalty, sexual perversion and modernist theology all derive from the same root: the materialist disbelief in the supernatural, and ultimately disbelief in God. With respect to sexuality, our bodies have no greater significance than themselves. St John Paul admirably captured our body’s true transcendent significance in his “theology of the body”.

    With respect to the death penalty, the materialist sees death, not as the gateway to eternal life, but as annihilation, an inhumane horror. We know better. A condemned criminal, facing death, has powerful reason to come to repentance and enter eternal life.

    This is a good explanation of Amy Coney Barrett’s article, defending her and highlighting the position she took as a law professor in 1998. (While it portrays a personal belief that Catholic teaching prohibits the death penalty, she could ahve changed her position since then).


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