Thursday, August 2, 2018

Game Changer by Francis? Death Penalty Now Officially Condemned?

Today August the 2nd, will go down in history as the day Pope Francis tried to bind the Church to a false teaching, which says that the death penalty is no longer admissible as a legitimate form of punishment. Of course we know that a Pope cannot change this teaching since it goes against the perennial teaching of the Church as well as the natural law. Many Popes before him such as Pius XII have taught emphatically that it is and always will be a legitimate form of punishment. It is interesting that this change only uses one source as a foot note, which is his address concerning the "new evangelization" on  11 October 2017. Notice he cannot come up with anything throughout Church history to substantiate this heretical teaching, so he quotes himself from less a year ago. Hardly a robust foundation for this theological proposal. This change was also accompanied by a formal letter to all bishops by Cardinal Ladaria. 

Up until this point Francis' theologically problematic statements have been arguably communicated in a non-binding manner or ambiguously. That is, he said them in interviews or informal letters, or in a manner that could be manipulated easily. This however seems to be a game changer.  I am interested to hear the opinion of reputable Thomistic theologians on this one. Does this not change the game when a Pope tries to bind Catholics to a heresy using a vehicle such as the Catechism? Granted every word in the Catechism is not infallible, but to my knowledge there has never been an outright heretical teaching in a Catechism such as this one. This teaching actually concerns the moral action of what a Catholic can and cannot support. As we know there is nothing intrinsically evil, or anything against human dignity concerning the proper use of Capital Punishment. Going through the CDF Francis has now actually changed Catechism #2267 to clearly and unambiguously outlaw the legitimacy of the death penalty. Leaving aside the poor wording of the 1997 text, below is the text from the 1997 Catechism, and below it is the new heretical Francis 2018 version. The question is, is any upstanding Cardinals or bishops going to stand up and do anything about this? Are they all going to sit back and let this happen? What happens when a Pope tries to actually bind the faithful to a heresy? These days are strange indeed! I will update this post as more theological opinions come out on this. See below for links. 

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68
New Francis Version
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.
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.
[01209-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]
Dr Peter Kwasniewski's thoughts.

Dr. Ed Feser's Response

More by Ed Feser

Cardinal Dulles' Dubia

Thomistica: Responses

Pope Pius XII, Pray For Us!

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