Last week, Pope Francis sowed a great deal of confusion amongst faithful Catholics -- especially traditional Catholics like yr obdt servant -- by declaring that capital punishment -- the death penalty -- is "unacceptable in all cases". Until now, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) taught that the death penalty was acceptable if it was "the only practicable way" to defend lives and protect society.
On Thursday, the Pope said that executions are "an attack on human dignity", and that the Church would work "with determination" to abolish capital punishment worldwide. Abolishing the death penalty has long been one of the Francis's top priorities, along with saving the environment and caring for immigrants and "refugees". That tells you all you need to know about the man who apparently wants to go down in history as "the SJW pope".
The Holy Father seems to have overlooked (or ignored) the fact that making this radical change to what the Church has always taught is likely to challenge Catholic politicians, judges and officials who have argued that their Church was not entirely opposed to capital punishment. And let's not forget the millions of "ordinary people" like Walt who understood from many right-to-life events that the Church was opposed to capital punishment, in any circumstance, as Pope Francis is now saying.
"Thou shalt not kill." Period. I was dimly aware that there were exceptions to that commandment -- a just war, for example -- but didn't realize that an exception might apply in certain criminal cases. Had I thought about it, I would have wondered what sort of crimes deserved that punishment, other than murder. Would treason, for example, be rightly punishable by "Off with his head!"? It certainly wasn't justifiable in the case of Saint Thomas More. How about abortion? Should we kill the baby-killers? How about rape? How bad would it have to be? Would the age of the victim be a factor? There are those who think that execution is too good for someone who rapes of a child of tender years. (St Matthew 18:6)
There is a further point of concern. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization (whatever that is) said that the revision of the CCC's teaching on the death penalty is an instance of "true dogmatic progress...that has gradually matured to the point of making us understand the unsustainability of the death penalty in our day." That's the official Vatican line. It's all part of that "hermeneutic of continuity" that Pope Benedict XVI talked about while making a series of radical breaks with the past.
Writing in L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican organ, Abp Rino Fisichella said Church tradition "is not representable as an insect imprisoned in amber, to say it in a colorful English expression. If that were the case, we would have destroyed it. The teaching of the faith of the Church, rather, is an announcement, a word that remains alive..."
But that's Newspeak (vide 1984) It's just wrong! A diocesan priest wrote to me his thoughts on "a very bad move by Francis. I still think that the Holy Spirit knew that it would be a severe test of the faith of many good conservative Catholics; or that maybe Satan got permission from God to 'inspire' the Pope to do this, sure that it would do a lot of harm....
"Catholics in general were not against total mercy, not against dealing with crime other than [by] capital punishment, but...against total condemnation of it because of Scripture, the Church, and tradition. Commendable faith. But the teaching has always been justifying capital punishment, not commanding it....
"On so many levels Francis seems wrong. In order to agree with him I might have to double down and go with the assumption that God in the Old Testament (and even in the New) has catered to man's weakness. That would explain why He allowed polygamy in the O.T. On the other hand, Christ decreed the end of polygamy but did not do the same for capital punishment.... Does that mean there is a difference between changing a teaching that specifically allows something (e.g. capital punishment in some circumstances) and changing a teaching that specifically condemns something (e.g. homosexual practices)?
"I'm also concerned that the Church is taking the necessary tools away from the civil authorities to exercise their responsibility to control crime in some times, places and conditions. These circumstances prevailed in the past, probably exist to some extent even now, and could return again in the unforeseeable future."
That's one priest's opinion. Here's another, the latest in the "Sunday Sermons from South St. Paul" series on The Remnant TV. In what surely must be one of the most courageous sermons of 2018, this diocesan priest (from a different diocese) takes the gloves off and asks: "What's it going to be? The constant teaching established by Scripture, doctors and fathers of the Church, sainted popes and God Himself? Or that which rests on the whim of Pope Francis, who seems to think the Catholic Church’s binding teaching is whatever his opinion happens to be." God help us, what is this man thinking, that in the middle of the most outrageous clerical sex scandal to date he decides it’s time to go after capital punishment.
"The Absolute 'No' To the Death Penalty. A Victory For the Gospel, Or For 'Secular Humanism'?", by Sandro Magister, in Settimo Cielo, his blog in L'Espresso, 6/8/18.
"Le non absolu à la peine de mort. Victoire de l’Évangile ou de 'l’humanisme séculier'?" The same, in French, in Diakonos.be: Regards sur l'Eglise catholique.
"The Death Penalty, Instituted by God Himself (The Biblical Basis for Catholic Teaching on Capital Punishment)", an older piece by Solange Herts (RIP), reprinted in The Remnant, 6/8/18.