Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Three problems with the change to the Catechism (Updated)


UPDATE 8/13: The Stream recently interviewed me about the change to the Catechism.

In a new article at Catholic Herald, I analyze the recent revision to the Catechism in greater detail.  I argue that there are three serious problems with it.  

An op-ed on the revision by Joseph Bessette, my co-author on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, appears at The Wall Street Journal.  

Joe and I were recently interviewed by LifeSiteNews.  Today I did a Skype interview on the subject with Michael Knowles at The Daily Wire.

At Public Discourse, Prof. Korey Maas comments on my arguments concerning capital punishment and their relationship to the controversy over Dignitatis Humanae.

172 comments:

  1. Thanks Dr. Feser for another excellent article and interview.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would be interested to see what proclamations Prof. Maas has in mind by stating that Catholic doctrine has been reversed by Vatican II. Tim Staples has a great article on this subject at Catholic.com:

    https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/religious-liberty

    It just seems very implausible that the Fathers of the Church, whilst being persecuted for being Christian, would solely declare that coercion is an acceptable method of conversion. Furthermore I have never heard any Scriptural evidence to back that up.

    Of course, that does not mean that there could never be any laws that might repress the spreading of heresies that would cause civil unrest or even riot. But that is hardly “coercion of religion”. Otherwise, one could say that repressing the spread of the Neo-Nazi movement is “coercion of religion”.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dr. Feser, for pointing to the essay.

      To clarify, in light of Scott’s concerns, I made no claim that doctrine had been reversed by Vatican II. I only note that this is one view (of, e.g., Lefebvre and others), while also pointing out the various alternatives to it.

      Also, I made no claim that the Church Fathers declared coercion an acceptable method of conversion. In fact, they consistently say conversion cannot be compelled. But in other matters of religion, and especially among the already baptized, the Fathers as well as the later tradition do deem coercion licit.

      Delete
    2. Prof. Maas, thank you for your clarification! I suppose that if you consider anything that has been thought to be reversed, you would have a laundry list of Catholic doctrines.

      It just shows that the Scholastics were right about the importance of precision of language. What was it about the Arian heresy being only a difference of one iota?

      Delete
  3. It's great to take a "my way or the highway" approach to life, especially when you're right. There's no doubt in my mind that the people opposing you are stupid, evil, and insane. However they are also very powerful and may find a way to in-real-life ban you. So calculate and take that into account. I speak as someone with a lot of experience in this area of making enemies by my opinions.

    ReplyDelete
  4. At first, this change upset me. And it still does. And Pope Francis needs to be taken to task for it. But the sky isn't falling. Pope Francis is just updating Pope Saint John Paul II's unambiguously erroneous opinion of capital punishment with his own ambiguously erroneous opinion of capital punishment. Even Pope Benedict XVI is wrong about capital punishment. It differs in degree, but all three have taught error.

    Or maybe the sky is falling, but it started a long time ago. I guess it's been falling from the very beginning: "... and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat." I've also found great solace in the Akallabêth.

    - Didymus

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saruman the White reminds me of the modern Papacy, I regret to say :) The Faithful in the Akallabeth are more like the Catholics of the Penal Times in England, IMO. Though the abominations committed in Numenor just before the Downfall are more reminiscent of life today.

      Delete
  5. It seems that reputable Christians have risen in defense of the Pope. I hope Prof. Feser gets the chance to interact with them because, honestly, I am confused about who to trust and which arguments succeed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think, if there is an apparent conflict between the teachings of the current Pope and the teachings of his predecessors, then a Catholic ought to try as hard as they possibly can to find some way to harmonise these two teachings, before resorting to the last resort of rejecting one in favour of the other. And yet, I don't feel like that is what you, or many other Catholics who want to reject the latest Catechism amendment are actually doing. I haven't seen evidence that you or they are trying as hard as one possibly could to resolve the apparent conflict through harmonisation, it seems to me to rather be a case of making the last resort one's first.

    To say, either the death penalty is intrinsically immoral in all circumstances, or else that the Pope's teaching is something merely prudential which Catholics are free to respectfully disagree with, is in my mind setting up a false dichotomy. For example, even if the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral in all circumstances, the Pope might nonetheless have the authority by "binding and loosing" (Matthew 16:19) to prohibit today's Catholics from supporting the contemporary practice of the death penalty, without necessarily passing any judgement on his predecessors that used that authority differently–and that authority is something beyond a mere prudential judgement allowing a freedom of respectful disagreement.

    Also, I think Pope Francis' purpose is more binding than the particular words he has chosen to express it. His purpose is to bring to an end any support by today's Catholics for the contemporary application of the death penalty. Even if the specific words or justifications he has chosen can't be squared with tradition, if there is some other basis on which his purpose might be brought in harmony with the tradition, it is more fitting with the Catholic obligation of loyalty to the Pope to affirm his intent even while rejecting his specific wording than to reject both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is also a valid criticism. We should harmonize first. I don't think it is hard given Pope Francis favors ambiguous language it should be easy. True heretics have the virtue of at least being clear. If the Pope did us the courtesy of just plainly saying "the Death Penalty is intrinsically evil" then that would in some cases be better because orthodox Catholics would all be on the same side.

      Luther was rather clear and unambiguous in his teaching and he was clearly in error in regards to Justification.

      Delete
    2. If harmonization could solve this problem, why not just harmonize Ed's words while you're at it? Just read his - and my! - takes on the matter in a way that make them utterly consistent with this obligation of loyalty to the Pope.

      I suggest that if you can see why harmonizing that is a problem - especially since that 'solution' means Ed keeps right on saying exactly what he's been to anyone who will listen - then I think you'll also see why this call to harmonize what the Pope said is an unsatisfactory solution.

      Especially since the Pope's lackeys are going to fight that 'harmonization' every step of the way.

      Delete
    3. Ed's opinion is as valid as anyone's and nobody questions his loyalty. Indeed I wish the majority of self appointed Papal Critics had his soberness of mind and restraint and absolute lack of hysteria.

      Delete
    4. The problem, Simon, is on what basis can this harmonization be done? How can the Pope declare the death penalty have been valid in the past, but not now, and in such a way that the latter is not a prudential judgement. Such a claim seems close to illogical. But perhaps you have an answer?

      Delete
    5. The whole point of the Papacy is to make things crystal clear, especially in matters of Faith and Morals! If your having to bend over backwards to "harmonize" (in other words rationalize) his words and acts he's got a serious problem. He should be doing the work of helping US see clearly and believe and practice rightly!
      We see the opposite of this, and we have seen it all too much since the council. It's not going to stop until we call it what it is (modernism, either formal or material same effects for us) and repudiate the council and it's spirit.

      But what do I know, I'm a "rad-trad"

      Delete
    6. @Crude: Ed's words aren't part of the magisterium, the Pope's words are. If statements of two Popes conflict, then harmonisation helps preserve the integrity of the magisterium. Only (apparent) conflicts within the magisterium need to be so harmonised, not conflicts between the magisterium and something external to it (which is what Ed's writings are).

      @Anonymous: Here's a hypothesis: The ideal of Christian perfection has always excluded active participation in the death penalty. This is expressed in the Pericope Adulterae, and also the statement of Athenagoras of Athens, who said of his fellow Christians, that "we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly". Statements by Christ and by St. Paul that seem to accept the institution of the death penalty as practiced by Pilate and by other pagan Roman officials, don't contradict this, since as pagans were not being held to the ideal of Christian perfection, at least not immediately. And the ideal of Christian perfection cannot be limited to merely refraining from what is intrinsically immoral. However, sometimes God permits, for a time, something less than the ideal, even for his own people (Israel/the Church), as an allowance for human weakness. Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce on account of the hardness of human hearts–obviously, Moses would not have done this without God's permission. Well, what if, in the same way, the Apostles allowed the death penalty, even though it was contrary to the ideal, on account of human weakness? This would fall under the power of binding and loosing that Christ granted St. Peter, and would have been done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, if that is true, then it is open for a future Successor to Peter to withdraw that allowance, to bind once again what was loosed, and I would suggest that is exactly what Pope Francis has done. The Holy Spirit has guided him to the conclusion that this particular human weakness has been sufficiently overcome (even as, simultaneously, many others have endured, and even gotten worse), that such a withdrawal is now appropriate – and his two immediate predecessors prepared the way, likewise under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, laid the groundwork, for this. So, refraining from participation in and support for the death penalty is now morally binding on Catholics, not as a matter of intrinsic morality, but as a matter of obedience to the Apostles, and answering the call of Christian perfection.

      Delete
    7. Simon,

      Ed's words aren't part of the magisterium, the Pope's words are.

      So? You're still free to harmonize, so harmonize away. Then you have no problem to address - just harmony. You can say you don't /need/ to harmonize what Ed's saying, but nothing's stopping you.

      I can offer a reason why: because the harmonization is more of a coping mechanism than anything. It's not convincing or believable, but it's a technicality you can exploit to avoid a conclusion that's awkward: that the Pope is teaching poorly, even contrary to the faith, and is in need of correction and even resistance on this point.

      That's what this is about. Avoiding a conflict with the Pope at all costs. And if Catholics have to tie themselves into knots and gaslight themselves to arrive at that point of pacification, then that simply must be done. Otherwise there's going to be internal conflict, possible schism, heartache and discord.

      Well, thanks, but I'll take the discord. The Holy Spirit didn't guide squat in this case - it is, by the Pope, being resisted. It's being resisted by people trying desperately to convince themselves that God and 200+ popes were all sinning or "didn't really mean it" when they sentenced anyone to death. And it's being resisted by people who are so desperate to either change Church teaching, or avoid conflict, that they're willing to reduce the Catholic Church into one big question mark where we don't know if any teaching - no matter how established, how repeatedly upheld, how well-evidenced in the Bible - was "serious" or if it was just a stopgap measure.

      After all, maybe the authority of the Pope was just a temporary measure, like the divorce Moses allowed, and now - in our more enlightened times - we're able to recognize that said authority is actually limited, tradition and past teaching trumps the Pope, and sometimes he acts without or against the Holy Spirit and then we just have to deal with it.

      Delete
    8. @Crude: If Pope Francis is not being guided by the Holy Spirit, why should we believe that any of his predecessors were so guided either? But, if his predecessors were not guided by the Holy Spirit either, then the problem disappears, for his predecessors' statements then have no more authority than his own. Believe whichever you prefer – or none of them at all – for then they are mere human opinions, of no more inherent reliability or authority than those of any other human being.

      Harmonising is generally how people read texts which are believed to be authoritative, such as scriptural texts or legislation. If there is an apparent contradiction in the Bible, you will prefer some interpretation that harmonises the apparent contradiction away, rather than accept that the Bible is just plain self-contradictory – at least as long as you believe in its inspiration and authority. Similarly, if a Court is tasked with interpreting and enforcing two seemingly contradictory pieces of legislation, it will prefer some interpretation which somehow harmonises the apparent contradiction, over the option of simply declaring the law to be self-contradictory (for that option would undermine its own authority to interpret and enforce the law.) So, magisterial texts – a category which includes Pope Francis' Catechism amendment, and also the formal/official writings of his papal predecessors, but which does not include any writings by Edward Feser – should be approached in the same manner.

      Delete
    9. If Pope Francis is not being guided by the Holy Spirit, why should we believe that any of his predecessors were so guided either?

      Because they taught authoritatively and consistently with each other and the Bible, for one. And this Pope has broken that.

      Which is precisely why you're talking about "Harmonizing" at all: because the Pope's teaching is in conflict with other, established teaching.

      Believe whichever you prefer – or none of them at all – for then they are mere human opinions,

      This is a real common, lame trope of Catholic argument in defense of the Pope, layered on with LARP-talk: "Either the Pope is forever trustworthy and the ultimate authority without question, or lo', naught is left but human opinion, without trustworthiness."

      As if suddenly my mere human opinion gets an obvious guarantee against being wrong so long as I agree with the Pope all the time, or at least pretend I do, while carefully ignoring everything he actually says and all his advisers say, and instead construct an elaborate bit of deception.

      No, I have another option here: tradition, the Bible, and past teaching of the Church. Which is abundantly clear, as it's the pope's intention.

      So, magisterial texts

      *masturbatory hand gesture*

      You're avoiding the real reason. You can "harmonize" whatever you want. It's an option. But you just don't want to do with Ed, or me. Because you know your harmonization is completely unconvincing in either case, but with the Pope, self-gaslighting is preferable to the scary alternative.

      Honest to God, dude, people like you have done enough damage. The sacredness and holiness of the cardinals and bishops was so, so important, that you had to construct any possible interpretation of their reassignments, their impropriety with children and otherwise to avoid conflict with them.

      Enough.

      Delete
    10. @Crude:

      You said:

      “After all, maybe the authority of the Pope was just a temporary measure, like the divorce Moses allowed, and now - in our more enlightened times - we're able to recognize that said authority is actually limited, tradition and past teaching trumps the Pope, and sometimes he acts without or against the Holy Spirit and then we just have to deal with it.”

      And that suggestion has lots of “ecumenical possibilities” LOL.

      It justifies the Reformation. Fuddy-duddy traditional Catholics were used to the traditional place given in the Church to the Papacy, but the Holy Spirit led Luther & Co. to reject it. If the Church had listened to the “new orientation”, as the Reformers did, the Church would not have been stuck in a dead end for 500 years. The New Pentecost of V2 was the beginning of her escape from her self-imposed darkness.

      That is what this doctrine of harmonisation is in danger of leading to. I am all for submission to the Pope, but when he starts teaching 2 + 2 = 5, which is what seems to be happening, how is submission possible ? It is not the business of the Magisterium to set the Faithful brain-teasers they cannot solve.

      How is it legitimate for a Pope to teach that a doctrine can evolve into its contrary ? If this can occur, what is to prevent Francistron 10th, the first cyborg Pope, teaching, in the year 10,000, that faith in the Holy Trinity has evolved into atheism, or into Unitarianism, or into both ?

      Delete
    11. To James C. re: Whether the Holy Spirit led Luther: That's very much a debated point. As a person whose familiarity with Luther and Calvin (plus other factors) led him ultimately to become Catholic (at some personal cost), I find the notion very dubious. I'm not the man's judge, but him being in hell seems plausible to me. (It's also plausible he's not. If God has mercy on me he can certainly have mercy on arrogant bipolar obsessive-compulsives.)

      But down that road lies a very serious thread-jacking...!

      Re: "How is it legitimate for a Pope to teach that a doctrine can evolve into its contrary?" It isn't! The teaching is always required to be interpreted according to the Hermeneutic of Continuity, not the Hermeneutic of Rupture, because the latter is an implicit rejection of Magisterial Infallibility, and thus of Catholicism.

      Magisterial Infallibility doesn't apply to Francis' recent death-penalty moves.

      BUT, (and here's the rub) to the average trusting layperson, it sure feels like it ought to. The average trusting layperson isn't supposed to be required to get a Theology Degree just so they can tease out the authority-difference between an instructional paragraph in a Catechism and a dogmatic definition in a Papal Bull. They just know that people they trust habitually reference the Catechism, and its introduction describes it as "a sure norm." (Normally it is.)

      So, Francis seems to be very good at doing precisely the kinds of things which will confuse and discourage the faithful WITHOUT triggering any of the circumstances wherein God has promised to protect the Church by preventing him from acting in error. It seems paranoid to suggest, but it's almost as if he knows precisely the circumstances which would prevent him from substituting his own opinion for Church teaching, and deftly avoids them so that he can go on stating his own opinion in place of Church teaching: Dodging his charism, Jonah-style, instead of exercising it. Could that be it?

      Naaaah. Surely not.

      I hope not.

      Delete
    12. In reply to Simon Kissane, re: "I think, if there is an apparent conflict between the teachings of the current Pope and the teachings of his predecessors, then a Catholic ought to try as hard as they possibly can to find some way to harmonise these two teachings, before resorting to the last resort of rejecting one in favour of the other."

      Ah, yes. In theory I agree with you.

      In practice, there is an obstacle; namely, the idea that Words Have Meanings..but not everyone uses words for their meanings.

      (Related to this: The idea that one should Believe Things Because They Are True, not because they make one feel a certain way or lead to certain desirable behaviors.)

      The words of all the preceding popes, bishops, saints, doctors, and fathers collectively narrow what a Catholic may believe about the death penalty and still believe that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit protects the Church from definitively ruling erroneously on matters of faith and morals.

      All those words (along with the words of Scripture) can sometimes be interpreted in varying ways; but only certain interpretations allow them to be compatible with one another and to show continuity from then to now. By the light of those interpretations, we inescapably find that capital punishment is NOT intrinsically evil.

      But, we also find that it IS intrinsically evil to intentionally attack the fundamental dignity of a human being.

      So when Francis claims that capital punishment intrinsically IS an attack on the fundamental dignity of a human being, we see that the Meaning Of His Words is in flat contradiction to the teaching of the Church.

      BUT...!

      Francis doesn't seem to reliably use words to convey what those words mean. On the contrary, he seems more often to use them either to provoke a feeling or to provoke a behavior in the listener. (He's very much like Donald Trump's Twitter Feed in that way.)

      If we construe Francis in that way -- that is to say, if we interpret Francis' statements like they were coming from Jorge Bergoglio and not like they were coming from Josef Ratzinger or Thomas Aquinas -- then I think we have to conclude that Francis isn't even concerned with whether it's literally true that capital punishment is "intrinsically evil." Even figuring out what that means is probably not of interest to him. (Maybe it hurts his head to think about such questions. Who knows?)

      No, I think he's just trying to say whatever words will make people feel bad for not opposing capital punishment, so as to provoke them into voting against it. His words aren't vehicles of meaning, but levers of power. The comment that "the death penalty attacks the inviolable dignity of the offender" correctly translates as, "Go vote against the death penalty!"

      Thus translated, we find that it is not the kind of comment which can plausibly be Magisterially Infallible. Indeed, it is kind which Catholics may answer with a respectful "no."

      (They can also pray that, next time, God sends them a pope who believes that words have meanings.)

      Delete
  7. Dr. Feser,

    Regarding your new article, here is what those who wish to read Pope Francis in continuity have argued. I think this is the best they have to offer in response

    1) The Pope has not said CP is intrinsically immoral and his language that it is an "attack in the inviolability and dignity of the person" need not imply such. So, there is no flat contradiction with the traditional teaching that CP is legitimate in principle.

    2) One can view that CP has always been "an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and that such attacks are sometimes permissible in service of other goods. For example, removing a limb can be viewed, objectively, as an attack on the "inviolability and dignity of the person." Yet, this is morally permissible if the removal is done to stop a deadly infection, whereas this is not morally permissible if it's done to torture some innocent person.

    3) The word "inviolable" does not need to be read in an *absolute* sense. In Rerum Novarum, for example, Pope Leo XIII says privative proerty rights and private ownership are "inviolable." Yet, there are other subsequent Catholic teachings that clearly "violate" these (e.g. regulations on working conditions). So, "inviolable" need not be taken in an absolute sense.

    4) Regarding the implication you draw out of the CDF letter (i.e. that JPII approved, in rare circumstances, punishments not proportional to the crime, this need not be the implication. Instead, one can say that JPII in EV did not present the death penalty as required by proportionality, but as justified as "the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor." So, the EV does not present CP as justified merely on grounds of retributive justice in those rare cases, so the implication you draw doesn't need to be drawn.

    5) Regarding empirical premises. Some are taking the "inadmissible" line as contingent on the premise listed in the previous paragraph. Namely, "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." So, it seems that where this premise is false, the "inadmissible" teaching does not apply (at least on some readings).

    Perusing the internet and back-and-forths the past week, I think those are the best responses from those who are reading Pope Francis in continuity .

    In other news, most folks (as I see it) have dropped the idea of being ok with the Pope teaching the DP is intrinsically immoral. They are going into detail to point out he is not saying this. They perceive that if he were saying this, there would be big problems along the lines you have demonstrated.

    I would like to thank you for your arguments on that score, since I think you are largely responsible with folks not being ok with PF teaching DP is intrinsically immoral (though there are probably still a handful that are ok with this).

    Your next step, as I see it, if you still think there are major problems with reading in continuity as I present it in the numbered points above, is going to be to respond directly to those points. Obviously, you don't have to do that here. I'm just trying to give you a summary of what folks are saying.

    Last note (sorry for long post). There are still many trotting out bad arguments against the DP ("We've killed so many innocent people with mistakes" , "It doesn't deter", and so forth), and I have used the material you provide in By Man to show why they fail. However, I don't think those reading in continuity rely on such bad arguments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with your post 100% and I would say I am now firmly in the continuity camp.

      Contrary to popular claim I don't automatically agree with Ed on everything (it just seems that way) but this is an area where I agree this teaching can and must be read in continuity.

      But I will say this. The Pope is not infallible when he does a public talk. So he can teach error. Pope Benedict said the Catechism contains infallible teaching but is not itself infallible and in rare cases can contain error. If Catechisms where infallible we wouldn't need to keep changing them. Thus even if we where to say the Pope believes erroneously that the Death Penalty is intrinsically immoral and if he was trying to change the words of the CCC to promoate that belief it doesn't have anything to do with Papal Infallibility as the Pope cannot and has not formally explicitly issued a dogmatic decree formally teaching error.

      Indeed if this is the Holy Father's intention then it is stealth teaching which is the only way a Pope can teach error.

      Mind you I don't judge the Pope on this. That is for God alone. But I think it is incumbant on responsible theologians and public Catholic to speak and the irresponsible on both sides to shut up. The later know who they are.

      Cheers.

      Delete
    2. “1) The Pope has not said CP is intrinsically immoral and his language that it is an "attack in the inviolability and dignity of the person" need not imply such. So, there is no flat contradiction with the traditional teaching that CP is legitimate in principle.”

      Let’s ask a question, using the wording in the revised Catechism:

      Please name one other item that is contrary to the Gospels, against human dignity, and is never admissible, but at the same time is *not* intrinsically evil.

      Delete
    3. >Please name one other item that is contrary to the Gospels, against human dignity, and is never admissible, but at the same time is *not* intrinsically evil.

      Contrary to the Gospels is ambiguous as well. Is this contrary to the moral law in the Gospels or contrary to the example of Jesus forgiving capitals punishments like the woman taken in adultery reported in the Gospels?

      These terms are not defined clearly or their use so it cannot be answered.

      Delete
    4. Hmm, good question. I'm not sure if these are definitely right, but here are some off-the-cuff examples:

      1) Torture

      2) Punishing criminals with whippings, beatings, and electrical shocks

      3) Charging a homeless man $50 for a bottle of water at a convenience store.

      I'll also think about it more.

      Delete
    5. Mr. DeRosa,

      On my reading of Feser's article, he's responding to your points 1-3 with the claim that If a certain action against a person is at least in some cases admissible, then the person is not inviolable in that respect. On my reading, Feser is claiming that the conjunction of inviolability and dignity requires that "inadmissible" be read absolutely (contra your #3) and with no defeaters (contra #2) and is therefore unallowable in principle, (contra #1).

      Delete
    6. But since I'm not confident in those examples, let me make a more important philosophical point.

      Just because two different descriptions define a set with the same elements does not mean those descriptions are conceptually equivalent.

      For example, when graphing the function f(x) = (x-1)^2, the x-intercept and the vertex of the parabola refer to the same ordered pair (1, 0). Nonetheless, the concepts of 'being an x-intercept' and 'being a vertex of a parabola' are not equivalent.

      So, it could be the case that all things besides the DP that are "contrary to the Gospel", "against human dignity", and "inadmissible" also happen to be intrinsically evil. Yet, that still would not make those ideas conceptually equivalent.

      Delete
    7. it could be the case that all things besides the DP that are "contrary to the Gospel", "against human dignity", and "inadmissible" also happen to be intrinsically evil.

      Do you mean that A and B can share some features, and yet be different, while having no difference? That can't be right, could it? I agree there is a conceptual difference between a point on a line and a point on a circle even if they are the same tangent point, but a big part of that conceptual difference seems to be, say, the fact that I can put a point on a circle without it being a point on a straight line.

      If DP and intrinsic evils share the features "contrary to the Gospel", "against human dignity", and "inadmissible" but have no differences, wouldn't this count as an argument that DP is an intrinsic evil?

      Delete
    8. Dr. Chastek,

      Please call me John. And thanks for your blog articles. I've found your material on the First Way very interesting.

      Re: On my reading of Feser's article, he's responding to your points 1-3 with the claim that If a certain action against a person is at least in some cases admissible, then the person is not inviolable in that respect.

      The continuity camp will point out that the inviolability can be viewed as not absolute. "Inviolable", in context, means something like a "very strong presumption against violating." That's why I gave the example in point (3) where "inviolable" is meant in a less than absolute sense.

      As Feser points out below, he views this as uncalled for gymnastics. Others will say it's not quite gymnastics; it's more like a dynamic warm-up. Nonetheless, I don't think "inviolable" must be taken as absolute and those trying hard to read in continuity are not taking it that way.

      Re: Do you mean that A and B can share some features, and yet be different, while having no difference?

      No. I mean that description A and description B might end up referring to the same set of elements. Yet description A and description B need not be conceptually equivalent.

      Delete
    9. >Do you mean that A and B can share some features, and yet be different, while having no difference? That can't be right, could it?


      It works for the Trinity. The Father and Son are God but The Father is not the same person as the Son etc. So there is a real distinction and no distinction. The distinction between the DP and intrinsic evils would be the differing nature of features.

      I'll leave John to answer the rest. Those three examples of "items that are contrary to the Gospels, against human dignity, and are never admissible, but at the same time is *not* intrinsically evil" I didn't see coming. But they are clever.

      Delete
    10. Thanks for the useful summary.

      A couple of reactions:

      “2) One can view that CP has always been "an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and that such attacks are sometimes permissible in service of other goods. For example, removing a limb can be viewed, objectively, as an attack on the "inviolability and dignity of the person." Yet, this is morally permissible if the removal is done to stop a deadly infection, whereas this is not morally permissible if it's done to torture some innocent person.”

      ****


      In other words, in order to make a moral assessment, it’s insufficient to view the removal of a limb objectively as an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.

      I.E.: one can’t say “Removing a limb is inadmissible BECAUSE it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”.

      But Pope Francis rules that, “The death penalty is inadmissible BECAUSE it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”.

      Plainly insufficient, on this very argument.

      According to this defence, Pope Francis might have really meant to say something to this effect: “The death penalty is inadmissible, NOT because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person in itself — which it is —, but because it is such an attack WITHOUT GOOD REASON.”

      If that’s what he REALLY meant to say, then if he cares for the truth, the Holy Father should issue a correction posthaste and sack his CDF head for grossly incompetent misspeaking. Will he? Or will he surprise us, be consistent, and go on to rule that removal of limbs is “inadmissible” on the same ground? The clock is ticking. (Note that this document has been in his Out tray since May.)

      "3) The word "inviolable" does not need to be read in an *absolute* sense. In Rerum Novarum, for example, Pope Leo XIII says privative property rights and private ownership are "inviolable." Yet, there are other subsequent Catholic teachings that clearly "violate" these (e.g. regulations on working conditions). So, "inviolable" need not be taken in an absolute sense."

      ****


      OK. But if “inviolable” is not to be taken in an absolute sense, then it’s not enough to rule, as Pope Francis did, that “the death penalty is inadmissible BECAUSE it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” since, just as making restrictions on property might not “violate” the “inviolable” right to property, CP might not relevantly “violate” the “inviolability and dignity of the person”.

      (Prof. Feser addresses these issues in BMSHBBS around pp 61-65 and again on 89-90)

      Again, by the very same defence put up, an insufficient argument.

      Delete
    11. Hugh,

      Thanks for your replies. I don't think they work against those attempting to read in continuity. Here's why.

      Re: But Pope Francis rules that, “The death penalty is inadmissible BECAUSE it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”.

      You neglect to quote the first word of that sentence. "Consequently..." which signals that this is the conclusion of the teaching that also depends of what is explained above.

      Re: OK. But if “inviolable” is not to be taken in an absolute sense, then it’s not enough to rule, as Pope Francis did, that “the death penalty is inadmissible BECAUSE it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” since, just as making restrictions on property might not “violate” the “inviolable” right to property, CP might not relevantly “violate” the “inviolability and dignity of the person”.

      Again, you're only quoting one line of the argument. According to the continuity reading, sometimes attacks on the "inviolability and dignity of the person" are morally permissible. Sometimes, they are not.

      Pope Francis is saying that in these modern circumstances (which includes the effective prisons and such), those attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person are not morally permissible.

      Also, of all things to question, that the death penalty violates the dignity of the person is quite plausibly true. One form of the death penalty in the Papal states was crushing someone's head with a mallet. Another was for the criminal to be "drawn and quartered." It's fairly evident that those violate the person's dignity.

      The question then becomes whether such a violation of a person's dignity is permitted. According to the continuity reading, Pope Francis has said "No, it's not permitted these days."

      Delete
    12. Son Of Ya'Kov,

      Regarding your Trinity analogy, it is backed by 2000 years of tradition and all the authority that comes with it. This doesn't. Also, the Trinity is about God, which also makes it a poor analogy given God being wholly unlike all other things. Also, if this were the case, couldn't we just do this with everything that it declared that seems to require an unclear distinction?

      Delete
    13. Thanks, John.


      Not neglect — just an attempt to faithfully report precisely what Pope Francis ruled, which is, I submit, contained within the quotation marks.

      I’m no expert in grammar or theology, but there is a standard form for papal teaching instruments, and I’m assuming this document follows the pattern.The adverb “consequently” qualifies the verb “is” in an understood declarative clause “it is the case that …” (or the like).

      So “Consequently” is not an element of the proposition being presented as Church teaching, which begins after “that”. In other words, the teaching, according to Pope Francis in this CDF document, is neither “Consequently, the Church teaches … that the death penalty …”, nor is it “The Church teaches that consequently X because Y.”

      To say that in another way: the teaching is “X because Y”. It is neither “The Church teaches consequently that X because Y” nor “Consequently the Church teaches that X because Y.”

      [ Compare with, for example, the Encyclical defining the Assumption. It reads at n.44: “For which reason … we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, …” &c.
      The dogma is that “Our Lady was assumed into Heaven”, not, e.g., “For which reason, Pius XII declared Our Lady was assumed into Heaven”.

      It’s about what God doing Y to Our Lady, not about Pius XII declaring that for reason X, God did Y to Our Lady. No Catholic introduces the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary as: “The Fourth Glorious Mystery: that Pius XII declared with good reason that Our Lady was assumed into heaven.”

      “Consequently” has, I submit, in the CDF letter on CP, the same grammatical function as “For which reason” has in the Pius XII Encyclical.]

      If I’m right about this, the proposition is, as I said, insufficient.
      But even if you’re correct and the previous paragraphs ARE to be read as included as part of the formal teaching in the document, new and deep problems arise, even apart from the undergraduate incompetence of the head of the SCDF who has apparently—and very unpastorally—crafted the crucial sentence in total disregard for previous formulation protocol.

      For example, as Prof. Feser observes: merely empirical assertions (eg “Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens”) contained in those previous paragraphs, are being passed off as doctrinal claims.

      **********

      Ditto for the second point.

      Delete
    14. I think you fellows are making the mistake of thinking that Francis uses words for their meanings.

      I do not think he does.

      I think he uses words for their emotional impact and the actions they will provoke among hearers.

      Lots of people use words that way. Donald Trump, for example, is famous for saying things which should be "taken seriously, but not literally." That is to say: He seems sometimes to assert things which, read literally as uses of words for conveying precise meanings, are dubious. But as conveyors of general feelings (e.g. of felt-determination to reduce illegal immigration or of camaraderie with Average Joes) they work quite well. Separately, as ways to provoke certain kinds of reactions from friends and foes, Presidential Tweets seem rather effective. If one protests, "But it isn't literally true," the guys charged with writing those tweets might say, "Who ever thought it was? When did we say it was? We're trying to rally the troops, provoke reactions, and make deals. Anyone who reads a Tweet as if they thought it was a History Textbook isn't doing critical thinking; he's just confusing two genres and missing the point."

      I think Pope Francis is very much like Trump (assuming I have correctly characterized Trump). I think Francis habitually uses words to provoke emotions and reactions. He is the utter opposite of Thomas Aquinas in this regard.

      So when Pope Francis says, "The death penalty is inadmissible BECAUSE it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" the correct translation of this, from Franciscan to English, is, "Everybody go vote against the death penalty."

      I really don't think it's any more than that. I don't think Francis thinks it's more than that...EXCEPT that he's probably aware that IF Catholics insensitive to his style misconstrue it as a statement to be taken literally, then only the tiny logical/analytical "INTJ" minority will take the time to think it through, draw fine distinctions, and express disagreement.

      The majority are sloppy "ENFP" thinkers, so they'll think something like, "it's not THAT different from JPII and BXVI, and the pope said it, so I should play along." And that's probably fine with Francis, even though it's based on a misconstrual.

      Sigh.

      It could be worse: We could be Israelites living during the priesthoods of Eli's sons.

      Delete
    15. @R.C. If so, what the heck is this capricious utterance of his ending up as an article in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Which other articles in the CCC are such, and which are more serious, so as to be binding? Is there a ready-reckoner so the faithful can tell? If not, what's the point of a Catechism?

      Delete
  8. There is a question I have been asked about the Old Testament in regard to intrinsic evil, compared to the New Testament. I don't think its a valid argument since it is not a direct comparison, but here goes. Some argue that adultery is considered to be intrinsically evil by the Church, it can never be condoned. But in the Old Testament God allowed the Jews to practice it, and it was an accepted practice. This only changed with coming of Christ. So did God not regard adultery as intrinsically evil in the Old Testament? If God changed that can he not change the teaching on the Death Penalty? I know that Jesus did not ever condemn Capital Punishment in the NT, but what about the principle of an act appearing to be once considered acceptable but now it is not? If you can give your thoughts on that Dr. Feser that would be great. Thanks for your work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Re: " So did God not regard adultery as intrinsically evil in the Old Testament?"

      Don't forget one of the commandments is "thou shalt not commit adultery." So, I don't think one can just say "God allowed it" with intellectual honesty.

      Delete
    2. Adultery under the Old Testament applied differently to men then women. Men could be polygamous so a married man who slept around was guilty of fornication and not adultery unless he slept with someone else's wife.
      Still this was balanced by the fact an adult man can be forced to marry a woman he takes by force against his will and may never divorce her but no woman of age can be forced to marry "since a woman [of age] is aquired in marriage by her conscent and not without".

      Old Testament Tradition bears a look. Jesus as the Messiah was giving a new law which even Judaism says the Messiah can do. In fact Jewish Tradition teaches any Israelite King can write his own laws in addition to the Torah and inforce them over the Torah as long as he doesn't go against the heart of the Torah.

      Delete
    3. Christ's doctrine of marriage has effectively rendered polygamy to be a form of adultery -- but polygamy was not adulterous in pre-Christian times.

      St. Thomas explains that polygamy, though against the natural law, is not intrinsically evil:

      http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5065.htm

      Delete
    4. Rather, he said it is against the natural law as to its secondary precepts, not as to its first precepts. And this allows that there can be situations arise in which pursuing the first precepts adequately needs disregarding the secondary precepts as the usually hold (i.e. with regard to raising children in the knowledge of God, as he says). Thus in those exceptional cases it is possible for the one in authority (God) to dispense from the secondary precepts in order to fulfill the primary more fittingly, and this He did with the holy patriarchs.

      Delete
    5. Something can be against natural law but not intrinsically evil? That can't be right? Can it?

      If that is so then why complain about something being "inadmissible" under certain circumstances but not "intrinsically evil"?

      Am I missing something here?

      Aquinas did get the Immaculate Conception wrong......so it is possible he is wrong here or I am misunderstanding?

      Delete
    6. "Something can be against natural law but not intrinsically evil?"

      If something is intrinsically evil, then it can't ever be permissible -- but St. Thomas explained that polygamy is in one respect against natural law and in another respect not against natural law and therefore God dispensed it for a time.

      "If that is so then why complain about something being 'inadmissible' under certain circumstances but not 'intrinsically evil'?"

      Because the Pope has said that the death penalty is inadmissible in the light of the Gospel, using words that have a natural meaning that the death penalty has always been a violation of the natural and divine laws, contrary to what the Church in fact teaches and believed about the death penalty.

      "so it is possible he is wrong here or I am misunderstanding?"

      Just follow the link above and read St. Thomas' words -- he explains it better than I ever could.

      Delete
    7. >St. Thomas explained that polygamy is in one respect against natural law and in another respect not against natural law....

      That actually clears it up for me. Thanks.

      >Because the Pope has said that the death penalty is inadmissible in the light of the Gospel, using words that have a natural meaning that the death penalty has always been a violation of the natural and divine laws, contrary to what the Church in fact teaches and believed about the death penalty.

      I dispute those words have that natural meaning. The guilty woman taken in adultery via the law of Moses merited death for her crimes but Jesus showed mercy (there is more too it then that from a purely legal standpoint especially if you look at it threw the lens of Jewish tradition. Where was the woman's paramour? Was she a Priest's daughter?). That is in the Gospel. The NT allows for the State to use the Sword against evil doers but it puts an emphasis on mercy too via the example of Jesus.
      If the last three Popes put more emphasis one the mercy part even a Pro-DP fellow like moi should at least respectively give it pause.

      Thanks for the link I will try to give it a look.

      Delete
  9. I know you touched on the divorce issue in your last article, but can you give a more full explanation? Because is looks like the apostles really believed adultery was acceptable based on their reaction when Jesus told them it was not. How could God have tolerated an intrinsic evil?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Matthew,

      The main principle at work is this: there is a distinction between permitting evil at least in some circumstances and positively commanding evil . God positively commands the Israelites to use the death penalty. He does not positively command them to commit adultery (e.g. Scripture teaches "do not multiply your wives...").

      Those who claim the DP is intrinsically immoral quickly tie themselves in a knot as can be seen in the following syllogism.

      1) God cannot command what is intrinsically immoral.

      2) God commands the use of death penalty.

      3) Therefore, using the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral.

      The only way to wiggle out of that is to deny premise (1). But once one declares God can command what is intrinsically immoral, then it's game over for the theists who hold God is perfect goodness. It's a nod to the strict voluntarists who hold God can will anything, even things contradictory to his nature. It's a very bad position to affirm. So, we should *not* affirm it, we should accept the syllogism I lay out above, and continue to hold (as the Church has always held) that the death penalty is not intrinsically evil.

      Hope this helps!

      Delete
    2. Polygamy is not intrinsically evil otherwise God would not have tolerated it. It is against the moral law of the New Covenant and monogamy reflects God's original design before the Fall.

      Christ did change the Law making it tougher. According to Jewish Tradition the Messiah would give his own Torah so this is unremarkable.

      Pope Francis cannot change the Law. He is merely the Pope.

      Delete
    3. Adultery is when a man has relations with a married woman that is not his wife. It has nothing to do with how many wives one has.

      Delete
    4. What you just said.

      @Avraham

      It is good you are here. Someone who actually went to Yeshiva. I merely dabble.

      BTW so there is no confusion between us. Son of Yachov is a nickname some Jewish friends of mine gave me. I am of Scottish/English and Italian origin and I am by the Grace of God a Catholic.

      Shalom guy.

      Delete
  10. Have you read this article by Stephen Beale on the “conservative case against the death penatly”? https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-conservative-case-against-the-death-penalty/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beale misses it in the following way.

      1) He doesn't interact with the best arguments for deterrence. The point of deterrence is not only that it deters serial killers, sadists, etc. but that it prevents many from ever even forming the thought of murder. Moreover, it deters violent criminals (even those in for armed theft, say) from killing in prison.

      2) Possibility of mistakes is a bad argument against the DP as Feser & Besette show in chapters 1 and 4 of By Man.

      3) Being too expensive is not a good enough rationale to favor abolition. Maybe we can reform the court systems or other things to make the process more efficient and cheaper. If the goods of keeping the death penalty are significant (as Feser and Besette argue), then this fact alone doesn't show abolition would be good.

      4) Aquinas' premises are not better construed as anti-DP. Feser responds to Brugger's arguments at length and refutes them. See his previous post where he links to his replies to Brugger et. al.

      Delete
  11. Hey guys check this: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2018/08/the-mysterious-case-of-ccc-2358-on-objectively-disordered-homosexual-inclinations/

    ReplyDelete
  12. Not sure about your reading of the OT and the Death Penalty there Ed. If I may channel my personal Jewish Studies knowledge.

    You wrote"There are a great many passages in scripture that not only allow, but in some cases even command, the infliction of capital punishment."

    Well if God commands directly someone must die in a public revelation then that person must die(Canaanites anyone? Including the woman and children). But Capital Punishment is a lending of God's authority to the public authority. It is not an inherent power in the public authority because really only God has the absolute right can take any life at any time.

    You must be careful not to appear to be condoning the erroneous view of Kant that we have duty and obligation to execute all those guilty of Capital punishment and that mercy cannot be shown. I submit the State may execute criminals because the practice is not intrinsically evil but it is not obligated to do so which is why it was legitimate for Pope Benedict and St John Paul II to call for the abolition of the Death Penalty.
    The ancients agreed.


    From the Mishnah.
    "its decisions fixed Jewish practice for subsequent generations]that would execute somebody once in seven years would be considered destructive. Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah says: "Once in seventy years." Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva said: "If we were on the Sanhedrin , nobody would have ever been executed." Rabban Shim'on Ben Gamliel said: "They too would have increased violence in Israel."

    The ancients went out of their way to not execute people because of the Torah.

    The Command to execute is more seen as the upper limits to punishment. Adam and Eve merited death when they ate the forbidden fruit but God stayed their death.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant to write "guilty of capital crimes".

      opps!

      Delete
    2. I have never heard of any of the Fathers or Doctors of the Church resorting to the Mishnah or the interpretation of the Rabbis on these (or any other) matters. Can you show us that the traditional teaching of the Church holds the Mishnah to be either an authoritative or a reliable source? Is it not true that the Mishnah, because it came to be in written form only after Judaism and Christianity parted ways after Christ (i.e. during the period in which the Jews were trying to distinguish Judaism from Christianity and making choices about their religion precisely to make it clearly different), could have been skewed in virtue of which Rabbis were highlighted and which were slighted (not mentioned)?

      Delete
  13. The ambiguous should be determined by the unambiguous. If the revised text of the Catechism is per se ambiguous on whether capital punishment is intrinsically evil, surely it is reasonable to look for clarity in the referenced Oct. 11th speech in the sole footnote of the revised text, especially when the referenced address is specifically on the question of capital punishment. But in the referenced address Pope Francis says capital punishment is "per se contrary to the Gospel", which is unambiguous since to be per se contrary to the Gospel is to be intrinsically evil. Ergo, it is at least reasonable to understand the revised text as saying that capital punishment is intrinsically evil, especially since there don't seem to be any unambiguous attestations to its being non-intrinsically evil in either the revised text, the Oct 11th address, or the explanatory CDF letter, and since the explicit allowance in principle for the death penalty was *removed* from the Catechism text. In other words, even if it is possible to give a coherent meaning to the words of the revised text that is compatible with the death penalty being non-intrinsically evil, a reasonable argument can be made that the meaning intended by the author is that it is indeed intrinsically evil.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except Footnotes can't make doctrine or law.

      Delete
    2. The footnote is the reference in the Catechism. The passagee that claims capital punishment is ‘per se contrary to the Gospel’ is not a footnote, but an integral part of the official letter which the footnote cites.

      Delete
    3. I am confused Tom? Is the Footnote in the CCC or the CDF letter?

      Delete
    4. I believe the footnote in question is the one in the CCC, referring to the CDF letter. If I recall correctly, the passage Albinus is quoting is in the body of the CDF letter.

      Delete
    5. I believe the footnote in question is the one in the CCC, referring to the CDF letter. If I recall correctly, the passage Albinus is quoting is in the body of the CDF letter.

      Delete
    6. Tom is referring to the single footnote citation in the new catechism statement on the document. It cites a single authority -- Pope Francis' erroneous assertion that the death penalty is "per se" (i.e. intrinsically) contrary to the Gospel.

      Delete
    7. So we are not clear where the footnote is? I checked the Vatican Website they haven't even changed the online version yet. But all this is a tempest in a tea pot. Footnotes don't teach doctrine or make law or should I now formulate doctine using the footnotes in my NAB instead of the text?

      Delete
    8. Frankly you'd best not use an NAB at all (chiefly because of its footnotes and introductory essays). But that's a whole nother subject . . .

      Delete
    9. "Footnotes don't teach doctrine or make law . . ."

      Perhaps not, but in a Catechism they're pretty important, since they point to the authorities on which the Catechism's statements are based or from which they are quoted -- and the Catechism's doctrines only have as much authority as they already had in the source documents.

      Delete
    10. Ok so we maybe partially agree on the doctrinal authority of footnotes still a passage in the CCC is only as strong as the authority it is based on. A speech by Pope Francis has as much authority as a sermon by Pope John XXII on when souls behold the Beatific Vision. Ones from Encyclicals have more and dogmatic degrees and or Ex Cathedra even more etc.
      Still I have argued with many an Atheist who treated footnotes in Bible with the same level of authority as Papal decrees. I am afraid it is still incumbent on the rest of us to carry the burden of teaching the Faith with the rest of the Church.

      Delete
  14. As with Feser I agree and disagree with this author on secondary points.

    Capital Punishment Is Intrinsically Wrong: A Reply to Feser and Bessette
    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/10/20341/

    I think the confusion with the essay above is for something to be "intrinsically evil" means God could not in principle because of his holiness command it.

    God could not every command or tolerate Sodomy for example. Even under the Old Testament. Sodomy is intrinsically evil. God can command the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites even the women and children but He could not command we torture or rape them to death.

    Strictly speaking no human being has the right to take any life. St. Augustine said if a private individual without public authority took it upon themselves to slay an evil doer he shall be counted a murderer for dare userping what belongs to God alone.
    Capital punishment is an authority lended to the State by God to punish evil doers not something the State has by nature. So it is not intrinsically evil for them to execute evil doers under the correct circumstances but that doesn't obligate them to have to do so and employ punishment by other means.

    As Simon said above quote" if the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral in all circumstances, the Pope might nonetheless have the authority by "binding and loosing" (Matthew 16:19) to prohibit today's Catholics from supporting the contemporary practice of the death penalty, without necessarily passing any judgement on his predecessors that used that authority differently–and that authority is something beyond a mere prudential judgement allowing a freedom of respectful disagreement."

    That might be the worst case here for those of us who are pro-death penalty. But I would add we need to see whatelse the Pope will do.

    Will the Pope change canon law forbidding Catholics employed as State Executioners from taking communion?

    Catholics who get jobs performing abortions are condemned under canon law & subject to penalty. If pro-death penalty Catholic are not so punished then this is prudence not doctrine.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Guys, come on. Of course we should always try our best to read any papal statement in continuity with tradition. But keep in mind that there is almost no statement that might not be harmonized with tradition if you lower your standards far enough. As I have pointed out before, even the assertion that "God does not exist" could be given an orthodox interpretation if you really strain at it. You can say "Oh, what this really means is that God doesn't merely have existence but is Subsistent Being Itself." But obviously it would be absurd to conclude "Aha! Therefore 'God does not exist' is a perfectly orthodox assertion!"

    Keep in mind also that the Church has always condemned all sorts of propositions that are not strictly heretical, on the grounds that they are ambiguous, highly misleading, rash, seem to imply heresy even if they don't strictly assert it, etc.

    So it is no good to say: "Hey look, I've come up with this way of reading the stuff about violations of human dignity which, however strained and unnatural sounding, will just do the trick of making it consistent with past teaching. Whew! So everything's fine, roll over and go back to sleep."

    The fact that you have to do these sorts of gymnastics is itself a problem, and it just looks desperate and dishonest both to anti-Catholics and to heterodox Catholics looking to make further changes.

    Furthermore, it really isn't at all difficult to say "Capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, but you should never use it anyway, and here's why." See, I just did it. So if that's what the pope thinks, he should just say it. Since that's not what he did, Catholic theologians are within their rights (as affirmed in e.g. Donum Veritatis) to raise respectful criticisms of the wording that was chosen. Blaming them for doing this is blaming the messenger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boom. I guess this is what it feels like to get PHASER'd.

      Re: Furthermore, it really isn't at all difficult to say "Capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, but you should never use it anyway, and here's why." See, I just did it.

      Lol, a good point. You are definitely within your rights to raise respectful criticisms in the name of the truth. I look forward to following your work on the subject.

      What I've reported to you above (1) - (5) is where the reading in continuity camp is at at the moment. So, if you choose to answer them, those are the points you want to respond to. They're not going to by your point about "stop straining so hard to see continuity." Though I definitely think you have a point in that regard.

      Delete
    2. @Ed

      I am not convince but I still love ya guy.

      >Keep in mind also that the Church has always condemned all sorts of propositions that are not strictly heretical, on the grounds that they are ambiguous, highly misleading, rash, seem to imply heresy even if they don't strictly assert it, etc.

      But that in and of itself by your own standards lowers the bar of heresy & error. One need not explicitly contradict the Faith only appear to or be perceived as doing so.

      Of course it's up to a future Pope and Council to make such a condemnation and to explicitly explain it's meaning. We have to wait on the Church. I have a host of Catholic Answers material that point out Honorus and John XXII where not strictly heretical in their teaching. So it's not like everything has always been clear.

      >So it is no good to say: "Hey look, I've come up with this way of reading the stuff about violations of human dignity which, however strained and unnatural sounding, will just do the trick of making it consistent with past teaching. Whew! So everything's fine, roll over and go back to sleep

      >The fact that you have to do these sorts of gymnastics is itself a problem, and it just looks desperate and dishonest both to anti-Catholics and to heterodox Catholics looking to make further changes.

      Except Ed they kind of do that anyway with the Church's interpretations of the Bible. I know a host of anti-Catholics who could cite your words above to say we are going against Christ's "plain command" to "call no man Father" in our titles for Priests and Popes and that our explanations as to the meaning of those texts are just "desperate and dishonest". Of course they do it too (which I love pointing out)so they need not complain when we do it(for example Sola Fide vs James 2:24. It's not like the Reformed don't have their own answer to this apparent "contradiction".)

      >Furthermore, it really isn't at all difficult to say "Capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, but you should never use it anyway, and here's why." See, I just did it.

      You did it better then the Pope here. No question. But this is what we have to work with.

      >Since that's not what he did, Catholic theologians are within their rights (as affirmed in e.g. Donum Veritatis) to raise respectful criticisms of the wording that was chosen. Blaming them for doing this is blaming the messenger.

      That is fine I agree but don't fall into the trap the Francis hating crowd does of thinking their criticism are beyond criticism. I get that impression from some of the more extreme papal critics.
      I know you are not among them but it is valid for me to warn you against it.
      If the "respectful criticism" cannot themselves be criticized then we replace a cult of papal absolutism with a cult of the absolutism of papal critics.

      Those are my thoughts.

      PS Keep up the good work.

      Delete
    3. PS forgive my bad grammar but the preview function wasn't working and I just pressed publish before I lost the Post. I wish for an edit fuction for Christmas.

      Cheers.

      Delete
    4. Hi John,

      I'm not saying "Stop straining so hard," but rather "Realize that what you are doing is straining real hard, and that the fact you have to do that is itself a problem."

      Hi BenYakov,

      No worries, love ya back. Yes, some people will accuse the Church of doing that anyway, but there's no need to give them ammunition. Especially when it's super-easy to say "It's not intrinsically evil, but..."

      Delete
    5. Hi Dr. Feser,

      Thanks for the reply and for clarifying that point. I get it now. I'm with Ben above that you said it much clearer when you said:

      "Capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, but you should never use it anyway, and here's why."

      I'm looking forward to keeping up with your thoughts and commentary on this matter. I've learned a lot from you and from By Man .

      Delete
    6. Of course if the Pope wanted to make it easy he should have just said "the teaching that the Death Penalty is not intrinsically evil is now abrogated & the contrary is now true."

      Now that was easy. There is no way to spin that. But if you want to give it a go as a thought experiment go for it your Feser'ness.
      The idea the statement "God doesn't exist" being orthodox statement is something I already learned from reading Brian Davies (& I wouldn't be reading Davies if I didn't get the idea from you).

      Cheers.

      Delete
    7. This. My goodness. I was having an argument in the comments to your article over at First Things with MasterSamwise (who, to be clear, was respectful throughout), who claimed Augustine said the reader is at fault if "Sacred Doctrine" is misunderstood. That's a flagrantly ridiculous standard to apply, especially to a teaching document like the CCC. Unfortunately, one of his posts was deleted, and our whole argument with it.

      Delete
    8. "But that in and of itself by your own standards lowers the bar of heresy & error. One need not explicitly contradict the Faith only appear to or be perceived as doing so."

      No, it does not lower the standards -- rather, it makes clearer and more insistent that the Church and those who teach with her authority or with her permission make sure that they aren't being unclear, misleading, or ambiguous. It's just not OK for Church documents to have ambiguous or erroneous or incoherent statements in them, even (or especially) if the documents are non-infallible documents such as catechisms, apostolic exhortations, and encyclicals. And certainly an official catechetical text, of all things, should never contain incoherent, mistaken declarations as in the present cases. No one should have to stretch and strain to see how an ecclesial teaching statement may possible be reconcilable with everything else the Church has said about something. "Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay."

      Delete
    9. >No, it does not lower the standards -- rather, it makes clearer and more insistent that the Church and those who teach with her authority or with her permission make sure that they aren't being unclear, misleading, or ambiguous.

      It pretty much does and it clearly creates it's own ambiguities. What is the sense of condemning a proposition if it doesn't contain clear error? Simply fill in the blanks & tell those who are irresponsibly throwing around the charges of "heresy" to cool it because it gives the wrong impression which was why Pope Leo II, did not agree to the condemnation of his predecessor for heresy at constantinople III; he said Honorius should be condemned because "he permitted the immaculate faith to be subverted." [Carroll, 254]

      But that is not the same as teaching a clear positive doctrinal error. Indeed by your own standards this was a screw up by Constantinople III because it was cited as "proof" against the teachings of Vatican I & Papal infallibility because of it's ambiguity.

      >It's just not OK for Church documents to have ambiguous or erroneous or incoherent statements in them,

      Tell that to the Fathers of Constantinople III. They said "To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!" Well he wasn't a heretic. He believed Christ had two wills but he at worst allowed others to manipulate his words to give the impression Christ had only one will because the two wills of Christ are in harmony.

      So ambiguity and incomplete and unclear teaching is clearly older then mere Vatican II. We should do better but history shows we don't.

      >even (or especially) if the documents are non-infallible documents such as catechisms, apostolic exhortations, and encyclicals.

      Well I am all for Pope Francis or any Pope teaching more clearly but I am not on board with the argument these words he uses clearly teach the DP is intrinsically evil. The words used fall short and I attribute that to Divine Providence and the Protection of the Holy Spirit.

      >And certainly an official catechetical text, of all things, should never contain incoherent, mistaken declarations as in the present cases. No one should have to stretch and strain to see how an ecclesial teaching statement may possible be reconcilable with everything else the Church has said about something. "Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay."

      Ironically when I argue with Atheists they make those same neo-Protestant complaints about the Bible when I don't take a particular passage literally or fill in the gaps with Tradition(ironically most internet Atheists subconsciously channel Sola Scriptura. Clearly they pick to many fights with Fundies). So it is not like don't have some source of doctrine that doesn't contains some ambiguity.

      The Pope should teach more clearly. But I am skeptical this one will anytime soon. I wouldn't mind being proven wrong before his time in the Chair of Peter ends. So we harmonize and so far many people are adopting that interpretation.

      Delete
    10. "Tell that to the Fathers of Constantinople III. They said "To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!" Well he wasn't a heretic."

      But the verdict of the Church, confirmed by the Pope, is that Honorius was indeed a heretic (Carroll's opinion notwithstanding), and for centuries thereafter priests praying the Office annually reaffirmed the anathematisation of Honorius *as a heretic*. The Church has never rescinded that verdict, and unless and until that ever happens, we may not presume to say the Church was mistaken. (And Honorius did not even teach his errors formally or have his mistaken expressions inserted into a public teaching document, unlike the case that is currently disturbing the faithful.)

      "He believed Christ had two wills but he at worst allowed others to manipulate his words to give the impression Christ had only one will because the two wills of Christ are in harmony."

      That's not an accurate summary of what Honorius said and did (or failed to do) -- through his words and his inaction, he failed to teach the authentic doctrine of the Church **and discouraged the faithful in their efforts to oppose a serious heresy**. That's why the Church pronounced him a heretic and Pope Leo II agreed to the condemnation.

      Delete
    11. It is clearly not the verdict of the Church and Pope Leo II clearly said "he permitted the immaculate faith to be subverted."& objected to any claim he taught doctrinal error. Also here there is further ancient ambiguity. Specifically over the term "heretic" the root word means to break from the whole. In it's archaic use "heretic" was often synonymous with "one who teaches false doctrine" (which breaks you from the Church) & or a mere schismatic & or any person who somehow harms the Church. This word has been changed to mean today exclusively "one who confesses false doctrine".
      "During this council, Pope Honorius I was anathematized for his views in the Monothelite controversy as tolerant of heresy. Leo took great pains to make it clear that in condemning Honorius, he did so not because Honorius taught heresy, but because he was not active enough in opposing it[Butler, Alban, 1866]
      So this is clearly not a settled opinion even today.

      >for centuries thereafter priests praying the Office annually reaffirmed the anathematisation of Honorius *as a heretic*. The Church has never rescinded that verdict,

      Well they don't pray that today? Also there is the clear ambiguity of the use of the word "heretic" or heresy here. Ancient example: The Quartodecimanism "heresy". If that is a real "heresy" and not a discipline then between the reigns of St Paul VI and St John Paul II the SSPX where guilty of the "heresy" of celebrating the St Pius V Mass(which is silly. guilty of disobedience or schism but not heresy). Also if that is a heresy then the Holy Apostles John & Phillip taught "heresy".

      >(And Honorius did not even teach his errors formally or have his mistaken expressions inserted into a public teaching document, unlike the case that is currently disturbing the faithful.)

      Clearly Constantinople III formally taught their's (also the less said about Session 8 of Florence the better but I don't want to multiply my tangents). Also Honorus wrote a letter agreeing with the term "One Will in Christ" which he understood in an orthodox sense that Christ's two wills never conflict. The monothelites ran with that letter and used it for their own purposes and Honorus didn't stop it.

      >That's not an accurate summary of what Honorius said and did (or failed to do)

      Your argument is with Butler and Carroll.

      >-- through his words and his inaction, he failed to teach the authentic doctrine of the Church **and discouraged the faithful in their efforts to oppose a serious heresy**.

      Which doesn't make him a heretic & vindicates
      Pope Leo II 's criticism of Constantinople.

      >That's why the Church pronounced him a heretic and Pope Leo II agreed to the condemnation

      Because they used imprecise terms. Or better yet they used the terms as they where known at the time and it is an error to equivocate and assume accusations Pope Francis is teaching heresy or is a heretic are the same as the judgement placed upon Pope Honorus who clearly wasn't a heretic as we understand it today. Call him bad or incompetent but heretic. I don't think so.

      >we may not presume to say the Church was mistaken.

      It's not the Church it's this one session of the Council of Constantinople III. You are being inconsistent here. If this cannot be questioned (& clearly it has been from Pope Leo to Bulter to Carroll) then you have no right to say boo about Vatican II or Pope Francis. Be consistent and just own the fact ambiguity is as old as dirt.

      Delete
    12. James, concerning what the Church has decreed about Honorius, I find the opinions of Butler and Carroll (who on this point merely follow in the erroneous line of Pennachi, Grisar, and Hefele) unpersuasive, forced, and unnecessary. The explanation found in the old Catholic Encyclopedia makes much more sense, and doesn't require us to play any word games with the formal teaching of a Council ratified without any qualifying hesitations by Pope Leo II.

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07452b.htm#VI

      " . . . It is clear that no Catholic has the right to defend Pope Honorius. He was a heretic, not in intention, but in fact; and he is to be considered to have been condemned in the sense in which Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who died in Catholic communion, never having resisted the Church, have been condemned. But he was not condemned as a Monothelite, nor was Sergius. And it would be harsh to regard him as a "private heretic", for he admittedly had excellent intentions."

      "Well they don't pray that today?"

      No, unfortunately, due to ill-advised changes in the liturgy.

      "Which doesn't make him a heretic & vindicates Pope Leo II 's criticism of Constantinople."

      But the Church has judged him to be a heretic, and Leo II never in any way criticised the Council -- he agreed with their anathematisation.

      "Because they used imprecise terms. Or better yet they used the terms as they where known at the time and it is an error to equivocate and assume accusations Pope Francis is teaching heresy or is a heretic are the same as the judgement placed upon Pope Honorus who clearly wasn't a heretic as we understand it today."

      No, they used the term heretic in its precise and correct sense -- if anyone is imprecise about the meaning of the term, its we hapless moderns.

      As for Pope Francis' errors, we may expect that someday the Church will formally condemn them. But we're not there yet. I have observed that Pope Francis' formal teaching is more serious than what led the Church to justly condemn Honorius. I have not, as you seem to think, said that the Church has rendered that verdict, which is why I have been referring to the pope's "erroneous" and "incoherent" teaching, not his "heretical" teaching.

      "Call him bad or incompetent but heretic. I don't think so."

      It doesn't matter what we call him or don't call him. That's not even what is in dispute here. In point of fact, the topic is the very serious problems with his new doctrine on the death penalty, not whether or not the Church will or should hold the pope to the same standards that she has held her previous popes.

      "If this cannot be questioned (& clearly it has been from Pope Leo to Bulter to Carroll)"

      Yes, erroneously, even presumptuously questioned.

      "then you have no right to say boo about Vatican II or Pope Francis."

      How in the world does that follow? Because I submit to a formal and never rescinded verdict of the Church, therefore I cannot question informal and/or fallible statements and acts of the the pope and the bishops?

      "Be consistent and just own the fact ambiguity is as old as dirt."

      That's funny -- the other day it was you who claimed heretics aren't ambiguous and I who was showing that they often are ambiguous and incoherent.

      Delete
    13. No surprise I still don't agree.

      >James, concerning what the Church has decreed about Honorius, I find the opinions of Butler and Carroll (who on this point merely follow in the erroneous line of Pennachi, Grisar, and Hefele) unpersuasive, forced, and unnecessary.

      Obviously it is not clear since according to your own article Bellarmine and Baronius endorsed Pennachi as well. That is pretty impressive.

      >The explanation found in the old Catholic Encyclopedia makes much more sense, and doesn't require us to play any word games with the formal teaching of a Council ratified without any qualifying hesitations by Pope Leo II.

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07452b.htm#VI

      Save for the word games we find in the older CE.
      "It was now for the pope to pronounce a dogmatic decision and save the situation. He did nothing of the sort. His answer to Sergius did not decide the question, did not authoritatively declare the faith of the Roman Church, did not claim to speak with the voice of Peter; it condemned nothing, it defined nothing."

      So basically he pulled a Pope Francis but where is the heresy and where did he clearly teach Christ had a single "Divino-human" will? He clearly was condemning the idea that "two contrary wills" were admitted in Christ and we all know the human will of Christ never contradicts the divine.
      But it is obvious the monothelites and monophysites exploited that.

      "But it is plain that the pope simply followed Sergius, without going more deeply into the question."

      So far this sounds like Carroll & what I learned from Catholic Answers? I am not seeing the heresy? At least in the contemporary sense of a clear false doctrinal proposition. I am not even seeing where Carroll contradicts the old CE?

      "It should be noted that he calls Honorius "the confirmer of the heresy and contradictor of himself", again showing that Honorius was not condemned by the council as a Monothelite, but for approving Sergius's contradictory policy of placing orthodox and heretical expressions under the same ban."

      So basically this has nothing to do with formally teaching doctrinal error but for Honorius either allowing himself to be manipulated by Sergus & letting him run amok?"

      That is not "heresy" in the later sense but the archaic sense.

      > He was a heretic, not in intention, but in fact;

      How can you be an unintentional heretic? A heretic sets his will against the known divine teaching of the Church. A heresy is a clear doctrinal formulation that contradicts known dogma.

      Delete
    14. Part II
      " and he is to be considered to have been condemned in the sense in which Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who died in Catholic communion, never having resisted the Church, have been condemned. But he was not condemned as a Monothelite, nor was Sergius. And it would be harsh to regard him as a "private heretic", for he admittedly had excellent intentions."

      ?????? This is not ambiguous to you? Either Honorus taught Christ had a single hybrid divino-human will which was mixing natures or he didn't? The worst I can see is he let Sergus and the Monothelites run amok. But that is not heresy in the later Catholic sense but in the archaic sense. Today we would not call him a heretic merely a bad Pope.

      >>"Well they don't pray that today?"
      >No, unfortunately, due to ill-advised changes in the liturgy.

      Well so far I am not impressed.

      >But the Church has judged him to be a heretic, and Leo II never in any way criticised the Council -- he agreed with their anathematisation.

      Except where Pope Leo II said Honorius should be condemned because "he permitted the immaculate faith to be subverted."

      >No, they used the term heretic in its precise and correct sense -- if anyone is imprecise about the meaning of the term, its we hapless moderns.

      Rather they used it in an archaic sense. The later sense is clearly more precise as terminology does change and has changed over time.

      "As for Pope Francis' errors, we may expect that someday the Church will formally condemn them."

      We don't know the future but the only similarity I see is both using ambiguous terms and allowing idiots and real heretics to run amok.

      "It doesn't matter what we call him or don't call him. That's not even what is in dispute here."

      Well that is what I have been clearly discussing.

      "In point of fact, the topic is the very serious problems with his new doctrine on the death penalty, "

      Yes he is not clearly teaching a new doctrine. He is confusing the issue like Honorus did but he hasn't formally & clearly taught error here.

      >Yes, erroneously, even presumptuously questioned.

      I am not seeing either.

      >How in the world does that follow?

      How does it not? You can't have one standard for Pope Francis & or Vatican II and another for previous councils & Popes.

      >Because I submit to a formal and never rescinded verdict of the Church, therefore I cannot question informal and/or fallible statements and acts of the the pope and the bishops?

      Who says we cannot question that verdict? The Church is infallible in condemning heresies but not heretics otherwise they could never be acquitted or rehabilitated. The judgement of a heresy is Faith and Morals. Judging a person a heretic is a matter of discipline. Some Saints have been unjustly so judged. So it can't be infallible & unquestioned.

      >That's funny -- the other day it was you who claimed heretics aren't ambiguous and I who was showing that they often are ambiguous and incoherent.

      What does my statement about the clarity of heretics have to do with the historical fact the Church Authorities sometimes have used ambiguous theological language?

      Of course the term "heretic" has changed it's meaning over time.

      "The believer accepts the whole deposit[of faith] as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval." Here maybe this will help.

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07256b.htm#REF_I

      Delete
    15. PS the Quotes from Pope Leo II in your article seem to confirm Carroll?

      "The words about Honorius in his letter of confirmation, by which the council gets its ecumenical rank, are necessarily more important than the decree of the council itself: "We anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Sergius, ...and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted."

      "To the Spanish bishops he explains his meaning: "With Honorius, who did not, as became the Apostolic authority, extinguish the flame of heretical teaching in its first beginning, but fostered it by his negligence."

      Delete
  16. There has not been new information about the nature of human beings since Aquinas. If new facts had come to light that would be different. But we know nothing now about human nature that was unknown to medieval philosophers.

    ReplyDelete
  17. For all interested,

    Brother Andre Marie has an excellent podcast about this topic over at

    https://reconquest.net/

    I highly recommend it. Most people who find interest in this blog would enjoy his podcasts.

    ReplyDelete
  18. JohnD wrote: "The only way to wiggle out of that is to deny premise (1). But once one declares God can command what is intrinsically immoral, then it's game over for the theists who hold God is perfect goodness."

    Re: God can't command an intrinsic evil

    How do you reconcile that with the Ordeal of Bitter water (Numbers 5:16-28) where God commands that suspected adulteresses consume a liquid that would act as an abortifacient if the accused was indeed guilty of marital infidelity.

    It seems like God is commanding an intrinsic evil - the abortion of an innocent unborn human.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not evil for God to take human life even an innocent one. All life belongs to him.

      Delete
    2. Hi bp,

      Interesting question. In fact, zob asked this same question in the comments on October 22, 2017. Could you be "zob" in disguise!?

      Regardless, search for "zob" at this link and you'll see the answer Feser gives (which I agree with).

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/10/reply-to-ivereigh-brugger-shea-and_21.html

      Here's one bare suggestion off the top of my head (not the detailed treatment Feser calls for). Just a proposal. I'm not setting this up as the answer to your question.

      This ordeal was mediated by the priests. The priests stand in for God. It is not wrong for God to take innocent human life (as Feser explains in a further reply in a comment to me in that link). So, if a guilty verdict is rendered, and the woman is punished, this is by God's doing, perhaps involving special supernatural action. If an innocent life is taken, it is God's doing working through the priest. The fact that this ordeal seems to require and involve God's special action and intervention, it's not a stretch to say that God takes the life, if an innocent life is take, which He has an absolute right to do.

      If the priests carried out this ritual on their own authority with no special divine assistance, then it would involve a grave moral wrong. But, on Catholic assumptions, Scripture is inspired and reports what is true: namely, God commanded, helped supervise, and divinely assisted in the ordeal of bitter water.

      Delete
    3. Bp

      Abortion may be inadmissable, but it is obviously not an intrinsic evil. God can command abortion, just as He can command infanticide for some (mysterious) reasons.
      Moreover, spontaneous abortions or miscarriages are quite common, and per classical theism, God actively causes and sustains them.
      Likewise, the DP is obviously (from a Catholic POV), not intrinsically evil, but that doesn't mean it is admissable in cases where a clear Divine command is absent.

      Delete
    4. Hi JohnD,

      Thanks. I saw remarks from commenters but not a detailed response by Feser. He just acknowledges the importance of the question. Does he answer it in detail elsewhere?

      Your take is clear and plausible within a theistic frame.



      Delete
    5. Regarding BP's question of the ceremony of the water of jealousy in Numbers 5:16-28, it is obviously not an instance of God commanding an intrinsic evil. JohnD's explanation is correct. The point of the rite was not to prescribe an abortifacient to get rid of the fruit of adultery, but rather to deal with the jealousy and anger of a man who believed, perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly, that he'd been cuckolded and his wife was pregnant with another man's child. Instead of beating his wife, possibly to death, the husband was commanded to go to God's priest and subject his wife to God's judgment. The bitter waters weren't an abortifacient poison -- just some water with dust from the floor of the Holy Place tossed in. The water was a sacramental, not a drug, and through it God was asked to reveal whether or not the husband's jealousy was justified (not unlike the Urim and Thummim lots whereby God's will was consulted and ascertained by the priests). If the jealousy was justified, the wife would miscarry -- God's punishment for her adultery.

      This does not mean God is commanding an intrinsic evil, because, as James said, it is not sinful for God to take life -- all life belongs to Him, so in decreeing death He isn't "taking" life at all, for one cannot "take" what one already has. And just because God has the right to do something, that doesn't mean we have the right to do it too.

      When we humans usurp God's prerogatives in the taking of life, we call it "playing God." But God cannot play God -- He IS God. He doesn't pretend to be Himself. He simply IS Himself.

      Delete
    6. Hi Confitebor,

      Thanks for the reply. Like JohnD's reply,I believe your answer is clear and plausible, provided one shares your assumptions regarding God and scripture.

      Unrelated to the issue of intrinsic wrong, do you think there's an ethical issue with the use of trial by ordeal as a means for determining guilt? Certainly we'd oppose such a method today, no?

      I understand that the assumption that God would interact in a supernatural way does obviate the issue.

      But imagine being a woman who's accused, imagine having to face a scenario like this, whether she's guilty or not.

      Also, what safeguard would there have been for women against vexatious claims? What appeal or recourse would they have had? Why weren't men who were suspected of adultery subjected to the same ordeal.

      These are important ethical questions, ones that I believe keep a lot of people from belief or robust faith.

      Delete
    7. Those are good question, BP. I do know that in the Middle Ages the Church opposed and then condemned the widespread customary trials by ordeal -- they presume on God's agreeing to intervene to render a verdict, somewhat of a species of tempting God, and probably tending toward superstition, rather than insisting that we ferret out the truth using the intellects and facts that God has given us (such as is demonstrated in the story of Susanna and young Daniel). In those far earlier times, however, an ordeal would be preferable to "extra-legal" violent means -- and the Mosaic Law does affirm that God could and would make the truth or His will known through the priests. Discerning God's will by casting lots does appear in the New Testament, but we do not find trials by ordeal per se as a part of Christian belief and practice. Christianity holds that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, and that the specific rites and procedures ordained by the Torah no longer hold force -- including the ordeal of jealousy. St. Paul says the Torah was a "pedagogue" or tutor or guardian for Israel, governing God's people at an earlier state of their spiritual development.

      "Why weren't men who were suspected of adultery subjected to the same ordeal."

      No doubt that is due to the Hebrew culture's understanding of the roles and relations of husbands and wives, epitomised by God's prophecy/decree to Eve in Eden after the Fall of Man -- "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (or "lord it over thee).

      In reading the commandments, precepts, ordinances, and judgments of the Torah, I see God guiding Moses as Israel's leader and chief judge, deciding cases and establishing procedures to deal with various issues as they came up. So, I would expect one or more jealous husbands had dragged their pregnant wives in, accusing them of adultery in spite of the wives' protestations of innocence, and then Moses set up the ordeal of jealousy to address the dispute, inducing the jealous husbands to submit to God's verdict even if it turns out they had been unjust to suspect their wives of infidelity.

      Delete
    8. Hi Confitebor,

      Thanks for your clear reply.

      How would you respond to the objection that the frame you outline, particularly in the last paragraph, is misogyny/justification of gender discrimination? I think most people would see this sort of reasoning as a reason to reject faith rather than embrace it.

      Delete
    9. It may not be true of other religions, but Christianity holds misogyny to be sinful, but not every kind of discrimination based on sex is unjust. The decree in Eden is part of the consequences of human sin, which has harmed all aspects of human nature, including the relations between the sexes. But Christians do not look to the words in Genesis 3 as prescribing the proper or best structure of sexual relationships -- rather, we look to Ephesians 5.

      But we're now pretty far afield from the dispute arising from Pope Francis' new doctrine on the death penalty . . . .

      Delete
  19. Murder is the unlawful taking of human life. It can be an innocent life or even a guilty one but it is murder. Abortion is intrinsically evil because it is murder but if God wants to punish you by taking your children back to himself that is not murder since how can it ever be unlawful for God to take life?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Son of Ya'kov

      Abortion would not be murder if God ordered it. The question is: is it possible for God to order abortion?
      I see no reason to think He couldn't.

      Delete
    2. Well off the top of my head he would have to order it via public divine revelation & with the death of the last Apostle there is no more public divine revelation.

      OTOH the Scripture and pre-Catholic religious tradition (aka Jewish Tradition) tells us mutilation is forbidden and one would have to mutilate a woman to kill her child and that might indicate it is on that level intrinsically evil ergo God could not command abortion by surgery.

      It is an interesting thought experiment but since there will be no public revelation till the second coming the point is moot.

      Of course even States are prohibited from employing the Death Penalty on innocents so abortion will remain intrinsically evil as it will alway be the unlawful taking of human life.

      Delete
    3. Son of Ya'kov

      That there will be no public revelation till the second coming means that abortion is and will always remain inadmissible. It does not mean it is intrinsically evil.
      It may well be true that god will not order abortions, but I still don't think it is impossible that God would order abortion.
      Now I am not defending abortion here, all i want to say is that something being inadmissible does not entail that it is intrinsically wrong.
      Hence, calling the DP inadmissible does not mean the DP is intrinsically wrong.

      Delete
    4. Abortion is the act of directly killing an innocent un-born human. It is alway intrinsically evil for individuals without divine given authority to take any life and no state has an on going authorization to take innocent life.

      Delete
  20. It seems immensely disproportionate that we can execute a man for something he may do in the future (self defense), but can’t execute that same man for that same thing he actually did in the past...that we can only execute based on our limited understanding of the future. I can not marry this notion to reason or justice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The former seems much proportionate and just than the latter is what I mean.

      Delete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Here is an article in the National Review that asserts the CCC doesn't teach the Death Penalty is intrinsically evil. So there are careful readers of the CCC who don't conclude the Church has changed it's doctrine.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/08/pope-francis-death-penalty-and-catholic-teaching/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I might go even further and say that the CCC now can hardly be said to "teach" anything about the death penalty at all -- it's a mix of truth and error, an incoherent garble.

      Delete
    2. Of course the CCC is not the Sole rule of Faith and I don't understand the need to treat it as such?

      Delete
    3. No argument from here about that -- though I do wonder who it is who is treating the Catechism as the sole rule of faith.

      Delete
    4. Who does that? Anybody who tells me Pope Francis' can only mean X and never Not X. That might be true if I isolate Francis from everything else.

      In the OT God ordered the Israelites to wipe out the Amelikites but spare the virgin women and female children. Philo of Alexandra transmits a Tradition that the Israelites also saved the boy infants and very young male children too. I bring this up with Atheists I butt heads with and they all complain "But that is not in the Text of the Bible!". I being obnoxious respond with mega sarcasm "Awe that is so cute! You are an Atheist who confesses Luther's Sola Scriptura doctrine. What's next and Agnostic who confesses transubstantiation? A metaphysical naturalist who believes Sacraments work ex opere operato?"

      You get the idea. Cheers.

      Delete
  23. So, and the baby killers (abortionist "doctors") do not deserve cp? I have not yet seen a cp defender demanding that it be applied to the worst killers in the western world.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dr. Jeffery Mirus weights in.
    https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=750

    Some choice quotes:
    “The new text really makes a prudential argument, in light of both contemporary sensibilities and the modern ability to control criminals without executing them, that the death penalty should never be chosen as a punishment. Under the perceived conditions today, the Catechism states, it is “inadmissible”. In fairness to Pope Francis, we have Pope Saint John Paul II to thank for including a prudential judgment on this question in the Catechism. All Pope Francis has done is to increase the force of the argument John Paul advanced in Evangelium Vitae, namely that in light of today’s penal systems, recourse to the death penalty should be very rare (see especially no. 56). This was already in the Catechism.”

    ….“But for those of us who believe doctrinal precision is as vital to the Catholic community as the skeleton is to the human body, the present formulation is deficient. The distinction between the doctrinal and the prudential is severely muted in the text itself, requiring (for example) the reader to recognize that the word “inadmissible” creates a very different sort of moral statement than we would have if the term “intrinsically immoral” had been used. Moreover, the primary purpose of a catechism is to include precise doctrinal and moral statements, not prudential judgments, which would ordinarily be included only to exemplify a point, without vouching for the circumstantial details.”
    You all can read the rest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is very much part of what I was trying to express above. Thank you for sharing it.

      -Didymus

      Delete
    2. Under the perceived conditions today, the Catechism states, it is “inadmissible”.

      Yes, and under the perceived conditions today, contraception is a "right", not a sin, so that would imply laws against contraceptives should be considered "inadmissible" and the Vatican would (if there were any countries in which it remained true that contraceptives were illegal) seek to abolish such laws.

      Similarly, according to perceived conditions today, "gay marriage" is a "right". So the Church should get behind and push for gay "rights" in places that still have outdated laws against it.

      Or: we might ask the Church to speak to the perception and correct it. For what is correct here is not that the Church cater to the erroneous perception of dignity, or rights, but to address the true nature of human dignity: "In His image He made him", and just 9 chapters later: "by man shall his blood be shed, for man is made in God's image."

      Delete
    3. @Tony:

      I don't think your argument works. It is one thing to claim that perceived conditions today can make something which is inherently evil to be good. That seems to be what your examples say. (Or at least that they must be allowed.)

      But the point here is the opposite. People thinking that something which isn't inherently evil, in fact is. That's more a case of over scrupulousness than of ordinary depravity.

      And surely it is true that such perceptions should be taken into account. Not every society will have exactly the same legal code. Assuming we cannot create a legal code wholly by deduction from natural law and revelation, it has to be so.

      Now, it's entirely a different question whether the claim about perceived conditions today are in fact correct. I suspect that Francis is following the US supreme court in getting ahead of reality in their own perception of what the world really thinks. But that's another argument.

      Delete
    4. Pope Benedict (who is against the DP) said Catholics can disagree with the Pope on the DP and that the DP was not equivalent to Abortion or Contraception or Euthanasia.

      Pope Francis has abrogated that.

      Delete
    5. The Pope has the authority to remove a dispute from debate, by "settling the question", as it were: he can declare ex cathedra the truth of the matter, and this then precludes faithful Catholics from debating about whether it is true any more. But popes do not declare the concrete applications of moral theses to contingent conditions via ex cathedra definitions. Not open to that sort of dogmatic resolution.

      The Pope can give a juridic rule for Catholics to DO something, but this does not require of them that they think his command is wise or even reasonable, or that his rule is based on truth. The Pope can try to teach a teaching and expect religious submission to it, but if it conflicts with prior doctrinal teaching it cannot actually obligate religious submission.

      Pope Francis did not try to use an ex cathedra definition. He cannot demand religious assent for his prudential estimates of the best course of action. And he cannot abrogate what doctrine has declared to be true.

      Delete
    6. George, you are correct. My point was polemic and rhetorical, based on the fact that it's largely the very same PEOPLE who are in favor of contraception, abortion, and gay "marriage" as are opposed to the DP. If they were entirely independent groups of people, my point would have little force.

      Delete
    7. Damn lack of edit function. This is what I meant to say.

      Pope Benedict (who is against the DP) said Catholics can disagree with the Pope on the DP and that the DP was not equivalent to Abortion or Contraception or Euthanasia.

      Pope Francis has NOT abrogated that.

      Delete
  25. About everything that could be argued one way or the other has already been said, so I don't see the profit in continuing the debate. As for me, my experience of the divine as well as the *whole* of Christ's ethical teaching in the gospels convince me as clearly as it gets that any kind of execution is intrinsically evil.

    I would only like to offer the following thought: If the Holy Spirit guides the church then history itself will prove in the end who has been right on this issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. so I don't see the profit in continuing the debate.

      Apparently, Francis does not agree with you, since he chose to continue creating issues.

      Delete
    2. I was speaking about philosophers and in particular about Feser who I think could use his capacities more productively.

      Pope Francis is the shepherd. As such he is not debating but leading. We hope and trust that he is being guided by the Holy Spirit. The Church is certainly not a philosophy debating club.

      Delete
  26. The former seems much proportionate and just than the latter is

    ReplyDelete
  27. Crude says,

    " ... the harmonization is more of a coping mechanism than anything. It's not convincing or believable, but it's a technicality you can exploit to avoid a conclusion that's awkward: that the Pope is teaching poorly, even contrary to the faith, and is in need of correction and even resistance on this point."

    Yes, that is pretty obvious. A practice somewhat akin to introducing compounding cycles and epicycles in order to save the appearance ... or what we should like to believe the appearance actually represents.

    But, since the the formal promulgation of the doctrine of infallibility, it was probably just a matter of time before someone ideological enough, willful enough, and culturally resentful enough, would declare that he was gonna legislate how he wanted; and as official autocrat he was damn well going to do just that.

    I think if Francis had been more temperate and careful in his speech in past, and was one who had left a lesser trail of ideological crumbs which would inevitably arouse suspicion, there would be less impulse on the part of some to interpret his doctrinal innovations as resting on ulterior and rather secular motivations.

    His problem is, quite frankly, that his own moral credibility is suspect on a number of counts; especially given the continuing homosexual infestation and degradation of the institutional Church. Thus when he begins spouting palaver about "dignity", whatever that is supposed to be, it doesn't quite ring true. Apparently it means something like respect-worthy-in-principle, rather than actually respectable, dignified, or honorable in fact.

    And because in keeping with the feminization of the Church in recent decades, and as "inclusion" and "nurturing" rather than reasoning have become such big deals, this talk of dignity has some of the same feeble and humid aura about it, whether or not that impression is wholly justified.

    And there probably is an argument to be made that humans as understood within the traditional Christian framework, had, as created souls, a kind of intrinsic value imparted to them which they might very well neither express nor even admit to themselves.

    So, one generally buries the dead, even if they are enemy soldiers of the kind the Japanese were in WWII; and grants the convicted murderer a chance to get his mind right before execution, even though his crime is heinous.

    But to try and build a justice system on imputed, rather than manifest, "dignity, is a bit of a joke.

    It comes off rather like the re-framing gambit which those fools who having abandoned A-T understandings of man's rights and interpersonal forbearance, then attempt to establish on the basis of "sentience".

    It's a half-assed, unbalanced theory that omits at least half of the dynamic, or equation..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >" ... the harmonization is more of a coping mechanism than anything. It's not convincing or believable, but it's a technicality you can exploit to avoid a conclusion that's awkward: that the Pope is teaching poorly, even contrary to the faith, and is in need of correction and even resistance on this point."

      I do wonder if Crude is aware of the fact this is a charge clowns like Papalinton and or imskeptical (two low brow Gnu'Atheists he & I used to rag on over at the Dangerous Minds Blog back in the day) would make against our defenses of Biblical harmonization?

      Deut 25:12 comes to mind. I pointed out the Rabbis understood "cut off the hand without pity" to be a metaphor for paying a strong fine & the Rabbis also ruled taking this passage hyper literally & applying it literally merited the punishment of death by hanging.

      Too this day Atheists aren't impressed by these arguments so why should we be bothered they are still not impressed with harmonization in this case? (Of course at that point I mock them without pity as Atheists who confess Lutheranism when arguing with Catholics.. Perspecuity)

      So far I have seen no strong argument the change in the CCC must mean the Death Penalty is intrinsically evil. Even with it's appeal to "human dignity".

      Confitebor complained above this means this new text in the CCC doesn't really teach anything. Well then that is the problem. We still have to see how the Church will in it's official policy treat Pro-death penalty Catholics (like Moi). If I am accused of heresy by the usual suspect I will simply cite Pope Benedict's(who is anti-DP BTW) teaching that I don't have to agree with the Pope on the Death Penalty.

      He who lives by the ambiguity dies by it.

      >But to try and build a justice system on imputed, rather than manifest, "dignity, is a bit of a joke.

      That is disputable and I am for the DP BTW. Obviously humans have an intrinsic dignity otherwise I would be entitled to kill any Child murderer or rapist I would come across without waiting for the State.
      A case could be made in some ideal future society where we can control criminals better without killing them. But I don't think we are there yet.

      Delete
    2. Son of Ya'Kov,

      "So far I have seen no strong argument the change in the CCC must mean the Death Penalty is intrinsically evil."

      Neither have I, but I don't think that is the issue.

      First, the novel teaching is more than just the new text of the Catechism. It is the new text, along with Cardinal Ladaria's letter, and above all, Pope Francis' address the new text cites as its authority. Pope Saint John Paul II's prudential judgement as well?

      Second, Pope Francis doesn't have to teach that the death penalty is intrinsically evil to be wrong or to contradict the traditional teaching of the Church, as expounded by Professor Feser.

      And why is it necessary to harmonize Pope Francis' teaching with the traditional teaching of the Church? I cannot remember clearly, but I remember years ago learning about ultramontanism from your posts on this blog. The Harmonizers remind me of that. But I don't think it breaks the Church if Pope Francis is wrong, even if it is troubling.

      Finally, who cares what atheists say about our harmonizing the Scriptures? I am reminded of Pope Augustine arguing that purple and red cloth are the same thing. But they seem to be different kinds of harmonization. In one case we are harmonizing what is ambiguous, purple can be a colour or a dye or a cloth. And cheaper sorts of that cloth were red in colour. But Pope Francis' words don't allow for the possibility that slaying evil doers is an act of obedience to God's commandments. Obeying the Fifth Commandment cannot be contrary to human dignity. These two positions are contradictory.

      Delete
    3. Here are my thoughts.

      >Second, Pope Francis doesn't have to teach that the death penalty is intrinsically evil to be wrong or to contradict the traditional teaching of the Church, as expounded by Professor Feser.

      He pretty much does. Past Popes where clear and what is unclear should be interpreted in light of what is clear and as Pope Boniface VIII taught "In obscuris, minimum est sequendum" ("In things which are obscure, the minimum is to be followed"). So unless he is clear then what? Pope Benedict (who is anti-DP) said you can disagree with Pope on the Death Penalty. What is the status of that teaching in relation to this one? Has Francis clearly abrogated that? Not that I can tell.

      >It is the new text, along with Cardinal Ladaria's letter, and above all, Pope Francis' address the new text cites as its authority.

      That is not clear either since they haven't changed the online CCC. This may just be a footnote in the press release.

      >And why is it necessary to harmonize Pope Francis' teaching with the traditional teaching of the Church?

      Why is it wrong to try? I think of no reason.

      >I cannot remember clearly, but I remember years ago learning about ultramontanism from your posts on this blog.

      Ultramontanism is a swear word like "Radtrad" or "Neo-Catholic" or people like Mark Shea who bag on all responsible criticism of the Pope. It's used by people who for some reason think their criticism of the Pope may never be criticized. I am not having that. Feser is right in that theologians have the right to question here but reason dictates the questions go both ways. It is only fair.

      > The Harmonizers remind me of that.

      Then you might be committing their error since it appearsy U'R saying that traditional theological critics cannot be critiqued just as an extremist ultramontinist would say the Pope must never be questioned. How is that more reasonable? That is the opposite of reason and I submit it is the bane of all responsible critics.

      >But I don't think it breaks the Church if Pope Francis is wrong, even if it is troubling.

      OTOH there are brothers who are weak in faith so why make it forbidden to harmonize here? Many of them are quite good.

      >Finally, who cares what atheists say about our harmonizing the Scriptures?

      The point there is objections you can raise against harmonizing Francis with traditional teaching can be used by them in regards to defending the faith in general. Like complaining about the Koran ordering the death of Blasphemers & ignoring the Bible seems to do the same thing.

      Augustine was a Pope? Are you using "Pope" in an Archaic sense? Pope Gregory the Great was rather clear on that.

      > But Pope Francis' words don't allow for the possibility that slaying evil doers is an act of obedience to God's commandments.

      Only if you read them in isolation from the rest of the Faith and Cardinal Muller said that is wrong and that is not a Catholic mentality IMHO.

      Pope Benedict(who I never tire of pointing out is anti-DP) did say Catholics can disagree with the Pope on the death penalty and so far neither the CDF nor the Holy Father abrogated that.

      I am pro-death penalty till I get something more clear and when challenged on my view by citing this new text in the CCC I have a host of responses & I don't even have to go the route of saying the Pope is in error to do it.

      Delete
  28. The Church never permits actions which offend the dignity of persons or violate human beings. The Dictionary of Moral Theology states that all violations against the human person are violations of the moral law (p. 899).* Pius XII also teaches this and connects such violations to offenses against the natural law in his address of Oct. 3, 1953, in which he states, “Judicial inquiry must exclude physical and psychological torture and analysis by drugs, because they offend the natural law, even if the accused is really guilty.” These offenses of the natural and moral law are specifically connected to human dignity in the Vatican II preparatory schema “On the Moral Order,” which stated, “Even those who exercise public or judicial authority or supervise the preparation of trials are never permitted, either themselves or through others, to use physical, chemical, or psychological means that are opposed to the dignity of the human person and the preservation of his bodily and mental integrity.” This schema expresses basic Catholic moral theology, which uniformly forbids attacks on the human person and his dignity, which derives from his creation in the image of God.

    Regarding the catechism revision’s so-called lack of clarity, far from Pope Francis’ words condemning the death penalty being ambiguous because he did not use the term, “intrinsic evil,” his forbidding of civil authority to have recourse to capital punishment due to the dignity of the human person are expressed in classical Catholic terms that have been repeatedly used to prohibit civil authority from engaging in sinful attacks on human dignity. Pope Francis’ “inadmissible” resembles Pius XII’s “must exclude” and the Vatican II Preparatory Theological Commission’s “never permitted.” In fact, due to the uniquely secular and civic nature of certain activities (like torture or inappropriate analysis), in modern times the Church has increasingly used language that forbids the State to engage in these activities based on the natural and moral law and its relationship to the dignity of man (deriving from his creation by God, not as an absolute foundation of morality) instead of chiefly in terms of the intrinsic evil of the action. This is most likely done so that secular authorities may not easily dismiss the Church’s teaching due to a false laicization that completely separates Church and State, and which civil authorities may use to declare themselves free from the Church’s so-called “exclusively doctrinal” positions.

    Those who continue to discern a purely disciplinary/prudential force in Pope Francis’ catechism revision must likewise attribute relative weight to Pope Pius XII’s forbidding of physical and psychological torture in the above quote since he, too, did not there condemn these acts as intrinsically evil, but rather indirectly established their sinfulness through mentioning their violation of the natural law, much like Pope Francis did regarding the death penalty by forbidding it on the basis of its violation of the human person and his dignity (which, like general offenses against the natural law, are unanimously viewed as sins in Catholic moral theology).

    *The term "inviolability," is strictly applied to innocent human life in the Church's magisterium. Nevertheless, whenever human "inviolability" is evoked, it is clearly prohibited as an offense against the natural and moral law to contravene it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And this is the contradiction: an act of obedience to the Fifth Commandment that violates human dignity?

      Put all these catechisms together and that's what you get. And not just that, but something that is demanded, to something that is allowed under very rare, if practically non-existant circumstances, to inadmissible.

      Delete
  29. If you were to try to reduce Francis's presentation to a syllogism, (by the way, trying to twist your brain so you can make syllogisms out of Francis's words is dangerous to your mental health, so be cautious), it would look something like this:

    1 People who commit grave crimes do not lose human dignity.
    2 It is bad to violate human dignity.
    3 It is a violation of human dignity to use the death penalty unless it is necessary.
    4 it is unnecessary to use the death penalty unless safety requires it.
    5 Effective prison systems now make DP unnecessary for safety.
    6 Therefore, now it is a violation of human dignity to use the DP.
    7 Thus, it is now bad to use the DP.

    To comment on each of those propositions with some of the major problems they entail, in order (11 corresponding to 1, etc):

    11 People who commit grave crimes do not lose every aspect of human dignity, but they lose some aspects of it.
    12 It is not a violation of human dignity to treat a person who has lost some aspects of their dignity differently from a person who has not. It is not a "violence" to punish a malefactor with just punishment, that's a category mistake.
    13 While no single crime must be punished with a punishment fully proportionate to the crime, it IS necessary that in general there be punishments proportionate to their crimes. Like ANY specific punishment: The DP may be necessary in general without being necessary in an individual case, and using it in a specific case when it is necessary in general is not a violation of human dignity.
    14 DP may be not necessary for the sake of safety of persons but necessary for other common goods, such as the primary purpose of punishment. It is NOT TRUE that it is unnecessary to use the DP unless safety requires it.
    15 There remains grave and reasonable doubt that effective prison systems now make DP unnecessary for safety.
    16 Even if one ignores the dispute over 4 and 14, the grave doubts about 5 leave this conclusion no better than a probable position, if even that. It is, in any case, a prudential judgment not within the Church's expertise.
    17 Even if one hypothetically allows 4 and 5, 7 does not necessarily follow because 3 is uncertain: there are senses in which the criminal HAS lost some aspect of his dignity, and there are senses in which the DP does not attack the dignity he retains.

    If Francis intended to merely narrow JPII's estimate of the frequency of admissible cases of DP from "rare" to "not at all", then he compounded and exacerbated JPII's serious error of putting his own personal estimate into a Catechism, where it doesn't belong.

    But in reality Francis seems to be intent on exacerbating another mistake by JPII: that of pushing the idea that the DP "violates" human dignity. Francis wants it that sensibilities are now more in tune with the reality that the DP is a violation of human dignity, but it won't fadge. It is frankly a silly argument that in today's western world, where contraception is universal and abortion is universal, and gay marriage is pretty darn close, it is completely unfounded to seriously argue that "people have a better grasp of human dignity these days". Maybe a few do, but the vast majority don't. By far, the vast majority of people who oppose the DP do so out of secular humanism or its many cousins.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A syllogism can have only 3 members, of the form

      1. Socrates drank hemlock (the major premise)
      2. Hemlock is a poison (the minor premise)
      3. Therefore, Socrates drank a poison. (the conclusion)

      I am not a logician. But that is what I have read, anyway. In Copi & Cohen’s book on logic, IIRC.

      Delete
    2. by the way, trying to twist your brain so you can make syllogisms out of Francis's words is dangerous to your mental health, so be cautious

      Good. Made me laugh.

      Delete
    3. Good work, Tony. Of course, human dignity is not an autonomous reality more or less untied from the demands of God, in whose image man was created and possesses his inherent dignity. Secular authority may morally exercise capital punishment whenever man cheapens his dignity through serious offenses. Upon commission of such offenses, just restitution through the death penalty is technically possible since no person’s dignity has an inherent right to disobey the laws of God with impunity. The reasoning is similar to the traditional Catholic position on religious liberty: human dignity does not possess an intrinsic right to engage and practice that which degrades it - religious error - and for the salvation of their soul and that of others, the State may prudently curtail the temporal liberty of false religions. At the root of both liberal interpretations of religious liberty and capital punishment is a faulty understanding of the source, nature, and supernatural end of human dignity. Yes, attacks on human dignity are serious sins in Catholic teaching. However, neither State repression of false religion or capital punishment are such attacks. Rather, they are means used judiciously to restore and preserve man's inherent dignity as a creation of God, destined through obedience to God’s commands to share eternal life with Him.

      Delete
    4. Doesn't all this implicitly assume the last three Popes aren't giving a mere prudent council but a doctrinal exposition on moral norms?

      I should except this implicit assumption of your's why now?

      Delete
    5. A syllogism can have only 3 members, of the form

      Oh. Gee. Gollly. I wish I had known that.

      An "extended syllogism" then. Sheesh!

      Delete
    6. Doesn't all this implicitly assume the last three Popes aren't giving a mere prudent council but a doctrinal exposition on moral norms?

      Well, I was trying to assume, as you have so strongly suggested over and over, that they (or, at least Francis) were giving a prudential judgment rather than a doctrinal teaching, because if they were giving a doctrinal teaching they were flouting prior doctrinal teaching. And because Ratzinger pretty much said JPII's position was a prudential judgment because a Catholic would not fail to be in good standing merely by refusing to agree with the JPII on the topic.

      But if you would prefer to take the tack that Francis is attempting to give a doctrinal teaching, have at it. That requires a completely different sort of harmonization, of course, which so far is not yet forthcoming. Feel free to provide it.

      But I have a different question for you: do you believe that my (extended) syllogism mis-represents Francis's thought in any important way?

      Delete
    7. Doesn't all this implicitly assume the last three Popes aren't giving a mere prudent council but a doctrinal exposition on moral norms?

      SoY, let me revise my comment: My extended syllogism is quite explicitly based on a prudential judgment, #5 is exactly that. You can't get the conclusion without it.

      However, the prior statements are moral norms (if true). You can't get away from that even in practical judgments of prudence that X is good to do, or Y is bad to do, because the major premise is a principle and the minor premise is a concrete empirical fact - or estimate. So, if the pope's reasoning is dependent on an estimate of empirical fact, an estimate about which he does not have human expertise and about which the Church has never claimed definitive divine protection from error, we are not obliged to conform our minds to his mind and assent to the proposition. That's the nature of category #4 magisterial pronouncements (see Prof. Feser's account, here:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/11/papal-fallibility.html

      Statements of a prudential sort which require external obedience but not interior assent.

      The problem with propositions 1 through 4 in my extended syllogism is that they entail, and RELY ON, important equivocations in leading to the conclusions; as used, they require assumptions contrary to the prior doctrine of the Church. In particular, #4 entails a flat out denial of the proposition that the death penalty can be necessary for ANY of the standard ends of punishment, including (a) the redress of the specific disorder that was the crime; (b) a general manifestation of moral order; (c) deterrence; (d) reform of the criminal; (e) safety of persons; and (f) teaching about the inviolability of innocent human life. A teaching common throughout the Fathers and Doctors and Popes and catechisms, and upheld by the Apostles Peter and Paul.

      I remain interested in the question: do you believe that my (extended) syllogism mis-represents Francis's thought in any important way?

      Delete
    8. I am pro-death penalty so in that vain I don't care about Pope St John Paul's thought on this matter much less Pope Francis. I am an ex-Molinist these days so I don't care about Molina's thought anymore either. I respect their differing opinions and would invite practical criticism but as long as such criticism does not devolve into a charge of heresy.

      If you are merely criticizing the reasonings for the Pope's prudential judgments here then I say have at it. I could give you an ear full about what I thought Pope St Victor got wrong in the Second Century.

      The thing I am arguing here is wither or not this is a clear doctrinal error or not in the CCC (& by extension past changes made by StJP2 & B16) .

      >The problem with propositions 1 through 4 in my extended syllogism is that they entail, and RELY ON, important equivocations in leading to the conclusions; as used, they require assumptions contrary to the prior doctrine of the Church.

      The doctrine of the Church do not require the DP only that is not instrinsically evil to have one or for the public authority to use it under the right just circumstances.

      Back when the Papal States allowed "Drawing and Quartering" as a legitimate method of execution. I don't see how that can be moral & I am pro-death penalty remember?
      So Pope Francis' is not off the mark in criticizing the actions of the past.

      >In particular, #4 entails a flat out denial of the proposition that the death penalty can be necessary for ANY of the standard ends of punishment,

      Or it can merely mean that it can be done but it shouldn't be done. If you do it fairly and lawfully no sin is committed. But one can argue other tangent evils are present so that is may be prudent not to do it at all?.

      This is not a new teaching is it Pre-Catholic. The Rabbis in the Mishnah and the Talmud taught it is lawful to have the DP but that you shouldn't ever do it if you can avoid it.

      I tend to include the OT Catholic Church with the New. But that is just me.

      Delete
    9. The doctrine of the Church do not require the DP only that is not instrinsically evil to have one or for the public authority to use it under the right just circumstances.

      I am not saying that the teaching of the Church is that using the DP is "necessary" (and, of course, neither is Prof. Feser). The teaching of the Church includes that it is right to use DP for the many purposes of punishment in pursuit of the common good, and it is incompatible with that teaching to elevate "safety of persons" over all of the other purposes of punishment (including the primary purpose) so that only safety of persons is the deciding condition. If the common good is served by redress of justice and deterrence and teaching the inviolability of innocent life through the use of DP more than it is served in a given case by the mercy of a lighter sentence than death, then in that case it is better to use DP than not.

      When you can show me a Father or Doctor of the Church, or a papal document like an encyclical or bull, that uses the Mishnah and the teaching of the rabbis as an authority, I will give your argument relying on them some credence.

      Delete
  30. In any case, Francis seems to be trying to tighten up what JPII had inclined toward without trying to make it definitive: instead of abolition of DP being "more in line with human dignity", which gives some possible room for "more or less", for nuance or degree or cases, Francis wants to have it simply that DP is a "violation" of human dignity. Thus he ramps up the heat.

    However, Francis now leaves implied rather than stated, the error that JPII initiated: that we can ignore all other purposes of punishment (including the primary purpose), and can decide that if the DP is not needed for safety, it is not needed. There is not a shred of rationale for doing this, and it is (probably) the core problem with JPII’s presentation in 2267. If he had bothered to state a rationale, he might have obviated 26 years of educated Catholics being up in arms about his formulation. Francis sidesteps it by leaving it implied.

    The best that can be said of Francis' final sentence is that it is missing the critical qualifier, "given the conditions stated above". It amounts to negligence to make a Catechism passage more obscure and ambiguous than it was before, and the only plausible reason for making it more obscure via ambiguity is to push for one reading while leaving another reading possible. This is an old trick of the modernists, we have seen it for decades now. "There is an increasing awareness" is intended to stand for the concept that we now understand things that are true about human nature that we didn't understand before, but do you notice that he doesn't bother to state what any of those truths are? Why the reticence? If so many people are aware of some truth that others have not yet come up to speed on...TELL US already! All ears! Waiting...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the saddest thing. Ambiguity-by-design just flaunts the trust that the faithful traditionally put in the papacy.

      Delete
    2. The best that can be said of Francis' final sentence is that it is missing the critical qualifier, "given the conditions stated above". It amounts to negligence to make a Catechism passage more obscure and ambiguous than it was before, and the only plausible reason for making it more obscure via ambiguity is to push for one reading while leaving another reading possible. This is an old trick of the modernists, we have seen it for decades now. "There is an increasing awareness" is intended to stand for the concept that we now understand things that are true about human nature that we didn't understand before, but do you notice that he doesn't bother to state what any of those truths are? Why the reticence? If so many people are aware of some truth that others have not yet come up to speed on...TELL US already! All ears! Waiting...

      Very well said. It is part of the nature of modernists to try to replace universal teachings with their own temporary and local prejudices, while pretending they aren't doing so. (In other places they will sometimes come clean and admit they acknowledge no other kind of "truth".) But that's in the nature of "modernism", which title Chesterton mocked as being like calling oneself a "Thursdayite". (What was his thing about Thursday, anyway? It pops up a number of times.)

      Delete
    3. Greg: You mean flout, not flaunt.

      Delete
  31. Above, I am seeing a school of thought I'm going to call the "harmonizers". The harmonizers argue that Pope Francis' teaching on capital punishment can be harmonized with the traditional teaching of the Church. They further argue that this is necessary because the Pope cannot teach error.

    There is a school of thought here I am going to call the “Harmonizers”. The Harmonizers argue that the novel teaching of Pope Francis on capital punishment can be harmonized with the traditional teaching of the Church. They further argue that this is necessary and charitable.

    The first argument is wrong. The novel teaching of Pope Francis on capital punishment cannot be harmonized with the traditional teaching of the Church.

    What is the novel teaching of Pope Francis on capital punishment? It is not the change to the Catechism. The change to the Catechism is based on Pope Francis' “Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization”. It is the teaching in this address, together with the change to the Catechism and Cardinal Ladaria's letter, that must be harmonized with the traditional teaching of the Church.

    And what is the traditional teaching of the Church? It is not the opinion of Pope Saint John Paul II or even that of Pope Benedict XVI. The traditional teaching of the Church is best expounded in Professor Feser's book, and summed up in the Roman Catechism: “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.”

    It is these two teachings that must be harmonized successfully. It is nothing to harmonize, as I said above, Pope Francis' ambiguously erroneous opinon of capital punishment that will be in the Catechism with Pope Saint John Paul II's unambiguously erroneous opinion of capital punishment that is already there. As Dr. Mirus says, “In fairness to Pope Francis, we have Pope Saint John Paul II to thank for including a prudential judgment on this question in the Catechism. All Pope Francis has done is to increase the force of the argument John Paul advanced in Evangelium Vitae, namely that in light of today’s penal systems, recourse to the death penalty should be very rare (see especially no. 56). This was already in the Catechism.”

    The second argument, that this harmonization is necessary and charitable is wrong too. The Catechism can be wrong. The Pope can be wrong. It is troubling that he might not be. It is painful. And if he is wrong, it is not charitable to let it be. Not to him, and not to us, and not to civil authorities who might now be led into error.

    Finally, I am afraid of what we might harmonize ourselves into. Where is the line between harmonization and rationalization?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course the Pope can teach error in certain circumstances. Don't get me started on Pope St Victor and the celebration of passover. That was a goof up long before Pope St Paul VI did away with the Old Mass.

      Pope Francis and Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are giving prudent council not dogma that the death penalty is intrinsically evil.

      Pope Benedict(who did I remind everyone is against the DP?) said as CDF chief under Pope St. John Paul II and as Pope threw his CDF chief that Catholics are free to disagree with the Popes on the death penalty. I don't see where Pope Francis or his CDF abrogate that.

      Delete
    2. Son of Ya'Kov,

      Thank you for your responses. I agree with much of what you've written.

      And I agree that Pope Francis has not changed Pope Benedict XVI's teaching that Catholics can disagree with the Pope about capital punishment. And as I said, I don't think Pope Francis' prudential judgement contradicts Pope Saint John Paul II's. I'd even go far as to say this is unambiguous, to me. And I don't think the Pope has committed some impossible error, teaching ex cathedra that the death penalty is intrinsically evil.

      But I don't think this is the challenge for the Harmonizers. I think that challenge is harmonizing the traditional teaching of the Church with the novel teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Now, I understand a catechism is not authoritative, but humour me. Can the old Roman Catechism and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and now Pope Francis' new text be harmonized? Can the wider teachings these catechisms summarize be harmonized? I don't see how. But maybe that is possible, and even our responsibility?

      Don't get me wrong: I'm not ragging on Pope Francis. I think he's wrong about this, and some other political issues, and I wish he wouldn't mock some of our little traditions. But some of his critics are acting like he's the anti-Christ. But, much of what is happening reminds of of the persecution of the Faithful in Tolkien's Akallabêth.

      And, I am opposed to the use of the death penalty in modern Western society. I worked in politics. When some monster preyed on women or children, people emotionally demanded his execution. But, when that same kind of monster was murdered in prison, he was doing society a favour. It wasn't rational, or just. I think I picked up the idea from Cardinal Dulles. It's become, for too many, a kind of revenge.

      Thank you again for your responses. I look forward to your comments almost as much as Professor Feser's posts! I am,

      Didymus

      Delete
    3. Peace out Didymus. God be with you and may the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.:D

      Seriously you are cool man I send my best.

      Delete
  32. Good video on Francis' approach to the faithful:

    https://youtu.be/uOUHWcE4BZg

    ReplyDelete
  33. Dr. Jeff Mirus weights in again.

    “If bloodless means are sufficient”: The devil of capital punishment is in the details"
    https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=751

    Choices quotes:

    "I begin by recalling that no catechism, even one issued by the Church, is a Magisterial source of Catholic doctrine. Rather, it is a secondary compendium of that doctrine, which cannot cover everything, but which is intended, at least, to be reasonably accurate in what it includes, even if not completely free from confusing language and occasional mistakes."

    "As I indicated, the text of the encyclical (including any quotes from the Catechism) carries a Magisterial weight that a catechism necessarily lacks. But not all sentences in an encyclical carry the same weight. Evangelium vitae is a very long treatise on the gospel of life. It draws the Catholic idea of “the culture of life” from Scripture, explains the nature of the human person and human dignity, and discusses most or perhaps even all of the neuralgic points which plagued society at the time it was written: Not only capital punishment, but contraception, sterilization, abortion, euthanasia, suicide and more. In such a broad and lengthy document, we cannot expect definitive statements about everything."..........

    "Indeed, a critical question arises with every exercise of the ordinary magisterium: When is the Pope simply discussing and explaining various issues so that we may see how they unfold and how they fit together in the Christian scheme, and when does he intend to definitively teach some particular point so that there can be no doubt that it is stated precisely as intended with full Magisterial authority?

    This interpretive problem—that we often cannot identify, in a long discussion, which points the pope clearly means formally to teach—explains why we commonly say that we know something is infallible either when the pope teaches it in an extraordinary way (making his intention crystal clear) or when the same point is repeatedly stated over time in ordinary Magisterial texts. In the second case, it is the repetition of a teaching which makes it clear this is something that the Magisterium really intends to articulate.".....

    "For example, when it comes to abortion, which Evangelium vitae discusses at great length, the Pope concludes............. I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church. [62]

    It is this kind of extraordinarily intensive language which leaves no doubt as to a pope’s intention to formally and officially teach something very specific that must be received as absolutely true—that is, an infallible teaching......It is very important to note that we have no such language anywhere concerning recent developments on the question of capital punishment. This is one reason it is not yet perfectly clear what we are required by the Church to believe."

    "I consider it unlikely that the Church intends to teach that the civil authority must go to all conceivable lengths to protect the community from a murderer without executing the murderer, any more than the medical community must go to all conceivable lengths to keep every sick or dying citizen alive as long as humanly possible. "

    "The decision to actively prolong life and the decision to avoid executing a criminal are not the same. But the question is at least similar: To what lengths is the civil order required to go to avoid a person’s death?"

    ReplyDelete
  34. Mirus has to conclude that the pope means what he doesn’t say and doesn’t mean what he says. This is the road the “harmonizers” must travel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Pope is ambiguous & not perspicacious.
      There is an inconsistency here by the "errorists" crowd. The Pope is accused of being ambiguous and yet plain spoken?

      Which is it? As far as I can tell Mirus is taking him at his word as best he can and his conclusions and interpretation are as valid as Feser's.

      There is no reason to prefer one reading over the other baring an act of the extra-ordinary magesterium of the Church & or clarification from Pope Francis which based on past behavior will likely never come.
      But the advantage the "harmonizers" have over the "errorists" is that way has more potential to sooth the fears of brethren with weaker Catholic Faith. IMHO at any rate.:D

      Delete
    2. Wes, Son of Ya'Kov,

      Do you think the new text of the Catechism is ambiguous?

      I did, but I'm not so sure now. I'd argue the new text is unambiguous. Especially read in light of the other translations, Cardinal Ladaria's letter, Pope Francis' address, and the teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. I think I understand Pope Francis very well. He could be more concise, like his predecessor, but there's more than one way to skin a cat.

      And it is clear, very clear, that His Holiness is not changing the teaching of his immediate predecessors or the official line that we're free to disagree with him about this.

      I think the Errorists, and the Harmonizers, are arguing about entirely the wrong thing. The Errorists have been swept up in a wave of anti-Francis hysteria, it seems. This is a bridge too far! But in truth, His Holiness is crossing a bridge built by an earlier pontifex. The error that must be confronted, in charity, is Pope Saint John Paul II's. And likewise, the Harmonizers are simply harmonizing error with error, and pointing out that we're still free to disagree. But there's no harmony between an act of obedience to God's will and a violation of human dignity.

      And there are other errors, here, too. Is this really how doctrine, dogma, develops? What is human dignity? How much authority does the Pope have over civil authority? How much error can a Pope commit before he's done the impossible and officially taught error? Did God violate the human dignity of the Canaanites? Did Popes who executed criminals violate their human dignity? Did they sin? Is violating a person's dignity a sin, then? Or just wrong? Did those Popes sin? Did executioners who died without confessing said executions go to Hell? Etc, etc, etc.

      Didymus

      Delete
    3. "Pope is not perspicacious" ?

      Do you mean to say that the Pope is not having a ready insight into and understanding of things?

      Delete
    4. No my auto spell check sometimes fails me.

      The Pope is not perspicuous. That should work.

      Delete
    5. @Didymus

      Yours in an interesting third position but the phrase "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person." is not a clear moral judgement.

      I can say two things here. One, an autocratic system of governance is not intrinsically evil. Which is obvious. There was an autocratic Monarchy in ancient Israel and the Papacy itself in both it's religious and political offices is autocratic. Many an extremist fringe trads believes we should get rid of democracy and go back to Catholic absolute Monarchies. None of these political philosophies are against the faith or intrinsically evil. However we can say as a matter of prudent judgement that dictatorships and or autocracies are inadmissible since we have no protection against their abuse and we could say in that sense their implementation is an " an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" given their dodgy history.

      So this is not an error it is prudent council. Francis has just made it stronger but we have no means by which to conclude I am a heretic now or rebel because I am still pro-death penalty.

      Delete
    6. Son of Ya'Kov,

      Thank you again for your response.

      You are right. “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” is not, in and of itself, a moral judgement. But the judgement is suggested and assumed. Any attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person is wrong. That is taught elsewhere; it need not be repeated at every section of the Catechism. Stated differently, it's the second part of the Greatest Commandment.

      Suppose I am an executioner. Pope Francis clearly teaches that in carrying out my duty I attack the inviolability and dignity of the condemned. But because he hasn't said, at least not right here, that such at attack is wrong am I to safely assume he's okay with it? If I mentioned it in confession, would he tell me not to waste his time with morally acceptable attacks on persons' inviolabilities and dignities? Whilst simultaneously working, determinedly at that, for it's abolition worldwide and my unemployment?

      But in all seriousness, I now think Pope Francis is being very clear. I don't think he's got to write like St. Thomas Aquinas to get his point across. The footnote was ambiguous. This is not, especially not in light of everything else. He's saying the death penalty is wrong.

      That is his prudential judgement, but it is still erroneous, and it is more than practical advice. He is not stating the merits of democracy, or the demerits of absolute monarchy, or the result of its abuses. Pope Francis is not teaching that absolute monarchy COULD LEAD TO attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person, but that the very act of coronation is one. Putting a crown to the king's head is no different from putting an axe to his neck or mudering him in cold blood.

      The Errorist would say, “Pope Francis is a heretic, God save the King!” The Harmonist would say, “God save the King, it's just the Pope's opinion and he shares it with his immediate predecessor.” Some people might talk about living in community. But I would say, “God save the King-in-Parliament, and the Pope's opinion is wrong.” And I'd add that Pope Saint Leo III wasn't attacking Charlemagne's inviolability or dignity when he coronated him. Nor Samuel David's.

      So while Pope Francis is not ex cathedra, etc. teaching error, he is teaching error, and it is a greater kind of error than error about merely practical matters, and therefore a greater kind of error than Pope Saint John Paul II's. And I guess I'm coming to the conclusion that it is an error about morals... which I previously thought the Pope was protected from. So back to the drawing board? I am,

      Didymus

      Delete
    7. >Suppose I am an executioner. Pope Francis clearly teaches that in carrying out my duty I attack the inviolability and dignity of the condemned.

      Such a "judgement" is a mere prudential one not an absolute moral one. Didymus the state executioner is not morally the same as let us say, God forbid, Didymus the Abortionist.

      Is Pope Francis going to alter Canon Law allowing a Bishop to ban you from Communion for your job as a State Executioner like Canon Law in theory would ban an Abortionist?

      If not then it is not an issue.

      >But in all seriousness, I now think Pope Francis is being very clear.

      Yeh with all due respect (& I do respect you so forgive the sarcasim I am about to type) I don't see how anyone can type that with a straight face.

      >Pope Francis clearly teaches that in carrying out my duty I attack the inviolability and dignity of the condemned.

      At best his teaching means in this day and age in an advanced society one could find a better ways to deal with criminals. But that is subjective and prudential not a moral norm. No matter how strict Pope Francis language the DP is not intrinsically evil but Abortion always is.

      Delete
    8. Son of Ya'Kov,

      Very clear was probably a bit of a stretch. It was late when I wrote that.

      The rest of what you say rings true. Thank you again. I am,

      Didymus

      Delete
  35. After reading Dr. Feser's new interview, and more suggestions of ambiguity, I read the new text again.

    I don't think it's ambiguous. It clearly says that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. I was even wrong to say it wasn't concise. It is. Of course, language is always ambiguous, but if the plain and simple English isn't enough, there's the context - it goes on to say the Church is working for the abolition of the death penalty - and there are the other translations, and there's Cardinal Ladaria's letter, and there's Pope Francis' address. How much clearer could he be?

    This, in and of itself, is erroneous and contradicts the earlier teaching of the Church. It does not say the death penalty is intrinsically evil, but His Holiness doesn't have to say that to be wrong or contradict what came before. And he hasn't reversed Pope Benedict XVI's teaching that we're free to disagree, either, but again, that's not necessary. The traditional teaching of the Church was not just that capital punishment is intrinsically good and we're free to agree or disagree. It was much more. And Pope Francis is not teaching that. I am,

    Didymus

    ReplyDelete
  36. “"I begin by recalling that no catechism, even one issued by the Church, is a Magisterial source of Catholic doctrine. Rather, it is a secondary compendium of that doctrine, which cannot cover everything, but which is intended, at least, to be reasonably accurate in what it includes, even if not completely free from confusing language and occasional mistakes."”

    And how is Joe Bloggs, who may be a Catholic, but is not a theologian, seminarian, priest, bishop, canonist, Church historian, Thomist or other philosopher, or graduate in any kind of theology, to tell the wrong bits of the CCC from the accurate and orthodox bits ? What practical good is a mishmash of truth and error, prudential judgement & Catholic teaching, ambiguity & freedom from ambiguity ? And what is a non-Catholic reader to do with such a book ? Why does the Pope give authority to such a sub-par performance ?

    Arianism was “reasonably accurate” - if by “accurate” is meant “comprehensive”, then Mirus ought to say so. Accuracy and comprehensiveness are not convertible terms. There is no place in doctrinal theology for sloppiness in the use of language; perfect accuracy is absolutely essential.

    No-one has a right to complain of the spread of error, heresy, schism & apostasy, when such a poor job of work is foisted on the Church as a “sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion”. When Youtubers foul up, a lot of them have the integrity, and the respect for their audience, to do their work again, and to upload the corrected video. Why do the makers of the CCC not have as much integrity, and respect for others, as those Youtubers ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >And how is Joe Bloggs, who may be a Catholic, but is not a theologian, seminarian, priest, bishop, canonist, Church historian, Thomist or other philosopher, or graduate in any kind of theology, to tell the wrong bits of the CCC from the accurate and orthodox bits ?

      That problem existed before the change in the CCC & I submit is centuries old. Do know how many ex-Catholics turned Atheist (or Protestant) I've met who read the Bible wrongly because of the same reason or the Roman Catechism? The Bible is God's Word & it a bit more in essence then the mere CCC. Do you know how hard it is to argue the Trinity and why it's not a contradiction with the profoundly stupid? One ex-Catholic Atheist wag appealed to the opinions of other non-theologian Catholic laymen on a message board when he and I butted heads to back up his claim the Trinity was contradictory.

      >No-one has a right to complain of the spread of error, heresy, schism & apostasy, when such a poor job of work is foisted on the Church as a “sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion”.

      No if you are looking for clear books & writtings alone that completely explain the Faith to the ignorant and unwashed I submit that is a remnant Protestant mentality. The Catholic Faith is a living thing and requires living teachers who teach.

      Even clear Popes like St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI need to be explained by good teachers. Theology of the Body anybody?

      The problem is we need better religious instruction by the local church. We don't always get it and that is an old problem.

      Delete
  37. As Dr. Joseph Shaw has pointed out, the reason that the writers of the CCC don’t show as much respect as a Youtuber or a newspaper that prints a retraction, is that the errors and ambiguity, are intended.

    As the 19th century Popes, particularly, Saint Pope Pius X pointed out, they want to get their ideas into the heads of Catholics, and they have no shame in being ambiguous or even in contradicting themselves in other places, to give them plausible deniability, should anyone attempt to denounce them as heretics, knowing exactly, what to say, to make that denoucuation as difficult as possible.

    The reason The Dubia provoked such a fierce reaction, was that they were so cleverly written, that there was no way, to answer them, without making a clear statement of orthodoxy, on the one hand, or a clear statement of heresy, on the other.

    What has changed with Bergoglio, is that he no longer believes it is necessary, to be coy, and to play that game. And he realizes that you ‘can run on for a long time’, but sooner or later, the Truth catches up to you, and he would rather set the agenda himself, than be caught out trying to pretend that what he is saying, is not heretical, when to anyone, who is even moderately informed, it clearly, is.

    He has reason to believe that about 80% of self-identified Catholics, broadly, support his views, and either don’t care about or don’t understand, what Catholicism is, and so he thinks, that he can ride rough shod over the Magisterium, and the only reason, he is probably, not even more brutal, is that he wants to give the Jimmy Atkins of this world, a little opening to crawl through, to keep them onboard, because he still thinks there is some value in including them in ‘new church’, but I think, that things are going to get much worse from here, and that even before the end of his reign, Francis will cease to bother to leave that opening for Conservative Catholics.

    His vision is of a Saul Alinsky ‘church’ and I think that he really doesn’t want anyone who takes doctrine seriously, unless they accept that vision, which entails placing doctrine at the service of practice. Basically, Marxism and dialectic materialism, which was officially, denounced by Pope Pius XII, but as I said, team Bergoglio no longer cares about that.

    The question all Catholics have to ask is whether or not they do?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I largely agree with this. If shoddy logic stays on the books long enough it can do its job. We can argue and point out the silly logic, but if it stays on the books, shallow priests and prelates, RCIA instructors, left wing Catholics, and the general public can all visit the paragraph and say “see the Catholic Church is 100% opposed to capital punishment; it’s immoral” to prove their point. Hell, they already do that. Then Feser (and myself) and the other defenders of the Faith are increasingly seen as driven by bloodlust.

      Delete
    2. First some nitpicking.

      >As the 19th century Popes, particularly, Saint Pope Pius X pointed out,

      Did you mean Pius IX & the 19th century or St Pius X and the 20th century because there was no Pius X in the 19th century.

      Now your Communist conspiracy theory (which I've seen floated since St John Paul II time & it is getting old) aside the past Pope's warning of the dangers of ambiguous teaching are valid. But of course we have no protection against it from the Holy Spirit. Only protection from clear error under certain circumstances.

      >The reason The Dubia provoked such a fierce reaction, was that they were so cleverly written, that there was no way, to answer them, without making a clear statement of orthodoxy, on the one hand, or a clear statement of heresy, on the other.

      That might be true. Which is why the only defense we have in these times is to clearly and loudly teach the Faith.

      Of course in the face of this change to the CCC. I am not attached to defending the death penalty. I am pro-death penalty but I would consent to see it abolished world wide rather then allows the appearance the Church has changed dogma. Some people can't separate their politics from the Faith. The Faith is more important. Politics is second or third.
      In short I have no patence whose main and sole objection here is the last three Popes where against the Death Penalty.
      Catholic doctrine tells us it's not intrinsically evil. It doesn't mandate we must have a DP.
      I am waiting for the usual suspects to show up here spouting that neo-Kantan nonsense.

      Delete
    3. Not all post Kant is ridiculous. There is the School of thought of Leonard Nelson [Kant/ Friesian] that I think has some important points.

      Delete
    4. The ‘Harmonizers’ remind me of Police Squad’s Frank Drebin who, after watching a fugitive ride a ballistic missile into the Feldman Fireworks Co., pushes his way to the front of the crowd rubbernecking the now blazing ruin of exploding ordnance and roman candles to announce officiously, “There is nothing to see here. Please disperse.”

      Righteous intentions for the most part, but given the scene, what they’re saying is laughable.

      Some people can't separate their politics from the Faith. The Faith is more important.

      You should know these beliefs also motivate the respectful papal critics.

      Delete
    5. The extreme errorists remind me of Muslim fundamentalists who protest by holding signs that say "Behead those who call Islam intolerant".

      Of course I am not saying the errorists are violent or prone to violence here but that like the Jihadist they aren't self aware.

      Perhaps a better example is the Antifa clown who holds a sign saying "Protect freedom of speech! Silence all right wingers!".

      If you are going to criticize the Pope you have to remember your criticism can be criticized.

      Of course this latest petition is doing it right.

      Delete
    6. Open Borders isn't Marxism neither is LGBT.

      Delete
  38. Yes, I expressed myself poorly. Perils of typing on on mobile phone and not editing my posts, but my point stands, ambiguity, was condemned by numerous Popes, not just as it was used by Modernists, but as it was used by its various precursors.

    I didn’t mean to propose a Conspiracy Theory. I just pointed out, that the elevation of praxis above doctrine, is a Marxist doctrine, and orientates the human organisation towards that alien, bankrupt, and evil ideology.

    As far as the death penalty is concerned, I was against it, before I became a Catholic, but because the Church teaches that the death penalty, is legitimate, I changed what I believe.

    My objection is that I think Prof. Feser and his colleague have done a fine job, compiling, articulating, and defending the Catholic teaching on the death penalty, and instead of being lauded and praised for the faithfulness and the rigour and perspicacity of their efforts, they have been undermined, because of the personal opinion of Francis, and this undermining, however you describe it, is going to make that declaration of the faith you speak of, extremely difficult, because we live in a swallow sound bite driven culture, that isn’t interested in the truth. A tweet by Francis will suffice.

    And thus, the damage to souls this will do is unimaginable, because as others have pointed out, this sets a precedent, that effectively, allows them to rewrite the entire Catechism if they wish, and whether or not, there is an actual contradiction, in this instance, or in future rescripts, isn’t the point, the fact is, that is how it is perceived, and nothing is ever done to correct that perception.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >My objection is that I think Prof. Feser and his colleague have done a fine job, compiling, articulating, and defending the Catholic teaching on the death penalty, and instead of being lauded and praised for the faithfulness and the rigour and perspicacity of their efforts, they have been undermined, because of the personal opinion of Francis,

      I reply: Yeh nobody here is more of a Feser Fanboyz then moi. But he is not the Pope. That upon reflection might be tragic in that he might make a good one (in spite of the wife and Kids but that wasn't a problem for Pope Adrian II...kind of...bad example). But by virtue of his office Pope Francis is ahead of him and deserves more deference.

      >and this undermining, however you describe it, is going to make that declaration of the faith you speak of, extremely difficult, because we live in a swallow sound bite driven culture, that isn’t interested in the truth. A tweet by Francis will suffice.

      I don't disagree here.

      > I just pointed out, that the elevation of praxis above doctrine, is a Marxist doctrine,

      I don't know about that? As the recent petition Dr. Feser has signed states we don't have to have a death penalty. We just can't have the Church "appear" to teach the death penalty is intrinsically evil.

      I like the careful language. That is how it's done.

      Delete
  39. Couldn’t agree with you more about the doctrine of the papacy. There is no higher authority, in The Church, than the Pope, and the idea, that some people have, that they can second guess him, is absurd. As Pope Leo XIII says (Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua):

    “Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.”

    ReplyDelete
  40. As far as the point about Marxism is concerned, the elevation of praxis above doctrine, just is a Marxist doctrine.

    Also, that The Church has always, taught precisely, the opposite, is also not disputed.

    Anyone can do good deeds, but no matter how many good deeds you perform, and even if you are a Saint, numerous Popes and councils taught, that you cannot receive salvation, if you reject The Catholic Faith.

    The good thief, for example, professed The Faith, but obviously, didn’t have time to do much more than die well, but we know, that he went to Heaven. This proves that professing the faith, by itself, can save, and as I said, numerous Popes and councils, have taught that works, by themselves, cannot.

    The difference this makes, is immense. For a start, as every Pope before the Council taught, the Catholic Faith, must be believed, whole and entire, in the same sense, and according to the same interpretation, and that applies to everyone, including the Pope.

    Secondly, if a line is drawn, even at the slightest possible degree from the horizontal, it will eventually, be very clear, that it is drawn at an angle, and is headed to a different place. Likewise, just a small error in doctrine or principle, can lead us straight to Hell, and not to Heaven. So, I agree, precision is a Catholic virtue, and one, we really, have a right to expect from a Pope. Hence, the practice of presenting Dubia.

    ReplyDelete