Friday, November 16, 2018

The latest on Catholicism and capital punishment

At First Things, Joseph Bessette, Michael Pakaluk, and Fr. Brian Harrison comment on Steven Long’s recent article on capital punishment and the change to the catechism, and Long responds.

Parkland shooter suspect Nikolas Cruz has assaulted a prison guard, illustrating the continuing danger murderers pose even after incarceration.

In the October 2018 issue of the magazine New Directions, Fr. Richard Norman reviews By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  Fr. Norman says that he is “prudentially opposed” to the death penalty, yet still judges that:

[Bessette and Feser] authored a well-argued defence of the legitimacy of capital punishment within the catholic tradition… By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed is a relentlessly tightly-argued programmeMost importantly, the authors present a compelling theological case for accepting the legitimacy of capital punishment in principle, even if in practice its use is strictly curtailed.  They challenge the theological bases upon which much opposition to capital punishment rests and debunk many sociological assertions on the abolitionist side of the debate…

They argue very coherently as to why this power is properly reserved to the state according to the tradition of the Church… and they expose many inconsistencies and errors in the arguments brought against the death penalty… [T]his book [is] an important corrective within an often one-sided debate among churchmen.

End quote.  Naturally, Fr. Norman also raises some criticisms of the book.  For example, he says:

Bessette and Feser… do somewhat undermine their explanation of the deterrent effect of the death penalty in a chapter in which the capital crimes of seventeen offenders are described ‘in some detail’— the deterrent effect was evidently lost on these men.

With all due respect to Fr. Norman, this seems to me to be a pretty weak objection.  That a punishment does not deter everyone does not entail that it does not deter anyone.   The prospect of jail time, fines, bodily injury, accidental death, damage to one’s reputation, loss of employment, angering one’s spouse, etc. deter people all the time from doing things that are immoral, embarrassing, criminal, or otherwise risky.  Do they deter absolutely everyone, all of the time?  Of course not.  But it would be absurd to conclude from that that they have no significant deterrent effect.  It is no less absurd to question the deterrent effect of capital punishment, on the grounds that there are some people who are not deterred by it.

Another objection raised by Fr. Norman is as follows:

Another question relates to the determination of which authority is empowered to pass capital sentences: what is to prevent a father from applying the death penalty to his child, or the abbot of a monastery condemning a murderous religious?  Each of these has as many responsibilities towards their charges as does the state, but we would surely feel some reluctance at affording them the same juridical powers.

This is also a very weak objection.  One problem with it is that it would prove too much.  In particular, if it really cast any doubt on capital punishment, then it would also cast doubt on every other serious punishment.  For we could equally well ask: “What is to prevent a father or an abbot from imposing jail time or major fines?” and then on that basis argue against allowing the state ever to jail or to fine anyone.

Another problem, though, is that the objection neglects the answer that natural law theorists like Aquinas would give to Fr. Norman’s question.  As Joe Bessette and I discuss in our book, while Aquinas thinks that a murderer deserves a punishment of death as a matter of retributive justice, he also thinks that retributive justice is not by itself a sufficient reason for actually inflicting this deserved penalty, since Aquinas holds that retributive justice is primarily to be achieved in the afterlife.  There would therefore have to be some additional consideration favoring the actual infliction of death in this life – and there is such a consideration, in Aquinas’s view, namely the defense of the community.

Now, only those with authority within a kind of social order have the right to inflict punishments intended to protect that social order.  But those with authority to defend the community as a whole are public officials or governmental authorities.  Hence Aquinas argues that it is only they, and not private citizens (including fathers and abbots), who may inflict capital punishment.

A further objection raised by Fr. Norman is the following:

The greatest difficulty, however, is with the authors’ fundamental idea of proportionality… [A]t least three problems go unaddressed: (i) if there is a direct proportionality between the crime of murder and a capital sentence, is justice lacking in sentences for murder which do not invoke the death penalty and, if not, could justice be also otherwise served where a capital sentence has been passed; (ii) how do proponents of capital punishment account for the many changes over time in the list of crimes which attract a capital penalty, if the issue at stake is one of proportionality, and (iii) how might one signal the moral difference between one capital crime and another if the sentence is the same, e.g. between the drug-dealer who fatally shoots a rival, the sadist who sexually assaults and murders a child, and the war criminal who orders the execution of hundreds of innocent civilians?

The first thing to say in response to these points is that as Joe Bessette and I note in the book, it is a misunderstanding of the natural law position to suppose that it entails that it is always possible in practice to inflict a proportional punishment, or that that we are always morally obligated to inflict it when this is possible.  For one thing, there may in some cases be practical reasons why inflicting a proportional punishment is not possible, or epistemological reasons which prevent a determination of exactly what a proportional punishment would be.  But that simply does not entail that there is not in fact a punishment that would be proportional.  For another thing, the natural law position holds only that there is a presumption in favor of inflicting a proportional punishment, but allows that there are various reasons which might override this presumption, including moral reasons. 

Another problem with the objection is that Fr. Norman seems to be conflating questions about what punishments should be given with questions about what punishments are in fact given today.  It’s true, as he says, that there have been “many changes over time” in the list of offenses eligible for the death penalty, but by itself that has no implications one way or the other for the question of what punishments should be given.  In particular, the fact that there are in fact fewer offenses today for which death is inflicted does not entail that there morally must be fewer offenses for which it is inflicted.

That is not to imply, however, that Joe and I would necessarily want to expand the list.  Again, the presumption that an offender will get just what he deserves can be overridden for various practical and moral reasons, and in this life the imperative of doing what is best to secure the welfare of the community is in practice more important than the securing of strict retributive justice.  So it is perfectly possible for the list of crimes for which offenders should in practice be executed to be much shorter than the list of crimes for which offenders might in theory be executed.  Joe and I do not draw up any detailed list of either sort because it simply isn’t necessary for the specific purposes of our argument to do so.

Finally, Fr. Norman writes:

Another significant challenge to Bessette and Feser, which indeed impacts upon catholic tradition more extensively, is the question as to whether the New Testament ever anticipated Christians in positions of significant civic influence in what might be termed a ‘Christian state.’ When the New Testament recognizes the authority of the state to mete out justice, did its authors envisage Christians on the judgment seat?

The answer to this, I think, is that whether or not the authors of the New Testament writings envisaged this is not really important.  What is important is what the principles they taught would imply when applied to concrete circumstances in which Christians find themselves in positions of civic influence.  And that is a question that has been answered in detail by the Church’s great political thinkers (such as St. Thomas and St. Robert Bellarmine) and by the social doctrine of the Church. 


  1. Ah yes. Conservatism. Sanctity of life ends after birth.

    I am sure there were people in middle ages Christendom that would have argued that the state SHOULD have the right to torture and mutilate. It was always something I liked to call out the "progressive" nature of the Church that helped to move society away from that. The conservatives would have argued that torture and mutilation was institutional and that it was above killing the person and always resulting in some confession.

    It is also not in my warrior mind to kill a person who is defenseless (they are always defenseless on the gallows) but then again letting us pit criminals against each others to the death hasn't seemed to make its way back into society.

    Executions are almost always for political purposes. That is so society feels good about ridding themselves of a bad actor. If someone is genuinely mentally deranged there are other ways to deal with them.

    The final portion I have a problem with this debate is that anyone thinks the state doesn't have the right to kill people. It's perfectly legal for a cop to shoot an unarmed person in the back. It internationally legal to kill hundreds of people in a city while we level it looking for a team of bad guys.

    There really is no debate at this point. We are diametrically opposed to the Pope's sentiment at nearly ever level of society. It is entirely emotional who we decide to kill and why.

    My suggestion is whoever believes in the death penalty should also be willing to kill someone themselves. If you can't kill your own food then you should be a vegetarian.

    1. The very reason conservatives are pro-death penalty is because the sanctity of life is such that violating it requires the gravest of punishments.

      Your "warrior mindset" does not determine what is good or evil. In fact, the "warrior mindset", in my estimation, held homicide to be a noble pastime and equated vengeance with justice.

      That there exists executions that are done for "political purposes" does not mean execution is wrong in principle or even in practice. Not that you provided any evidence to your claim nor did you clarify what you meant by "political purposes" to begin with.

      Your point about cops shooting unarmed people or wartime killings is completely irrelevant to the question of whether or not the state has the right to kill someone via public execution.

      The last two paragraphs you wrote are utterly nonsensical and make zero sense whatsoever.

    2. I'm only chiming in for completeness' sake.
      Stragton, I can only wonder if you've read the other things Dr. Feser has written on this blog. But given that you said, "I am sure there were people in middle ages Christendom that would have argued that the state SHOULD have the right to torture and mutilate," without any further comment, I doubt it. Else one would expect you to give a rebuttal to previous points Feser has made. The most important, I think, being that even if people deserve certain punishments, we mustn't inflict them because doing so would bring harm to the castigator's soul, whereas this isn't necessarily true of capital punishment.

    3. I made a pretty extensive comment about torture and rape as “just punishments” in comparison to capital punishment on Dr. Feser’s “Violence in Word and Action” post on October 27, 2018. My comment is on October 28, 2018, 11:34 AM.

      Hopefully that helps the discussion a little. In short, I agree with Grace and Rust.

    4. Stragton,

      That was a low-quality comment in nearly every aspect.

      There is little adult-level reasoning to be found in it; and no sign of familiarity with how this topic has been previously discussed here. Even some of your phrasing is adolescently clumsy; e.g., "The final portion I have a problem with this debate...." I can commend you, I suppose, for not making obvious punctuation errors.

      Your first line ("Conservatism. Sanctity of life ends after birth.") is somewhere between straw-man and blood libel, and closer to the latter. Not an auspicious beginning, friend!

      You have a lot of growing to do, when it comes to formulating arguments. You probably don't like hearing that, but it's true. (Now, it's up to you whether you stomp away without learning anything. Many people would.)

      You'll be better-served, though, if you do the hard work of reformulating your arguments for precision, limiting them to what's topical, and arguing only against the strongest form of the objections of others. That's how, famously, St. Thomas Aquinas did it. It's the best approach.

      At present, there is so much murk, irrelevancy, and straw-manning in your post that I'm uncertain whether you know clearly what your own opinions are. I can only be confident you don't know anything about the opinions of those with whom you disagree.

      Work on those things, and the resulting conversations will become more fruitful.

    5. Stragton's remark: "If you can't kill your own food then you should be a vegetarian."
      I can't repair my car so I should be a pedestrian? Specialisation...

    6. Stragton: Your comment makes no substantive point and it contributes nothing of value to the discussion. Your remarks about medieval torture and the entirety of your last two paragraphs are of zero relevance here. It is clear to all that you wrote this comment simply to gratify that powerful psychic urge that you and many other liberals often feel when you hear opposing views- you felt an uncontrollable urge to verbalize your disdain for conservatives and to adopt a visible posture of moral superiority. That was the end you had in mind, and you clearly did not care that your remarks were completely otiose.

      I have no doubt that typing up that comment and hitting "publish" felt really good for about minute because it took some of the stress off of your amygdala. But it doesn't exactly advance the discussion.

    7. "My suggestion is whoever believes in the death penalty should also be willing to kill someone themselves." Please send me information on how I can participate in the execution of child murderers.

  2. Re the Church's stance on the death penalty.
    I'm going to say something that is very rude (in the old sense of the word) and perhaps provocative. But given what we now know about the infiltration of the Church over decades now, and at the highest levels by virtual cadres of sexually disordered males, many of whom seem to be masochists and in effect nihilists, I find it almost impossible to trust that the current Church hierarchy has any sound notion whatsoever of what is involved in preserving the lives of the innocent, and a healthy platform for human association and mutual benefit.

    Disordered males who personally sacrifice precisely nothing when they give up sexual relations with women; men who wink at the fundamental doctrines as if they are out-of-date township ordinances controlling the sale of firecrackers; emotional, subjective, self-indulgent, and in some cases men who are perverted in sadomasochistic ways that beggar belief.

    And we are supposed to trust their pronouncements as to the evolving sensibility of the Church?


    They are too weak to personally defend anyone. Too enervated to morally resist evil. Too smug to imagine that they really have no idea of what it is they are prescribing, and that they could not live out their own recommendations and raise a secure family while doing so.

    Clowns. Perverted, deceptive, ulteriorly motivated, pernicious clowns.

    Other than that I think what these simpering mannequins are saying is just fine.

    1. DNW

      If what you say about the "infiltration of the Church over decades now, and at the highest levels by virtual cadres of sexually disordered males",is true, and that therefore you find it virtually impossible to trust the current Church authorities on theqse matters, how can you trust the Church authorities of the past?
      We have evidence of "disordered males" in the Church in the last decades, but I see little or no reason to believe that there were no "disordered" males in the past.
      How can we trust the authority of the Church at all if what you say is true?

    2. There were, I suppose, disordered males here and there in the past but not this massive inf literation by cadres of them.

    3. "Walter Van den AckerNovember 17, 2018 at 3:14 AM


      If what you say about the "infiltration of the Church over decades now, and at the highest levels by virtual cadres of sexually disordered males",is true, and that therefore you find it virtually impossible to trust the current Church authorities on theqse matters, how can you trust the Church authorities of the past?"

      Well, I suppose, more than suppose, by reading what they had written in the past concerning issues of justice, morality, love of family and country and neighbors, and the like; say, in the late editions of the old Baltimore Catechism which was admittedly directed at students in the middle and higher forms; but should not have fundamentally misrepresented the position of the Church. And then, by observing how the doctrines of the Church seem to have "evolved" ... as increasing numbers of what were quite obviously mild, simpering, "man centric" (double entendre intended) males concerned primarily with "inclusion" and "acceptance", found niches to inhabit in the institutional Church, and began their undermining work as "Liturgists". The infamous pronouncements of a youngish Rembert Weakland on distancing the liturgical sensibility from that of transcendence or a telephone to the beyond, and refocusing the mass on the condition of he and his brothers in the 20th Century, is a good example. And we know how that sensibility played out in practice.

      So, yeah, there have been perverts scandalizing the Church for years ... turning monasteries into spas, and nunneries into whorehouses, so said critics. But so far as I know, no matter how corrupt any given pope might have been, none tried to sacramentalize the nihilistic masochism we see nowadays under the guise of faithfulness to the Christian ideal of sacrifice for a higher good.

    4. These compromised shepherds are the culmination of the influence of the sexual revolution and post modern ideologies that have influenced the Church's and culture at large thinking on capital punishment and other sexual mores. Not provocative DNW....... Keep speaking the truth.

    5. You mention nihilism. That was, 30 years or more ago, a relatively rare topic; usually encountered in retrospective terms in the classroom ... during courses in philosophical anthropology, and the study of the Lebenswelt notion and its possibilities.

      Now however, nihilism in all its varieties and subdivisions - values, metaphysical, social, and even political - has become the stuff of near-everyday conversation even among modestly educated people.

      They see it all around them. They see the grinning proponents of it on television, who will admit it as the basis of their worldview just one layer down into the conversation. It has become the default metaphysical stance in academia, accompanies many pop science introductions, and is celebrated and talked about in the same smug way and with the same malicious glee that older children might employ when tormenting younger children with the notion of death.

      And whether its Hawking or the Churchlands or the kid next door, it is essentially an expression of the same phenomenon.

      That is why this Peterson craze has developed. Like Feser, he "talks back". Bluntly. Unlike Feser, he implies and insinuates and describes scenarios, rather than argues explicitly in syllogisms.

      I segued into this broader "argument" years ago during debates on the RKBA: when I realized that those affirming self-defense rights, inhabited a different mental world than the restrictionsts did. The good guys at that time had for most part or on average, what was in some ways a more naive worldview. They didn't realize that citing the Constitution and the Founders was of no more use than pounding a bible was when arguing with an atheist. They didn't realize they were so out of step with that intellectual spirit of the age imbibed by those who scoffed at any idea of "real" or "discovered" rights.

      I think what we are seeing in the last decade and a bit more, is that those who perceive the negative effects of chaos, have been forced to revisit and newly articulate the foundations of their worldview. Because, they have found that their premises are not taken for granted anymore, and that if the social antagonist with whom you are forced to share a political space is going to say, "prove it", you had better be prepared to do something like that, or to submit, or to literally fight in a contest of pure wills and power. You will have no other choice; unless that is, one of "them" has offered you a first class ticket to one of the plush seats on their train to hell.

      So, because the supposed shepherds and the wise-men have abdicated their hard duties and decided instead to roll around in their sinecures like a dog in its own shit, we have to do what has to be done; even if we don't agree on all the details. Feser has had to do it. Peterson has to do it. And I guess, you and I need to do what we can, little as that might be.

  3. I know this is a little of topic, but I have been very interested in understanding the Thomist approach to free will and its refutations of the general arguments against free will. It’s a fundamental concept for the Natural Law theory and, needless to say, without it capital punishment or probably any other tipe I’d punishment is just absurd. I don’t know why, but this topic is almost never addressed, at least I did not found almost any thing neither in this blog nor in First Things. So if somebody could give any basic introduction on the topic, recomend any online article or maybe some book that would be really nice.

    1. You could always read the relevant questions in the Summa Theologiae. Questions 75 through 90 are relevant. You can also read the blog “Reading The Summa” which helps clarify each question.

    2. The Summa can be found for free at

    3. The Thomist Guy: alfred R mele's book "free" and ed's book "philosophy of mind" are both good starting points!

  4. I am not Catholic but I like the classical and medieval people a lot. I never got very far with Aquinas, but I did try learning Anselm. To me they represent what the Catholic faith ought to be and what it ought to be saying. Maybe my opinion does not count since I do not have stake in this, but that is my two cents worth. Philosophy has changed since Aquinas in dealing with the problem raised by Descartes. But is that any reason to reject Aquinas? I do not think so.

  5. The pope is preaching Leftist Socialism. I imagine he must think that that is the message of the NT.

  6. Taking for granted that it is (sometimes) morally permissible to kill a member of a political community for the sake of the political community, but not permissible to kill a member of a family for the sake of the family, or a member of a religious order, business corporation, etc for the sake of those communities, Aquinas's answer as to why only the public authorities may authorize the execution of death sentences makes complete sense. I would be interested to hear more, though, on what it is that sets political communities apart from other communities in this regard. The heads of those other communities may punish, after all, just not with death.

    1. It is political nature of man whereby man lives organized into three irreducible levels:
      i) Individual
      ii) Families
      iii) The polis or the political community or the tribe or the nation.

      Individuals are normally embedded into families which are normally embedded into a political community or another. The political community is self-sufficient for long-term survival as Aristotle observed. Families and individuals are not.

      Man exists organized into particular self-ruling morally authoritative communities we call polis etc.

      A family or a religious order or a business corporation lacks these features. They are not ordered to long-term survival and flourishing.

      A political community is ordered to Justice as well. The end of a political community is its particular instantiation of the Natural Law. Justice in classical thought means the same as the Way, for example as we talk about the American Way. It is also called Dharma by the Hindus. So, the American political community seeks to realize the American Way and the Indian political community seeks to realize the Indian Way and so on. Punishments serve the cause of justice and realizing the particular Way.

    2. I know of Aristotle's argument for the supremacy of the polis based on its self-sufficiency (in "Politics"), but if he ever connected that to a unique right to kill, I'm not aware of it. In fact, I'd be surprised if Aristotle thought that only the state had the right to kill, since such a restriction was very far from the norm in the ancient world. Does STA, for example, give any explicit argument like this?

    3. The inevitable answer must be sovereignty of the polis. Contrary to the liberal idea that each individual is sovereign in himself and only bands together with other sovereign individuals for conveneince's sake, the pre-liberal tradition holds only the political community to be sovereign. All actions taken by entities within the polis, be it punishments meted out by fathers or abbot, must be ultimately permitted by the laws of a particular polis.
      As my definition of the polis--a particular, self-ruling morally authoritative community--has it, the polis itself is the source of political authority (Belloc, the French Revolution, chap1 "Political theory of the Revolution).
      The Belloc cite is noteworthy. The pre-modern idea that the political authority of the polis requires no explanation from something other than the polis itself is held to be the idea moving the French revolution itself!

  7. Ed,

    I was wondering if you could make a post strictly on justification for the theory of prime matter. It seems like we are supposed to take it as a given, rather than have reason to believe it over a brute form of nature.

  8. If we're talking among Christians, the anti death penalty arguments fall apart on the basis that it is ultimately an attempt to be holier than Scripture, so far as I can tell.

    The death penalty precedes the mosaic code (Gen. 9:6), is throughout the Mosaic code, in Romans the properly constituted authorities are give a sword to be an instrument of God's vengeance.

    Just because it's abused is no argument at all, because there is nothing that is not subject to abuse.

    This world is grim. The death penalty, when applied with rigor and only on the grave crimes that require it, lead to it's rarity. Failure to apply it and you get the chaos of Mexico, South Africa, and other nations where chaos reigns and honest men are unprotected. Proverbs 20:26

  9. Something off the instant topic but possibly of interest for Ed Feser, re. consciousness and free will. Easier than an e-mail. It doesn't need to be posted up.

    Yes, Peterson is so omnipresent that even his fans may tire of him ... though, it is demand for his product that has driven his ubiquity.

    But, an interesting fragment as he responds on the matter of determinism and consciousness to the remark of a philosophically informed interviewer.


  10. “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” reads the Catechism of the Catholic Church now on the death penalty, with the addition that the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

    The statement released by the Vatican’s press office on Thursday says that Francis approved the new changes to point number 2267 of the Catechism on May 11, 2018, during a meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria.

    As it’s been re-written, the Catechism now also says that “Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.”

    Yet today, “there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.”

    “Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption,” reads the Catechism now, as it was approved by Francis.

    It’s for this reason, and “in light of the Gospel,” that the Church teaches that the practice is now inadmissible.

    In it, he explains the decision, saying it was Francis who on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism, had asked for the teaching on the death penalty to be reformulated to “better reflect the development of the doctrine on this point.”

    The pope’s words came on Oct. 11, when Francis said that capital punishment “heavily wounds human dignity” and is an “inhuman measure.”

    “It is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor,” he said.

    According to Ladaria, the new formulation of the Catechism expresses “an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.”

    He then explains that previous Church teaching with regards to the death penalty can be explained in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and “had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime.”

    Marking down the development, Ladaria quotes from Francis’s two immediate predecessors, first saying that John Paul II’s document Evangelium vitae is key in this development of the doctrine. In it, the Polish pope enumerated the signs of hope for a new culture of life, including “a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of ‘legitimate defense’ on the part of society.”

    Criminals, the late pontiff wrote, shouldn’t be “definitively” denied the chance to reform. It was this document, as Ladaria points out in his letter, that led to the first change in the Catechism on this issue, saying the cases in which the death penalty is justified are, in reality, “practically non-existent.”

    Ladaria then goes on to say that John Paul’s commitment to the abolition of the death penalty was then continued by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who recalled “the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.”

    1. Anonymous, why in the world did you just give us most of the text of the article in Crux that has the above language, without the appropriate quote marks or citing the sources? None of the above is original to this combox.

      Also, none of it in the least bit illuminates the difficulties that so many theologians have pointed out. Nay, all this does is REPEAT the obscurity, the confusion, indeed the nonsense.

      Just to outline one example: the pope in his allocution said the following: "It is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor”.

      In what sense does it make sense to say God is the "guarantor" of human life? Murders have taken place in human society from Cain on down. Warfare has taken even more lives than outright murder. Where was God "guaranteeing" these human lives? And in what way is "only" God the judge, when the Gospels explicitly put judgment in the hands of humans: In John 7:24 Jesus says Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. And lest we imagine (without any foundation) that this is limited only to lesser matters and not to those of life, certainly Paul (Romans 13:1-4) shows otherwise. One can overlook the pope in informal allocutions or when he goes "off text" and speaks extemporanously, by simply admitting that he either mis-spoke himself, or that what he said was confused, inexact, etc. Or one can allow that the pope, while not mis-speaking what he meant, actually meant confused and muddled things. Alternatively, the Vatican could actually explain such sayings - but after 5 years of the pope's faux pas, the Vatican has clearly given up on fixing up the pope's oddities and mistakes, and no longer even tries to spin them as if they meant what Catholicism always meant - now it just asserts the continuity without pretending to show how it might be present. As above.

      As many have already said: this is not what "development" means. The pope cannot merely wish development into existence at a whim.

  11. One of the biggest problems with this death penalty issue, is that the vast majority of self-described Catholics, agree with Francis.
    Their position is not based on evidence or reason, but purely, on their gut feeling.
    Arguments that this teaching is a part of the universal ordinary magisterium or that it might actually be right therefore mean nothing to them.
    What is so dangerous about this, is that the reason people have these ‘gut feelings’, is that western society, is biased against the Catholic teaching on the death penalty, and this bias is broadcast in mainstream and in social media, providing a constant stream of propaganda.
    If you confess to believing in the death penalty, a great number of people, will brand you as a horrible person and will cease to listen to you. You’re immediately, an inhuman monster in their eyes, and nothing you say, will shift that impression.
    The deeper problem this causes for The Church, is that it inaugurates a terrifying precedent and sets in motion a corrosive trend, that has the capacity, to reduce The Church to a literal remnant.
    All Francis or his successor needs to do, to change a teaching, they don’t like or don’t believe personally, is to make sure that it is perceived to conflict with an issue or cause, that the vast majority of self-described Catholics support, and statistics show, that the vast majority of self-described Catholics are ignorant of what The Church teaches, and do not agree with fundamental teachings, even certain defined dogmas.
    As long as Francis keeps the majority on his side, the revolt will only come from a small group of Catholics, who he doesn’t care about or want in his ‘church’, who might make a lot of noise, but who can, ultimately, be ignored and marginalised or forced out, in time, if they don’t die out first.
    All he needs to do, to change whatever he wants, is to write something resembling a justification, with a slight degree of ambiguity, for the ‘conservatives’ to squeeze themselves through. It doesn’t even have to be credible, let alone convincing, because the majority, quite simply, don’t care, whether it is or not, just as long as it ‘feels’ right to them and it comes from someone perceived to have authority.
    Thus, instead of being guided and constrained by reason, Francis and his followers, are guided by their feelings and are constrained by nothing outside the limits of their political will and power.
    What underlies this rejection of all true authority, and the intellect, in favour of ‘feelings’, is a pervasive suspicion, if not an outright rejection of the supernatural and the immaterial.
    Feelings are real and meaningful to people. The higher doctrine of reason and its conclusions, are perceived to be unreal and unmeaningful.
    There is no love of truth in them, because ‘truth’ is just an abstraction to them, whereas ‘feelings’ are tangible, and therefore from their naturalistic and materialistic perspective, ‘real’.
    Like Pilot, the vast majority of Catholics, ask: What is truth? And like Pilot, don’t expect an answer or at least refuse to accept one, beyond: “It’s what feels right to me, and the Pope says …”.
    I can’t help looking at this rejection of reason and rigour and the exacerbation and manipulation of ignorance, as cynical, if not diabolical, and when one considers that God is reason itself, I cannot see how, one cannot conclude, that it is Anti-Christian.

  12. Why can’t The Church be merciful and still believe what it has always believed about the death penalty?
    Neither Francis nor his acolytes ever explain how, justice and mercy, are mutually exclusive, because it is impossible to do so, since Saint Thomas Aquinas proved, that the distinction between subject and predicate, in God, breaks down completely, which is to say, that God’s justice, is God’s mercy, there is no distinction between them or any of God’s attributes or even His person, within the divine reality, and it is therefore incoherent, as Francis did recently, to suggest, that mercy, has primacy, because it not only, ignores divine revelation, it implies, some kind of opposition or lack of perfect harmony, in God, and because The Church is established, by God, and is the sole repository of the binding precepts of the Divine Positive Law and the authoritative interpreter of the Natural Law, which cannot be in conflict, with Divine Law, since God created the Natural Law, it is simply, impossible for a Catholic, to accept this novelty.
    What lies behind this misunderstanding is incredible hubris against God and the Natural Law, because it is simply, individuals, putting their ‘feelings’ and opinions, above the fact of what The Church has always taught and the logic and authority of the entire magisterial order, because they, quite simply, refuse to accept, that there is a divine plan for the whole of creation, and that however harsh, things might sometimes appear, from certain human and ideological perspectives, God’s will, will be done, in the end, even if within our frail human limits, we cannot see how, we can come to terms, with some of God’s judgements.
    Although in the case of the death penalty, it is not difficult to see. If someone makes a good confession and receives the Last Rites, it’s almost like being baptised again, and from the perspective of the salvation of the soul, which is the entire mission of The Church, to die, in this state, is to be given every chance to die well, having been given every chance of salvation.
    Thus, opposition to the Catholic teaching on the death penalty, betrays at least, a certain level of naturalism and anthropomorphism of God, since the objection, is rooted, not in faith and trust in God, and the belief that to behold the beatific vision is the purpose of human existence, but in human moral judgement, independent of belief in God, and a primary concern for material existence in this life, if not indifference, verging on complete denial of the supernatural order and the supernatural purpose, that is of the essence of human existence.

  13. I know, this might be somewhat provocative, but I haven't noticed anyone make this point yet, apart from all the examples, in The Old and The New Testaments, in support of the death penalty, and the fact, that God has placed the entire human race under a death penalty, because of original sin, it is also a fact, that God Himself, not only, mandates the death penalty, against entire tribes in The Old Testament, He actually, has Saul deposed as king, because he didn't carry out the sentence, as instructed, presuming himself to be more merciful and to know better, than God, but for example, in the cases of Sodom and Gomorrah and the entire Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea, God carries out the sentence Himself! So, when Francis says that the death penalty, is inadmissible in principle, which is the equivalent of saying that it is intrinsically evil, because only, intrinsically evil acts are inadmissible in principle, he is accusing God of committing an intrinsically evil act. Isn't he? And since, for God, no limits of temporal circumstance, can be imposed, there is no possible get out of jail card for changed circumstances to get God off the hook, in Francis 'logic', is there?