Saturday, August 26, 2023

Fastiggi on Capital Punishment and the Change to the Catechism, Part I

In 2018, Pope Francis revised the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church dealing with the topic of capital punishment, so that it now states that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”  Flatly to assert that capital punishment is “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” might be read as implying that the death penalty is intrinsically evil, or immoral of its very nature and not just under the wrong circumstances.  Such a claim would contradict scripture and two millennia of consistent magisterial teaching.  For this reason, the revision has been criticized as at least badly formulated, even by some Catholic thinkers who support the abolition of capital punishment.  For example, after the revision was announced, an appeal was made by forty-five prominent Catholic academics and clergy to the cardinals of the Catholic Church to call upon the pope clearly to reaffirm traditional teaching on the subject.

In a four-part series of articles titled “Capital Punishment and Magisterial Authority” at the website Where Peter Is, theologian Robert Fastiggi criticizes those who have criticized the revision.  He cites the appeal, specifically, as among the criticisms that he objects to.  In this article and in a follow-up to come, I respond to Fastiggi’s arguments.  I apologize for the length, but Fastiggi’s series is itself quite long and addresses a variety of complex issues.  In this first part, I address what Fastiggi has to say about the obligations of theologians and Catholics in general vis-à-vis the teaching of the Magisterium.  In the follow-up, I will address what he says about scripture and the teaching of previous popes. 

I want to say at the outset that while I think Fastiggi makes serious errors of judgment, I have nothing but respect for him as a scholar, a gentleman, and a loyal Catholic.  In my experience, too many defenders of the revision refuse to address or even to bother reading what I and other critics have written on the topic, but prefer to attack straw men and attribute bad motives.  Fastiggi is not guilty of that.  Too many defenders of the revision are also woefully ignorant of the history of the Church’s teaching on capital punishment and of the relevant theological literature.  Fastiggi, by contrast, knows it well, even if I disagree with his interpretations of the relevant evidence.  I also admire Fastiggi’s loyalty to the pope, even though I think it blinds him to grave deficiencies in some of Pope Francis’s words and actions.  For I think this loyalty is clearly motivated by love of the Church and the papacy.  I do not see in it any of the self-righteousness and lack of charity and basic fairness that is evident in the work of too many of Pope Francis’s other defenders.  Finally, Fastiggi is a good sport.  He and I have tangled over this issue many times, and occasionally our exchanges have been somewhat heated.  But he has always shown an admirable even temper.

On to Fastiggi’s series, then.  In part I, he writes: “Who has the authority to resolve the dispute?  The answer, of course, is the Magisterium, which consists of the Catholic bishops in communion with the successor of Peter.”  And again: “Who has the authority to determine the context, meaning, and ongoing applicability of Scripture?  It is the Magisterium of the Church not a group of scholars and clerics.”

So far so good.  I know of no participant in the debate over the change to the Catechism who denies any of this.  Furthermore, I know of no participant who denies that “religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra,” in the words of Lumen Gentium.

The reason it is nevertheless legitimate for Catholics to debate the revision to the Catechism is that the Church herself acknowledges a qualification on the duty to assent to non-infallible magisterial statements, and it is a qualification that clearly applies in this case.  The qualification is recognized in the instruction Donum Veritatis issued during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, and it has also been affirmed repeatedly in the tradition of the Church, including in the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas.  Indeed, Pope Francis himself has acknowledged the legitimacy of certain kinds of critical discussion of magisterial statements.  I have discussed Aquinas’s teaching on this matter at length in an earlier article, and the teaching of Donum Veritatis and the rest of the tradition in another.  I have discussed Pope Francis’s statements in yet another. 

The teaching of St. Thomas

I can’t repeat here everything said in those earlier articles, but a few key points will suffice for present purposes.  Let’s begin with Aquinas’s teaching on the matter, the most important sources for which are the Summa Theologiae and his Commentary on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.  In Summa Theologiae II-II.33.4, Aquinas says:

It must be observed… that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly.   Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, “Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.”

Commenting on this passage, Fastiggi says:

This passage of Aquinas is widely used by papal critics to justify any resistance to the Pope, his teachings, and decisions.  They forget that Paul’s correction of Peter had to do with Peter’s behavior not his teaching.  In addition… this particular question of the Summa concerns fraternal correction in general.  It is not focused on the correction of popes.

However, it is not difficult to show that these assertions are mistaken.  First of all, Aquinas clearly takes Paul’s rebuke of Peter to involve precisely his teaching, and not merely his behavior.  He characterizes the episode of Paul’s rebuke of Peter as a case where “the faith [was] endangered,” and says that Peter brought “danger of scandal concerning faith.”  In Chapter 2, Lecture 3 of the Galatians commentary, he says that what Peter had done posed “danger to the Gospel teaching,” and that Peter and those who followed his example “walked not uprightly unto the truth of the Gospel, because its truth was being undone” (emphasis added).  Peter failed to do his duty insofar as “the truth must be preached openly and the opposite never condoned through fear of scandalizing others” (emphasis added).  Clearly, then, in Aquinas’s view the problem was not merely that Peter acted badly, but that he seemed to condone doctrinal error and risked leading others to do the same.

Second, Aquinas is explicitly not commenting merely on fraternal correction in general.  The Summa article is about the correction of prelates, specifically.  Not only are popes prelates, but Aquinas uses the example of a pope (Peter) to illustrate the legitimacy in some circumstances of correcting prelates.  Aquinas says that the episode of Paul’s correction of Peter “gave an example to superiors… that they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.”  He is not making a general point about the faithful correcting one another, but a specific point about the correction of superiors by their subjects.  In the Galatians commentary, Aquinas says of Paul’s rebuke of Peter:

Therefore from the foregoing we have an example: prelates, indeed, an example of humility, that they not disdain corrections from those who are lower and subject to them; subjects have an example of zeal and freedom, that they fear not to correct their prelates, particularly if their crime is public and verges upon danger to the multitude.

Contrary to what Fastiggi says, then, Aquinas clearly is teaching about the correction of prelates, including popes, rather than fraternal correction in general, and he is talking about correction with respect to their teaching, and not merely with respect to their behavior.  (There is a lot more to say about these passages from Aquinas.  Again, see the article linked to above for a fuller treatment.)

Now, those who issued the appeal to the cardinals criticized the revision to the Catechism precisely because it is formulated in such a way that it might be read as conflicting with scripture and tradition.  In other words, they believe that “the faith [is] endangered,” that there is “imminent danger of scandal concerning faith.”  Accordingly, they are simply calling on the pope to reaffirm the teaching of scripture and tradition, just as Paul urged Peter to reaffirm the teaching that had been handed on to him. 

Clearly, then, the appeal is perfectly in line with Aquinas’s teaching about the possibility of subjects correcting prelates.  Of course, Fastiggi would no doubt disagree with the judgement that the revision poses “imminent danger of scandal concerning faith.”  But that is a different question.  If he wants to defend the revision, fine, but he should not speak as if the critics have no right to issue such an appeal.  Rather, he should acknowledge that they do have such a right, and simply argue that in this case they were mistaken to think the right needed to be exercised.

At least, he should acknowledge this given that Aquinas’s position is correct.  But Fastiggi makes another remark that indicates that he thinks it is not correct.  He says:

What Aquinas says in this passage is offset by Pope Gregory XI’s 1377 censure of various errors of John Wycliffe.  Among these censured errors, number 19 reads: An ecclesiastic, even the Roman Pontiff, can legitimately be corrected, and even accused, by subjects and lay persons. (Denz.-H, 1139).

But there are several problems with the assumption that this undermines Aquinas’s teaching.  First, as Aquinas himself emphasizes, “corrected” and related terms are ambiguous.  They could be referring to correction of a juridical sort, which involves having the authority to direct another to do something and to punish him for disobedience.  As Aquinas acknowledges, no one can “correct” a pope in that sense.  But “correction” could mean instead the mere pointing out of an error, which Aquinas says amounts to a kind of fraternal assistance rather than the exercise of authority.  For Pope Gregory’s condemnation to conflict with Aquinas’s teaching, he would have to have correction of the second sort in mind, not just the first.  But Fastiggi gives us no reason to suppose that he does.  Moreover, the other condemned propositions from Wycliffe involve juridical power of some sort or another.  Context indicates, then, that Gregory is only condemning the thesis that subjects may juridically correct a pope, not the thesis that they may give fraternal correction of the kind Aquinas defends.

Second, if Gregory were condemning the latter sort of correction, he would not only be at odds with Aquinas.  He would be at odds with St. Paul, and indeed with scripture, which teach that Paul was within his rights to correct Peter, despite being his subject.

Third, as Fastiggi is well aware, blanket condemnations of large sets of propositions like the ones from Wycliffe need to be interpreted carefully.  The condemnation does not necessarily imply that each proposition in the set is problematic in exactly the same way.  In a single condemned set, one proposition may be heretical, another not strictly heretical but proximate to heresy, yet another simply badly formulated or otherwise misleading, and so on.  So, the fact that the proposition from Wycliffe referred to by Fastiggi appears in the list condemned by Pope Gregory does not suffice to show that Gregory intended to condemn the position taught by Aquinas.  Indeed, to my knowledge, no one before Fastiggi has even suggested that Gregory was condemning the position taken by Aquinas.

Fourth, if Gregory were intending to condemn that position, he would be contradicting the teaching of another pope, namely Pope Innocent III, who held that “only on account of a sin committed against the faith can I be judged by the church” (quoted in J. Michael Miller, The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development, and Mission of the Papacy, at p. 292).  Since the rest of the Church is subject to the pope, this would be a case of a pope being “corrected… by subjects,” to use the language condemned by Gregory.  If we read Pope Gregory as condemning even fraternal correction of a pope, then, we will have a conflict between two popes.  That is further reason not to read him that way.

The teaching of Donum Veritatis

A fifth point is that Donum Veritatis acknowledges that respectful criticism of magisterial statements can be legitimate, which it could not have done if Pope Gregory had been condemning all such criticism.  So, let’s turn to that document.  Here are the relevant passages:

The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the Magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule.  It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions…

When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies.  Bishops and their advisors have not always taken into immediate consideration every aspect or the entire complexity of a question…

Even when collaboration takes place under the best conditions, the possibility cannot be excluded that tensions may arise between the theologian and the Magisterium…  If tensions do not spring from hostile and contrary feelings, they can become a dynamic factor, a stimulus to both the Magisterium and theologians to fulfill their respective roles while practicing dialogue…

The preceding considerations have a particular application to the case of the theologian who might have serious difficulties, for reasons which appear to him wellfounded, in accepting a non-irreformable magisterial teaching…

If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian's part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented.  He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties.  His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments…

For a loyal spirit, animated by love for the Church, such a situation can certainly prove a difficult trial.  It can be a call to suffer for the truth, in silence and prayer, but with the certainty, that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail…

[T]hat public opposition to the Magisterium of the Church also called “dissent”… must be distinguished from the situation of personal difficulties treated above.

Note the following crucial points.  First, Donum Veritatis acknowledges that while there is a strong presumption of assent even to non-irreformable magisterial statements, nevertheless it can in some cases be legitimate to “raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents” of such statements, since they “might not be free from all deficiencies.”  These deficiencies might concern “the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented.”  It can be that “the truth really is at stake.”  All of this makes it clear that it is not merely the behavior of magisterial authorities or the manner of their teaching that can in some cases legitimately be criticized, but the teaching itself.

Second, Donum Veritatis acknowledges that even in the best circumstances, such legitimate criticism may lead to “tensions” with the Magisterium, but that this is not necessarily a bad thing.  The critic even “has the duty” to raise such objections, which “could… contribute to real progress” insofar as they serve as a “stimulus” to the Magisterium to present its teaching in a more adequate way.  And it can even be that in such a situation, it is the critic who undergoes “a difficult trial” and thereby “suffer[s] for the truth.”  Donum Veritatis thus makes it clear that it can happen that when a critic finds himself in some sort of conflict with magisterial authorities, that does not necessarily mean that he is the one who is in the wrong.

Third, Donum Veritatis explicitly states that what the critic in this sort of situation is engaged in “must be distinguished” from “dissent” from the Magisterium.  It is possible, then, respectfully to criticize magisterial acts without thereby meriting the label “dissenter.”  How can this be?  Wouldn’t anyone who disagrees in some way with a magisterial statement ipso facto be “dissenting” from it and thereby count as a “dissenter”?

The answer is No, because “dissent” in this context does not connote mere disagreement, but has a narrower, technical meaning.  Donum Veritatis goes on to identify several marks of “dissent.”  It involves “attitudes of general opposition to Church teaching,” motivated by “the ideology of philosophical liberalism, which permeates the thinking of our age.”  For the dissenter, “freedom of thought comes to oppose the authority of tradition.”  The dissenter “aims at changing the Church following a model of protest which takes its inspiration from political society.”  In defense of his rejection of traditional teaching, he appeals to “the obligation to follow one's own conscience,” the “weight of public opinion,” “models of society promoted by the ‘mass media,’” and the like.  These sources of opinion lead the dissenter to conclude, for example, that “the Magisterium… ought to leave matters of conjugal and family morality to individual judgment.”  And so on.  Obviously, then, “dissent” involves, specifically, rejection of traditional Catholic doctrine, of the kind associated with liberalism and modernism and represented by theologians like Hans Küng and Charles Curran.

Donum Veritatis does not say more about the precise nature of the legitimate sort of criticism that it distinguishes from “dissent.”  But it is clear that if “dissent” involves the rejection of traditional teaching, then a critic who upholds traditional teaching, and does so in the respectful manner demanded by Donum Veritatis, cannot justly be accused of “dissent.”  In particular, those who have respectfully criticized the revision to the Catechism for giving the appearance of a rupture with tradition cannot justly be accused of “dissent.”  That does not entail that Fastiggi cannot justifiably disagree with them.  The point is just that, whatever one thinks of their position, it is not comparable to criticism of the Magisterium of the kind associated with the likes of Küng and Curran.

Sometimes it is claimed that Donum Veritatis does not allow the public expression of even legitimate criticism, on the basis of its remark – typically quoted out of context – that “the theologian should avoid turning to the ‘mass media’, but have recourse to the responsible authority.”  But Donum Veritatis does not rule out public expression of such criticism, as is clear from several considerations.  First, we need to consider the complete sentence from which this remark is quoted:

In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the ‘mass media’, but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth. (Emphasis added). 

Relevant too is Donum Veritatis’s other reference to mass media, in a passage characterizing the tactics of liberal dissenting theologians:

The weight of public opinion when manipulated and its pressure to conform also have their influence.  Often models of society promoted by the "mass media" tend to assume a normative value.  The view is particularly promoted that the Church should only express her judgment on those issues which public opinion considers important and then only by way of agreeing with it.

With this context in mind, it is clear that what Donum Veritatis is criticizing is not the mere publication of criticism in journals, magazines, or other mass media as such.  Rather, it is criticizing the tactic of using mass media to stir up public opinion against the Magisterium, as a means of trying to force the Church to conform to the values that prevail in such media.

Second, Donum Veritatis also says that the theologian who raises legitimate criticisms is obligated to “examine the objections which his colleagues might offer him.”  But the normal way in which such debate is conducted is in theological journals and the like, which entails publicizing one’s criticisms.  Donum Veritatis also states that “the theologian will refrain from giving untimely public expression” of his criticisms.  So it is only untimely or inappropriate public expression that is ruled out, not all public expression as such.

Third, after Donum Veritatis was issued, Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explicitly affirmed, when commenting on a hypothetical theologian who raises legitimate criticisms, that “we have not excluded all kinds of publication, nor have we closed him up in suffering” (quoted in Anthony J. Figueiredo, The Magisterium-Theology Relationship, at p. 370).

Now, in part 4 of his series, Fastiggi addresses the relevance of Donum Veritatis to the controversy over the revision to the Catechism.  He does not accuse the critics of being “dissenters.”  Nevertheless, he does claim that those who issued the appeal to the cardinals did not satisfy the norms of Donum Veritatis.  In particular, he objects that they “do not simply raise questions… [but] manifest a spirit of opposition to a papal teaching,” that they are “so cock-sure of their position” that they “present as a non-arguable conclusion that their opinion of the Church’s teaching on capital punishment is definitive and infallible,” and so on. 

One problem with such remarks is that they are aimed at a straw man.  No critics of the revision to the Catechism hold that “their opinion of the Church’s teaching on capital punishment is definitive and infallible.”  Rather, they claim that the consistent teaching of scripture and two millennia of tradition is definitive and infallible.  Fastiggi may disagree with his opponents about what scripture and tradition teach, but he should characterize their position accurately.  Another problem with Fastiggi’s remarks here is that they rest on a misreading of a further passage from Donum Veritatis.  Addressing the manner in which respectful criticism of a magisterial statement should proceed, the passage in question says:

In the dialogue, a two-fold rule should prevail.  When there is a question of the communion of faith, the principle of the “unity of truth” (unitas veritatis) applies.  When it is a question of differences which do not jeopardize this communion, the “unity of charity” (unitas caritatis) should be safeguarded.

Even if the doctrine of the faith is not in question, the theologian will not present his own opinions or divergent hypotheses as though they were non-arguable conclusions.  Respect for the truth as well as for the People of God requires this discretion.

Now, Fastiggi seems to think that the second paragraph here entails that when a theologian raises even a legitimate criticism, everything he says must be presented in a tentative way.  But that is not what the passage says.  What it says is that even if a theologian is not dissenting from a doctrine of the faith, that doesn’t license him in treating what are really just matters of mere opinion or hypothesis as non-arguable conclusions.  But it doesn’t follow that he cannot treat anything as a non-arguable conclusion.  For example, the theologian is perfectly within his rights to treat the consistent teaching of scripture and of the ordinary Magisterium over two thousand years as a “non-arguable conclusion,” because the Magisterium itself holds that teaching of that sort is infallible.  (I have discussed the conditions under which the ordinary Magisterium is infallible in another article.)

Of course, Fastiggi may disagree with the claim that scripture and the ordinary Magisterium really do teach that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil.  The point for the moment, though, is that Fastiggi is mistaken in thinking that a lack of tentativeness is per se problematic.

Moreover, there are several historical cases where popes were legitimately criticized, and their critics rightly presented their criticisms in a non-tentative way.  Paul’s criticism of Peter was in no way tentative, but in fact extremely bold, and scripture tells us that Paul was in the right.  Pope Honorius’s critics were not tentative in criticizing him for giving aid and comfort to the Monothelite heresy, and Pope John XXII’s critics were not tentative in criticizing him for failing to uphold traditional teaching on the particular judgement.

Now, in part 3 of his series, Fastiggi addresses these sorts of examples, and says:

Some critics of the revised teaching of the Church on the death penalty claim that they can oppose the teaching because popes have taught errors in the past, and they usually bring up cases such as Pope Honorius I (r. 625 - 638) and John XXII (r. 1316 - 1334).  What these critics don’t understand is that it was the Magisterium itself that resolved the doctrinal issues involved in these cases not the critics.  It is certainly permitted for scholars to raise questions about non-definitive papal teachings and to ask for clarifications.  It is not permitted, though, for private scholars to assume the authority to correct the popes.  

But the historical claims Fastiggi makes here are mistaken or at least misleading.  Honorius was condemned by a council (three councils, in fact), and councils are subordinate to popes.  It is true that popes then confirmed these councils, but the point is that the first of these councils condemned Honorius before papal approval was given, and was not accused of insubordination or the like for doing so.  (I have discussed the case of Honorius in detail here and here.)  John XXII was criticized by the theologians of his day, and while the Magisterium did settle the issue (beginning with John XXII himself, who recanted) it was prodded to do so precisely because these critics pressed the issue. 

Fastiggi adds the remark that “if dissent from authoritative magisterial teachings can be justified because of alleged errors of prior popes, then any magisterial teaching can be rejected.”  But that does not follow at all.  The reason these popes were criticized was only because they failed to affirm traditional teaching, and that is the only reason Pope Francis’s revision to the Catechism has been criticized.  The theological principles that justify such criticism would by no means entail that just “any magisterial teaching can be rejected.”  Rather, they would only justify criticisms of failures to uphold traditional teaching.

The problem with Fastiggi’s position is that he treats all criticisms of magisterial statements as if they were of a piece, when they clearly are not.  He fails to take account of the teleology of the Magisterium, the reason it exists in the first place, which is to preserve the deposit of faith, not to give popes and other churchmen carte blanche to teach whatever they feel like.  And this is something that the Church herself has constantly emphasized.  For example, the First Vatican Council teaches:

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

Similarly, the Second Vatican Council teaches:

[T]he living teaching office of the Church… is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully.

And Pope Benedict XVI taught:

The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law.  On the contrary: the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word.  He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.

The development of Catholic doctrine is thus like a ratchet, which only goes one way.  The body of teaching found in scripture, solemn conciliar definitions, ex cathedra papal statements, and the ordinary Magisterium when it meets the conditions for infallibility, is locked in place forever.  New implications can be drawn out of it (which is what “development” in the proper sense involves), but it cannot be contradicted or reversed (which would not be a true development at all, but rather a corruption of doctrine or failure to preserve the deposit of faith).

Now, it is precisely in order to assist the Magisterium in its function of preserving the deposit of faith that the teaching of Aquinas, of Donum Veritatis, and of the tradition more generally allow that there can be cases in which respectful criticism of magisterial statements is justifiable.  Like the Magisterium, such criticism has precisely the function of maintaining fidelity to tradition, not of allowing the critics to say whatever they like.  In short, and to oversimply, the teaching of Aquinas and of Donum Veritatis can never be used to justify “progressive” criticism of magisterial statements, but only certain kinds of “traditionalist” criticism.  That is not to say that just anything of the latter sort goes.  The point is that the principles underlying the teaching of Aquinas and of Donum Veritatis are not neutral between the different sorts of criticism theologians might want to raise.  They favor those who want to preserve past teaching, and disfavor those who want to depart from it.  Hence, again, Fastiggi is just mistaken to suggest that if you allow any criticism of magisterial statements, then everything is up for grabs.

The teaching of Pope Francis

Let’s turn finally to a statement from Pope Francis that is relevant to the issue at hand.  As I’ve noted, he has on several occasions said that he welcomes respectful criticism.  One of his statements is especially important in this context.  In the exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, the pope writes:

In the Church there legitimately coexist different ways of interpreting many aspects of doctrine and Christian life; in their variety, they “help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word”.  It is true that “for those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion”.  Indeed, some currents of gnosticism scorned the concrete simplicity of the Gospel and attempted to replace the trinitarian and incarnate God with a superior Unity, wherein the rich diversity of our history disappeared.  In effect, doctrine, or better, our understanding and expression of it, “is not a closed system, devoid of the dynamic capacity to pose questions, doubts, inquiries…”

Now, those who have criticized the revision to the Catechism are doing exactly what Pope Francis here acknowledges to be legitimate.  They are raising “questions, doubts, inquiries” about the formulation of the revision, on the grounds that it “leav[es] no room for nuance” and ignores “the rich diversity of our history” and “the immense riches of God’s word.”  In particular, the revision focuses only on statements from the tradition that seem unfavorable towards capital punishment while entirely ignoring the mountain of statements from scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and previous popes that are clearly favorable to it.  The revision also entirely ignores the empirical considerations favoring the judgment that there are at least some cases where public safety would best be served by keeping the death penalty on the books.  The revision thereby gives the impression that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong, and that social scientists are in agreement that it is never needed in order to save lives – neither of which is true. 

The critics of the revision to the Catechism thereby respectfully call upon the Magisterium to remedy these deficiencies.  And they argue that reading the revision as a deficiently formulated prudential judgment rather than as a change in doctrinal principle ought to be among the “legitimately coexist[ing] different ways of interpreting” it (to use Pope Francis’s words). 

If Pope Francis’s words in Gaudete et Exsultate apply to centuries of established Catholic teaching, it is hard to see how they can fail to apply also to a novel revision that is only five years old.  Accordingly, those who accuse critics of the revision of “dissent” are not only at odds with the teaching of Aquinas and of Donum Veritatis.  They are at odds with the teaching of Pope Francis himself.

In the follow-up to this article, I will address Fastiggi’s remarks about scripture and previous papal teaching on the subject of capital punishment.


  1. Fastiggi is also too quick, I think, to jump to considering questions of dissent, which is an entirely second-order issue here; much of the problem in this matter is simply confusion, and it's simply absurd to talk about magisterial authority, which is by definition authority in teaching, as if it operated in a void rather than being precisely for enlightening learners. And if some of the students are finding it difficult to reconcile the teacher's current claims with previous claims, or if the teacher seems to the students to be giving mixed messages, or if the claims the teacher is making seem to the students to be taking a sharp and inadequately explained turn, we still have all the same problem without even having reached the point of dissent, respectful or otherwise. And it is equally pointless, and entirely irresponsible, to scold students for being confused about something that seems relatively new -- obviously, it should have been expected that a lot of people would be confused, and theologians like Fastiggi should obviously have anticipated that there would need to be a much wider attempt to explain matters. The fact that they instead spend so much time trying to scold 'dissenters' makes it look suspiciously like they don't actually have any more of an idea how to give contextual and historical sense to the CCC revision and Pope Francis's comments than the people they are scolding do. So much time wasted on finger-wagging that could instead be devoted to just explaining it -- if they actually were able to explain it, which they don't seem to be.

  2. WCB

    For a long time, slavery was considered aceptable in the RCC. Even commanded as a religious duty. See the Papal bulls Dum Diversas and Romanus Pontifex where slavery was commanded by Pope Nicholas V. And later the RCC abandoned slavery. Sometimes, there is change. Even for the RCC.

    Capital punishment might like slavery, now is becoming to be seen as barbaric and undesirable.

    I am not aware of any verses in the New Testament where Jesus approved of capital punishment, much less commanded it. With the sole possibity of the parable of The Great Feast. An evil parable that lead to much bloodshed and suffering after Augustine used this to excuse forcing heretics into the orthodox church.


    1. There are plenty of places in which Jesus gave direct approval to the Scriptures (i.e. what is now called the Old Testament), which states that God directed Israelites to use the DP. There is nowhere in the New Testament where Jesus tells his disciples that the DP is immoral, nor where he tells them to never use the DP, i.e. nowhere in which he corrects the Old Testament's explicit approval of the DP.

  3. Dr. Fastiggi is an admirable scholar. He has, however, hit upon defense of the truth in a poor manner, by rejecting the very idea that Francis's formulation in revising the CCC was badly done.

    A critical element that Dr. Fastiggi needs to reflect upon is that because non-infallible teaching by one of the Church's prelates is not infallible, it is not held without reservation. This means that it is held WITH RESERVATION. That's what it means. But reservation comes in an infinitude of variation in kind and degree. And a person, rightly giving the teaching its due attention and deference, who nevertheless discovers one motive of reservation after another after another, especially some derived from existing Church teaching, will necessarily hold the teaching with MUCH reservation. That's just what it means to properly listen to the prelate's teaching with deference to the entirety of the Church's teaching. He will not cease to have a reservation in his assent until (a) he expresses the nature of his reservations, and (b) the prelate (or the Church) addresses the reservations, the new teaching, and how to resolve the problems posed. It cannot, then, be "disrespectful" to make his reservations long as he does not do so in the mode of saying "but you are wrong because...".

    Pope Francis knowingly chose not to call the DP "intrinsically evil", electing instead to call it "inadmissible". Arguably he did so at least in part because he did not believe that he had the wherewithal to make 'intrinsically evil' stick, given the traditional teaching. It would be hard, indeed, to think it is provable that "what Francis really meant was" that DP is intrinsically evil, given that he clearly elected to avoid that formulation.

    In a period of 5 years, Pope JPII gave 3 different formulations by which he attempted to corral DP. 20 years later, Francis gave a 4th. It is not remotely plausible that the Church has now, confidently, located exactly the right phrasing to which we should give our settled assent with no cavils or doubts. Rather, we should recognize in this what is, effectively, prelates pushing their theological opinions, in teaching format, and because these prelates are popes, we give them our very close attention, and a presumption of correctness except where cause for reservation, especially from the traditional teaching, causes us to pause in doubt.

    If Francis doesn't find those pauses in doubt pleasant or comfortable, he has only to CLARIFY THE ISSUES by reconciling his teaching with the traditional one. It is, in fact, in his job description. If Francis is fine with these pauses in doubt, then Fastiggi should not be upset by them on behalf of the pope.

  4. OP,
    "Such a claim would contradict scripture"
    Which interpretation of scripture, by whom, and by which interpretive authority?

    Scripture is a bit like the US constitution. One can show support for almost any particular position by quoting this or that phrase or passage.

    What happens when passages come into conflict with each other? Who decides which principles expressed by which words take precedence when considering the text in totality?

    Maybe Francis decided loving your enemy is more important. Killing your enemy seems to be an odd way of loving him as you love yourself.
    Further, it seems Francis considers his own interpretive scholarship, judgement, and authority to be superior to yours.

    "and two millennia of consistent magisterial teaching."
    Better late than never.

    Apparently Francis thinks folks have been wrong for two millennia. Wouldn't be the first time.

    That is one advantage the Catholic church has over, say, Islam or so-called bible based religions. Those other religions don't have a pope with the asserted authority to declare portions of text as allegorical or abrogated or of lesser importance.

    So, in other religions folks are anchored to ancient texts as if the whole thing is literally true. That leads to nonsense about salt water not mixing with fresh water, a 6000 year old Earth, and a literal global flood near extinction event some 4000 years ago.

    The Catholic church has the advantage of having a pope who can re-reinterpret scripture and change course from ancient and long repeated errors. Isn't that a good thing?

    1. That leads to nonsense about salt water not mixing with fresh water, a 6000 year old Earth, and a literal global flood near extinction event some 4000 years ago.

      You revealed your ignorance of science. Fresh water that flows into the ocean doesn't mix with salt water. The word is called "halocline". Look it up.

    2. "Isn't that a good thing?"

      A very smart commenter a few threads back made a convincing argument that "good" and "bad" are nothing more than expressions of our individual subjective preferences. In the interest of clarity, I recommend you take that person's wisdom into account with your language here because it could be confusing to those less philosophically sophisticated.

      I recommend avoiding language like "Isn't that a good thing?" And instead state your meaning more clearly by saying something like "that makes me feel good, doesn't it make you feel good?"

    3. Yesss...except, not. Francis explained that his new teaching was NOT meant to contradict the old teaching. So, you would have to be interpreting him exactly against his expressed intention in order to get that out of his revision.

    4. HolyKnowledge

      Of course fresh water mixes with salt water, but if you dump a lot the two together quickly and do not stir , the denser saline water will obviously sink and it will take time for the system to become homogeneous. But the two are clearly miscible.

    5. "A very smart commenter a few threads back made a convincing argument that "good" and "bad" are nothing more than expressions of our individual subjective preferences."

      Oh yeah? What was his "argument" exactly?

      "In the interest of clarity ..."

      Since you are so taken by the argument yourself, and so generously concerned that others should benefit from it also, no doubt you can, and you will, lay it out clearly in all of its logically indubitable force.

      In the interest of clarity, of course.

    6. @Anonymous

      There are many stable large bodies of water on Planet Earth where the fresh water rests on top of the salty undercurrent and never mixes. San Francisco Bay in California and James Bay in Canada are two such examples. Yes, in physical chemistry fresh water and salt water are perfectly visible just like fresh water and ethanol, but in nature, second-order effects happen that prevent mixing.

    7. HK,
      "Fresh water that flows into the ocean doesn't mix with salt water."
      Case in point.

      Change can be good. That which is believed by most for millennia is often wrong.

      Say there, HK, where do you suppose the fresh water goes? Say, at the mouth of the Mississippi, for example? Is there an ever increasing volume of fresh water in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana? Do you suppose the fresh water entering the ocean just stays fresh?

      So, if fresh water does not mix with salt water that means that the fresh water entering the ocean from all the rivers that empty into the ocean always stays fresh, and is ever expanding as the rivers drain into the ocean year after year.

      Here is a bit of science news for you HK, a halocline is where fresh water mixes with salt water.

      Folks like you are just who Francis is apparently trying to reach, those who are stuck on the ancient falsehoods. Time to stop looking backwards to ancient nonsense like Francis says.

    8. Anon,
      "A very smart commenter a few threads back made a convincing argument that "good" and "bad" are nothing more than expressions of our individual subjective preferences."
      Ooo, that must have been a wise individual indeed!!!

      "I recommend avoiding language like "Isn't that a good thing?" And instead state your meaning more clearly by saying something like "that makes me feel good, doesn't it make you feel good?""
      No need, because that is what a good thing always is, good as a matter of personal subjective judgement.

      No need to clutter up the writing every instance with long reminders of that obvious fact.

    9. "Francis explained that his new teaching was NOT meant to contradict the old teaching."
      So, which is it?

      Dr. Feser claims "Such a claim would contradict scripture and two millennia of consistent magisterial teaching."

      But it is the same teaching also? Makes no sense.

    10. @StardustyPsyche

      Here is a bit of science news for you HK, a halocline is where fresh water mixes with salt water.

      Now you have advanced from trolling to lying in the gravity of your wickedness.

      "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." (Exodus 20:16 Douay-Rheims)

      A halocline, by definition, is a place where there exists a salt gradient. Gradient implies "no mixing". So a halocline, by definition, is a place where there is no mixing of salt and fresh water. You have disobeyed the law of non-contradiction.

      As stated in the above comment, James Bay and San Francisco Bay are examples of natural haloclines, created by their Creator after the Flood. Haloclines are examples of the glory of the Creator, Who is the origin of all creative genii, leaving those like you completely without excuse.

      "For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable. Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of fourfooted beasts, and of creeping things." (Romans 1:20-23 Douay-Rheims)

    11. ... what a good thing always is, good as a matter of personal subjective judgement."

      Well, I guess that clears up the question as to whether anyone is objectively obligated to care if annoying people spend eternity in Hell because it is a bad experience. Maybe it is not bad for them. Maybe, even if it is unpleasant for them, it is good for everyone else. And maybe talk of empathy becomes irrelevant in not only that case, but most others too.

      And to think that humans have been troubling themselves all of these years trying to draw up behavioral guidelines based on natural and essentially like-kind
      generated moral categories that do not exist, and upon moral - and even physical - goods that turn out to be completely subjective.

      Real people then, insofar as we imagine they are real, and in accord with this line of thinking, are in an important respect somewhat like the unreal angels of Christian doctrine: sui generis. But unlike the imagined angels, the minds of men cannot grasp any good apart from the urges which subjectively well up within. At least ex hypothesi.

      Glad that is cleared up. At least as pertains to the fate and destiny of those who this formulation self-professedly describes.

      However, the principle of intersubjective nescience which informs the stance of its advocates, must necessarily leave them blind to the possibility that other primates, though essentially unlike them, may nonetheless be alike to one another in important behavioral or metaphysical sensibilities or respects.

      So although one may not be able to say that the human species is all of one moral kind with regard to the good and the bad, one would not be able to further stipulate that within the human species there is not located an objective moral kind possessing shared attributes which the subjectivists are per the subjectivists' own stipulation incapable of perceiving or sharing. Perhaps like the color blind male, they cannot see what they cannot see. Or unlike tetrachromic females, they simply lack the capacity or power to even apprehend.

      Who can then say how many moral species might reside within the concept which some were in the habit of denominating as "humanity".

      If you start off with that assumption, that is.

    12. So, which is it?

      Who can tell?

      1. A small army of commentators opine that the new 2267 contradicts prior teaching, and argue that he was attempting to reverse something that was already taught irreformably.

      2.A smaller army, defending Francis, argues that it doesn't, it is consistent with the prior teaching, but is a refinement of it.

      3. A different small group, defending Francis, argues that the prior teaching wasn't taught as irreversibly set in stone, and that Francis was fine to reverse the old teaching, because it was in error.

      A tiny handful of Francis defenders claim both the second and the third positions. So: you tell me, are the two groups of defenders of Francis consistent with each other, or are they working at cross purposes?

      But it is the same teaching also? Makes no sense.

      That's dear old Papa Francis for you. His favorite saying is "make a mess". He's so good at it!

    13. HK,
      "A halocline, by definition, is a place where there exists a salt gradient. Gradient implies "no mixing".
      Only in a simplistic, superficial, unscientific analysis.

      One advantage of the Catholic church is that, in general, over time, the Catholics do eventually move in the direction of science.

      Did you know that the Vatican astronomer is (or was) an American with a PhD in the field who generally accepts the prevailing scientific astronomical understandings?

      That is what Francis is trying to tell you, in part, don't get stuck on all those old ways, be more future focused, not ideological or reactionary.

      Focus on the messages of love. Don't seek justifications to execute your enemies by quoting past pontiffs.

      "is a place where there is no mixing of salt and fresh water. "
      Gradient does not mean no mixing. There is always mixing but conditions lead to a continual refreshing of the gradient on average as the waters mix. That is how it works.

      "As stated in the above comment, James Bay and San Francisco Bay are examples of natural haloclines, "
      All of the fresh water from the rivers surrounding San Francisco Bay mixes with salt water in the Pacific Ocean.

      If that were not the case then San Francisco Bay would be fresh water, but it isn't. That is why there are salt evaporator ponds in the South Bay, near San Jose.

      "created by their Creator after the Flood. Haloclines are examples of the glory of the Creator, "
      See, with Francis you don't have to believe that sort of nonsense anymore.

      It's OK, HK, let it go, listen to Francis, don't be an ideolog stuck in the past.

      Appreciate your own ability to reason. Much of the Bible is allegorical. The Bishop of Rome does not require you to take the ancient nonsense literally.

      Fresh water snows in the mountains, melts, flows downstream into the bay, then moves out into the salt water where all the fresh water mixes with the salt water. Pretty simple.

      You don't have to keep your mind stuck in the past, Francis says.

    14. DNW,
      "Well, I guess that clears up the question as to whether anyone is objectively obligated to care if annoying people spend eternity in Hell because it is a bad experience."
      Indeed, torturing people for eternity seems like an act of supreme evil, making god far worse morally than all the horrors of Stalin, Hitler, and all the rest combined.

      I strongly condemn the lot, based on my subjective judgement of good and evil.

      "moral - and even physical - goods that turn out to be completely subjective"
      Yup, that's it. In such a world one would expect people who disagree, selfish people, thieves, killers, torturers.

      Oh, oops, wait, that is what we find in this world. Hmmm...

      "other primates, though essentially unlike them, may nonetheless be alike to one another in important behavioral or metaphysical sensibilities or respects."
      Yet, other primates are mostly like each other, also in some ways not like each other. Seems like that would lead to a lot of unresolved arguments and debates about right and wrong.

      Oh, ooops, there I go again, describing the real world.

      "Who can then say how many moral species might reside within the concept which some were in the habit of denominating as "humanity"."
      Oh, another easy one, that number is bounded by the total number of human beings that have ever lived, a finite number.

      "If you start off with that assumption, that is."
      Oh, another easy one.
      Not a mere assumption, rather, a logical necessity.

      Objective morality is logically ruled out from any source, god, a morality field, or anything else.

      Everybody simply does what they want, the aggregate of personal wants. That is the only thing you, I, or anybody else ever can do.

      That is how we live our lives, then we die.

    15. "Oh, ooops, there I go again, describing the real world"

      There you go again; but it is not in describing the real world.

      On your own theory: you are rather, spewing radically subjective hallucinations registered and emitted in the manner of an effect rather than as an agent. Akin to, as I mentioned before, the sound of wind whistling through the louvers.

      The noise made by "you", is a mere mechanical effect. There's not really anyone there.

      Now, that said, I am generously willing to grant insofar as we are refering only to you, some measure of those implications. Generously willing to shrug at your illusory common humanity, to grant that when you register "pain" it is nothing real to me, to concede that when evil befalls you it is not objectively evil but just something that is. And, objectively speaking, a matter of moral indifference, as well as practical in all probability, to others.

      After all, I don't bother to dictate to ants what they are in moral terms. They are other, and I leave it at that.

      But what you don't get to logically do, is to simultaneously claim that each individual knows only its own moral impulses and conditioning situation, and then to pronounce on the metaphysical status of others.

      Again, as a matter of principle you can know no more about the moral nature of others, than a color blind man might know of color.

      Strange how you continually use categorical language in order to issue metaphysical pronouncements based on that which according to your own declared anthropology, you are incapable of accessing.

      There is no one humanity or psychic unity of mankind theory that is compatible with your self-described hallucinated and radically subjective view.

      You would not know, and you could not know if large swaths of humanity possessed moral natures in common, and potentials for happily realizing them, which you and others could not experience, never had or retained only vestigially.

      Maybe if Hell exists it won't be so bad for you Stardusty.

      You are already completely estranged from the notion of truth, objective goodness, and the ultimate providence of God. Being unable to experience the beatific vision, is no worse than you have it now, and very much in accordance with your own will. Insofar as you can be said to have a will of your own, that is.

      And placing the legendary heat and the stinking sulfurous cacophany aside, you will have all eternity to mock, revile, curse and accuse God and everyone else of unfairness, to your heart's content.

      Try considering it from that angle. Isn't Hell where you really want to be? Isn't it where you deserve to be?

    16. I vote that people who don't believe in God, don't believe in religion, don't believe in any Church, and don't believe in any teaching authority of Church officials, should be banned from making comments on the "right" interpretation of authoritative Church teaching on divine preferences for human behavior. Their comments can ONLY be self-serving twaddle. Give their premises, how could there be any such thing as THE right meaning of the Church's teaching?

      If some starkist dusty-eyed psycho anti-Cathlic atheist thinks that he likes Francis's polemics against DP more than he like John Paul's polemics defending DP, how could that provide a microgram of weight to understanding how those claims do or don't develop Church teaching?

    17. Regarding atheists or anti-theists who spout Christian doctrine, Anonymous says, : Their comments can ONLY be self-serving twaddle.

      Yeah, it's obviously just a rhetorical move intended to subvert the opposition with what has commonly become known nowadays as rule for radicals # 4.

      Ultimately it is in aid of a resentment driven kind of fraud. Their program of presenting that which is unequal, as of equal utility and value, and as essentially socially fungible, in order to superficially justify their control and appropriations.

      That tactic is of course, nothing new. It might even be said, considering Alinsky's dedication/acknowledgement pages, to follow a very old and established pattern.

      "Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer. — SAUL ALINSKY

      What is particularly funny about this is not merely Alinsky waving the banner of resentment and subversion in the manner of Lucifer; but, the parallel in the particular nature and technique of that rule 4 tactic with regard to the mythology (or possible history according to him) of Satan.

      This can be seen especially clearly in the old St. Fursey story in which the devils are continually spouting scripture for their own resentment laden purposes - crying out continually how the Lord is unfair, and ignores his own Word with regard to the judgment of Fursey.

      From NFTU net:

      "The great deceiver, seeing himself baffled, burst forth in blasphemies against his Creator. “Till now,” he cried, “we have believed God truthful!”

      “Well ?” asked the angel.

      “The prophet Isaias,” continued the insolent spirit, “has promised that the fault not purged on earth shall be purged in heaven, when he cried to the Jews, ‘If you will hearken to me, you shall bear the fruits of the earth; but if you will not, and provoke my wrath, you shall be devoured by the sword.’ Now this man has not purged his faults on earth, and receives no punishment here; where then is God’s justice?”

      Looks like Alinsky admitted more than he knew.

      In any event, it is simply to be expected that driven by their anger over the fact of natural inequality, the organisms of the left will gather up and try to leverage whatever they can of political or spiritual references to equality before the bar, or the mercy of God, or the charity of Christians, in order to wage their social war.

      "The Epistemology of Resentment" is an interesting subject.

    18. DNW,
      "you are rather, spewing radically subjective hallucinations"
      That is how real people really communicate in the real world.

      "you can know no more about the moral nature of others,"
      You would have to first define "know". What is "knowledge"?

      Justified true belief? Or just justified belief? Or just a belief? How do you know what you know? If knowledge must be true, how do you know what is true?

      Must knowledge be be certain? Must I be certain of the truth of my justified belief before I can know what I know?

      Or are there degrees of certainty that are allowed such that we can conditionally assert truth, but doesn't that make the justification redundant to the conditional assertion of truth?

      And how do you know that what I assert to be true is in fact not true?

      If I believe P and P is in fact an accurate representation of the true state of affairs of the cosmos how can you say I do not have true knowledge?

      "There is no one humanity or psychic unity of mankind theory that is compatible with your self-described hallucinated and radically subjective view."
      Right, that is what my pronouncements really say, so no contradiction on my part.

      " you could not know if large swaths of humanity possessed moral natures in common"
      Of course I could, if that is the ontologically true state of affairs in the cosmos and I have justification for that true belief.

      You have not thought this through very carefully, have you?

      "Maybe if Hell exists it won't be so bad for you Stardusty."
      In that case god is not the evil monster the Bible says he is, unless only I get to go to the good hell, and others still go to the regular old Christian hell.

      "You are already completely estranged from the notion of truth"
      You have not studied the subject of truth much have you?

      The ontological state of affairs of the cosmos is true.

      "Isn't Hell where you really want to be? Isn't it where you deserve to be?"
      Depends, if hell is the good hell I like then yes. If hell is the traditional Christian hell then hell to the no.

      "The noise made by "you", is a mere mechanical effect. There's not really anyone there."
      That is "really".

      Again, in your misuse and lack of understanding of "really" you assert a supposed contradiction.

      There is no contradiction in my position, you just don't know what the word "really" means in this context.

      "to grant that when you register "pain" it is nothing real to me,"
      You really sense the expressions of others.

      "I don't bother to dictate to ants what they are in moral terms. They are other, and I leave it at that."
      If ants could understand your dictates you might very well attempt to dictate to them, up to you.

      "But what you don't get to logically do, is to simultaneously claim that each individual knows only its own moral impulses and conditioning situation, and then to pronounce on the metaphysical status of others."
      That's what pronouncing on the metaphysical status of others really is. So, my pronouncements may continue without any logical contradiction.

    19. Anon,
      "should be banned"
      I see you want cancel culture so you can have your safe space.

    20. @ Stardusty,

      You are now embarrassingly reduced to point where you are lifting sentence fragments and shouting irrelevancies back at them; along with retorts on the order of, I can so!

      Perhaps that lunatic insistence of yours is a manifestation of your hallucinatory, radically subjective, mindset ... the blog combox equivalent of those who we see standing in an abandoned storefront doorway while waving their arms and shouting into space.

      The crowd passes by.

      You've clearly lost your grasp of the reality thread pal, if you ever had hold of it.

    21. @Stardusty:

      That is how real people really communicate in the real world.

      But an 'hallucinated' world is not real. And neither are their inhabitants.

      Good to know that your materialist position is the one that leads to mental illness.

      It's pretty obvious that both you and your side are insane.

    22. @StardustyPsyche:

      The Bible ties in the chronogeneologies in Genesis to a real historical event (the Babylonian captivity), which can be dated (598 B.C., 587 B.C. and 582 B.C. are three candidate dates) and because the Bible is inerrant in everything it touches on and not only everything it expounds on, it is a de fide doctrine that the universe is approximately 6000 years old.

      It is the heresy of Marcionism to say that you can have the New Testament teachings and ignore what the Old Testament says.

    23. DNW,
      "You are now embarrassingly reduced to point where you are lifting sentence fragments and shouting irrelevancies back at them; along with retorts on the order of, I can so!"
      Indeed, I can do much of what you claim I cannot do.

      For example, if I have a justified belief that P, and if P is an ontologically real state of affairs, then I have knowledge that P, yet you claim I cannot. How very odd of you to make such a specious claim.

      "is a manifestation of your hallucinatory, radically subjective, mindset"
      That is what thinking and speaking and writing are, just such manifestations. Ok, so what is the problem in your view?

      "while waving their arms and shouting into space."
      Well, whenever one shouts one always shouts into space. You are in space. I am in space. Everything is in space and all that we do is done in space, including shouting, if there is to be any shouting done, yes, it is into space, of course, where else?

      "You've clearly lost your grasp of the reality thread pal, if you ever had hold of it."
      Interesting, and just which part of the reality thread is it that you grasp that you claim I do not?

    24. @Stardusty:

      Only in a simplistic, superficial, unscientific analysis.

      Which are the ones in which you indulge all the time. Like your laughable attempts at metaphysics and the analysis of 'causation'.

      If there's a gradient, then the net result is that there's no mixing in that place, or the halocline could not be measured/ would be inexistent. For something to be constantly renewed, it first needs to exist. Net results are very important in science, of which you have bare bones knowledge.

      That is what thinking and speaking and writing are, just such manifestations. Ok, so what is the problem in your view?

      Oh, an objective statement. I see, pastor.

      Well, whenever one shouts one always shouts into space.

      No. We can't not know if space is 'real' or another 'hallucination'.

      But you'll need a real brain to understand the difference. Pray to NS and maybe you'll receive one for Christmas.

    25. @Stardusty:

      Objective morality is logically ruled out from any source, god, a morality field, or anything else.

      Argument by assertion, again. It's what unintelligent deterministic systems do.

      A subjective statement (per materialist premises) trying to pass as an objective one, again.

      A contradiction in terms, again.

      Your kindergarten philosophy is pretty boring. You're a lightweight.

    26. Question 52. The hallucinations in relation to place

      Is the hallucination in a place?
      Can the hallucination be in several places at once?
      Can several hallucinations be in the same place?

      Question 53. The local movement of the hallucinations

      Can an hallucination be moved locally?
      In passing from place to place, does the hallucination pass through intervening space?
      Is the hallucination's movement in time or instantaneous?

      C'mon, Dusty. Your turn to shine.

  5. This is not complex for me, I Am not opposed to capitol punishment if someone is found guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. Miscarriage of justice I'd a risk taken in administration of a justice system. We therefore assume the risk, rather than having no system. It does not matter to me what the Pope says, or does not say.

  6. An open response to Dr. Fastiggi: Dear Sir, I would beg you to reconsider your analysis by reflecting on this factor, which (so far as I can see) is not present in your mind: Faithful Catholics were told by Pope JPII, (and they believed him) that the DP was lawfully used in the past, but he considered its right use today rare or even non-existent. Cardinal Ratzinger told them (and they believed him) that faithful Catholics could, in good conscience, believe that JPII was or at least might have been in error about how often the right use of DP is today, it was a prudential judgment about which disagreement with the pope is permitted.

    Now along comes a new pope who says that DP is "inadmissible", and (a) they don't know what moral or philosophical effect "inadmissible" is supposed to carry. And (b) the pope provides as his reason that there is "increasing awareness" of the dignity of the human person, and a "new awareness" of the meaning of penal sanctions. But he neither spells out just what this awareness of human dignity, nor this awareness of penal sanctions, ACTUALLY CONSTITUTE in ANY kind of detail at all, nor does he even reference other sources on this point.

    Many of the intelligent, experienced, and scholarly readers of the new passage of the CCC have been bewildered about what, possibly, could be the content of these new awareness, so as to justify the characterization of DP as "inadmissible", and have come up empty handed. For example, the Church (if not the world at large) has always known of the dignity of the human person, as we are (every one of us) made in the image of God and called to become sons and daughters of God to live with him in eternity. But that immense dignity does not contradict the DP - as Genesis 9:6 expressly uses the fact that man is made in the image of God to justify the DP.

    Similarly, while we have heard claims toward some new ideas on the meaning of penal sanctions, but far too often they come from secular humanists who deny free will or the immortal soul or the next life to come, and THOSE meanings we Catholics must repudiate.

    So please, I beg you: treat the many, many letters and articles from Catholics expressing dissatisfaction with the pope's revision of CCC not as saying "but he's WRONG", rather, as intending to convey "but HOW are we to understand this, when we were told less than 20 years ago something quite otherwise, by just as authoritative a teaching?" More than any other service you could provide to the Church here would be to put flesh on the "new awarenesses" in the new 2267, instead of vague hand-waving, so that the new teaching CAN BE GRASPED as compatible with what JPII and Benedict said.

    1. WCB

      "Let us get to specifics. Today it is a sin to possess atomic bombs; the death penalty is a sin. You cannot employ it, but it was not so before. As for slavery, some pontiffs before me tolerated it, but things are different today. So you change, you change, but with the criteria just mentioned. I like to use the “upward” image, that is, ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate. Always on this path, starting from the root with sap that flows up and up, and that is why change is necessary."
      - Pope Francis
      On a recent trip to Portugul.
      "The water has been stirred"

      In the words of Pope Francis, the death penalty is a sin. That seems to me to be rather clear.


    2. @WCB:

      In the words of materialists, free-will is inexistent.*

      So Pope Francis speaks not in his name, but in the name of the 'God of Physics'.

      (*Which they are forced to vocalize by evil demons that no one can see, but that can be expressed by mathematical formulas).

    3. @wcb

      What if the death penalty is necessary to protect innocent lives? Pope Francis' revision to the Catechism says that DP can only be justified if this condition is met... which means in theory there are times when DP is not a sin. Furthermore, whether the DP is necessary to save lives is not answerable by faith, but is an empirical question. Therefore it seems like in any particular application of the death penalty, the state is in a better position to judge whether the DP is necessary than the pope.

      And so we're right back where we started. The DP is a sin except when it's necessary, but the Pope has no supernatural charism that lets him know when it's necessary.

    4. Today it is a sin to possess atomic bombs

      Commenting on Francis here: The universal Church has never provided a definitive teaching that "to possess atomic bombs" is a sin. She has taught that using atomic bombs (actually, using other bombs, too) on innocent populations is a sin. Atomic bombs can have other uses than on innocent populations, indeed they can have other uses than for warfare (the movie Armageddon poses such a use, on a asteroid / comet.) It is a prudential question whether building / maintaining an atomic bomb for non-warfare uses is wise, given the circumstances of the world, but the Church only gives prudential advice on such questions. Francis, as usual, was being HIGHLY imprecise in his phrasing.

      the death penalty is a sin. You cannot employ it, but it was not so before.

      The rather obvious import of these theses, coming one right after the other, is that it IS a sin today, and it WAS NOT ALWAYS a sin in the past. Any other reading of these requires importing other comments made elsewhere, (e.g. his revision of the CCC), and the meanings of those references also remains disputable.

      Francis is, by temperament, wholly given over to rough, approximate, vague, imprecise, and even error-filled language. The Vatican spent literally years correcting his many faux-pas, until they finally gave up in despair over the task.

  7. Question: if your spiritual authority gives you a pastoral directive that is predicated on what you believe to be mistaken theological or moral grounds, are you obligated to follow that directive? Obviously not in the case that the directive is intrinsically immoral, but what about if it isn't? As an example, if you inquire of your spiritual director if you can read the Harry Potter novels, and your spiritual director tells you "No. do not read Harry Potter, it will open you up to demonic influence." You may find that justification to be questionable because you think the evidence that Harry Potter is in fact demonic to be quite weak. Does this mean you can ready Harry Potter? Or as a different example, your local jurisdiction has a ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana, to which your bishop communicates to the diocese to oppose said initiative as recreational weed use is intrinsically immoral. If you have principled reasons to believe that weed use is not in fact intrinsically immoral and that it can be consumed in a manner like alcohol or tobacco licitly, are you being disobedient to your bishop by going against his directive on the ballot initiative? Stipulate for the sake of argument that the priest/bishop in these examples is in fact wrong somewhere in his moral judgement, the part of the example that I am interested in is if we are still obligated as a matter of obedience to follow his pastoral direction where he is instructing us not to perform an action that is in actually a perfectly morally acceptable (but not morally obligatory) thing to do. My sense is that we are, though I do not have a specific explanation as to why.

    It seems plausible here that this is actually what's going on with the death penalty issue and the recent change to the catechism. We don't have to say anything about the intrinsic morality of the death penalty to say that Pope Francis thinks that the practical execution (no pun intended) of the death penalty is enough to outweigh the other benefits of it and the only difference between him and Pope Benedict was that Pope Benedict was not convicted enough of that fact to attempt to put the weight of his office behind an initiative to do something about that fact.

    1. In general, your bishop has limited authority to tell you how to manage civil affairs: in the above example, even if he were right that using pot is intrinsically evil (just as a hypothesis), he would still not have the authority to determine, as a religious matter, that criminalizing pot is the ONLY moral course of action: it might be that criminalizing it has as many or even more problems for a certain society as leaving law out of it has. So, what is the most prudent course of action is still up for debate, and bishops don't run civil governments (generally, anyway). More generally, the teaching office given to the Church and residing in the bishops does not protect them from error in prudential determinations, and we are not obliged to think they are right when they issue their opinions on the best prudential course.

      Directives TO DO certain things (or forbidding that you do certain things) are not teachings: they can bind you to certain actions even if you think they are imprudent. That's true BOTH of civil and religious law: you are obliged to follow civil laws that you don't think are prudent, and that's true for Church laws as applied to Catholics. But they don't bind your conscience about them: you are not obliged to make your mind conform to them so that you (eventually) think that they are prudent.

      If you have selected a spiritual director, AND he has accepted the role in full, then you are bound to comply with his prudential determinations precisely because you have submitted to his discretion for the sake of your spiritual welfare: you have chosen to be bound to obey. You can UNCHOOSE to be bound (at least, normally you can) by deciding he is no longer your spiritual advisor, but until you make such a choice, you can't just ignore his directives as if they don't apply to you.

      With Francis, if his revision of the CCC was a prudential judgment (which is, I think, what you imply or suggest), Catholics are free to respectfully reflect on it, and disagree if they find in unconvincing. They would not be required to give it religious assent. If it is not a prudential judgment, then that's a different matter. But even there: religious assent is capable of having reservations, and reserved assent varies in degree according to the reservations one reasonably has with regard to the teaching. (It is still assent, mind you - it isn't clear, out and out rejection.)

    2. I haven't read Newman's "Grammar of Assent," but a key issue seems to be that; in particular, how is assent constituted in relation to the respective contributions of will and intellect. Newman seems to think that assent without understanding is defensible, and it is; but nonetheless assent never nullifies the question, "what exactly am I assenting to?" And if you are proposing for assent a proposition to thinkers who are competent to understand what is being proposed, you can't very well just tell them, "just assent, you don't need to understand the proposition." That attitude would radically undermine the harmony of faith and reason and would surely violate the 'inviolable dignity of the (mature) human person.' People who accept magisterial authority but scorn rational accountability are not so much docile as infantile. Love and responsibility (responsibility: readiness and ability to respond) belong together in the development and teaching of doctrine, not just (as JPII emphasized) in the relation between man and woman.

    3. @Anonymous

      Harry Potter isn't evil, but he is absolutely not a good personality type. If you want to see what Harry Potter's personality type looks like implemented into the future, read H. G. Wells The Time Machine.

      Eloi vs. Morlocks is what Muggles vs. Wizards means in objective reality. AFAIK there does not exist a Harry Potter figure in The Time Machine.

  8. WCB

    What is Pope Francis' official teaching on Capital Punishment? Encyclicals are pretty authoritative, or so I am told. From the American Bar Associati9n website.

    "On October 3, 2020, Pope Francis issued a new encyclical entitled Fratelli Tutti (“All Brothers”), which ratified the position of the Catholic Church against the death penalty and called upon all Catholics to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. As the highest form of papal communication, an encyclical offers guiding principles to help the faithful better apply the teachings of scripture and the Catholic tradition. Fratelli Tutti is the third encyclical Pope Francis has issued since becoming pope in 2013."


    1. @WCB:

      Pope Francis is channeling the inner forces of 'Natural Selection'.

      You should pray to 'NS' to reveal you why she has chosen Francis as an instrument for Her Glory.

  9. WCB

    Do you have anything worth reading? The subject here is the Catholic church and capital punishment. A little googling lead me to Pope Francis and the encyclical Fratelli Tutti and his "The water has been stirred " speech, both of which are germane to this subject. For better or worse, Pope Francis has spoken out forcefully on the subject of Capital punishment. As official leader of one of the largest religious organizations on Earth, all of this matters. This is serious business.

    I will admit I rather like Pope Francis when he speaks out against thing like racism, bad economic policies and right winged politics. For more of that, read his "The waters have been stirred". Speech.

    Did you bother to read either? Are you going to?

    Earlier, I had noted to RCC had suported slavery but had ceased to do so, and that maybe it is time to similarly abandon capital punishment. I was delighted to read that Pope Francis said the same thing.

    As Augustine wrote, "Take up and read."


    1. @WCB:

      You could read Darwin's On The Origin of Species, which clearly states that this life is one of struggle and death.

      Not sure that you are going to understand its contents though.

      But it'll make you shed some tears.

    2. @WCB:

      I took your (general?) advice at heart and decided to read a book.

      This passage made me especially happy:

      “Human life has no more meaning than that of a slime mould. Man is only one of many species and not obviously worth preserving”.

      -John Gray

      Or naturalism in a nutshell.

      The real one, not your Walt Disney's version.

    3. And a last one, since you love quotes so much:

      As for science, has it not shown us, courtesy of Darwin, that we are animals and our nature has been fashioned in the bloodbath that is the natural world? What chance of moral progress for a creature raised on a pyramid of slaughter? The technologically enhanced teeth and claws of Homo sapiens are redder than anything else in nature. Anyone who is starry-eyed about humanity and thinks that it is more typically represented by a stroking hand than by a clenched fist, or by a dedicated primary school teacher than by a concentration camp guard, and human possibility by symphonies rather than by poison gas, should think again. Darwin has taught us to expect otherwise and, Gray argues, the record of history supports Darwinian expectations.

      -Raymond Tallis

      Death Penalty is very Darwinian. And "over-priced" insulin.

      Survival of the richest, WCB.

      You'd better grow up.

    4. Thought I'd look in tonight as I'll be busy, as will most of us, for this holiday.

      But wow. It looks as though Twinkles has really slipped his knot this time; and become completely unmoored.

      I think he's lost his everlovin' mind.

      His lunatic admonitions to 1., obey his misquoted scriptural injunctions, of 2., a God whose existence he denies, because 3., the fraudulent "vicar" of the aforementioned non-existent God, 4., somehow supposedly deserves deference nonetheless, is just too, too, too effin-credible to be believed - even as the most shamelessly brazen and transparent rule for rads # 4 gambit - if, one had not seen it for oneself.

      At this point Stardusty reminds one not so much of the bitterly calculating, reproaching, and scripture citing, devils of the St. Fursey vision, as the drunken "Karens" stopped for impaired driving in those proliferating YouTube clickbait videos. Most people have probably seen them - as they incoherently attempt to lecture peace officers on the fine points of Constitutional law and manhood, and try to prove their "arguments" through, shrill, perseverating, head banging repetition.

      “Human life has no more meaning than that of a slime mould. Man is only one of many species and not obviously worth preserving”.

      LOL A little of their corrosive acids deflected back in their faces won't make them any wiser, but there is some satisfaction to be gained from watching them choke on their own spew.

      Used to run into that type of assertion all the time back in the day as we defended the right to keep and bear arms, and referenced the right's memoralization as being rooted in the natural law.

      Somehow, the lefties always imagined that by sneeringly horizontalizing all phenomena and reducing human life to the same level as "any other creeping or crawling thing", they managed to do more than simply saw off the branch on which they were perched.

    5. DNW,
      "At this point Stardusty"
      You are getting mixed up now. I never said anything about a "vicar". In fact, a search of the comments for that word shows 1 instance of that word, by you.

      "“Human life has no more meaning than that of a slime mould. Man is only one of many species and not obviously worth preserving”."
      I am worth preserving to me.

      Worth is a subjective judgement. Relative to the progress of our expanding universe it does not make any significant difference whether one particular species on the surface of one particular planet survives or not. Species go extinct eventually, ours likely will too, some day.

      Also, "not obviously" has a much different meaning than "obviously not".

      Who knows, maybe if we all just died and got out of the way that would open up an environment for some other, much better, whatever "better" might subjectively mean, to come along. I am not willing to participate in such an experiment.

      In any case, I did not provide that quote either.

      I did quote Francis at length. I think he has a few valid points, I mean, ignoring that silly little god thing.

      It seems apparent to me that Francis is dragging the medieval thinkers into the 21st century by telling you "things are different today".

      Instead of proof texting past pontiffs or this or that scriptural verse that seems to justify executing a prisoner Francis is opening your mind to the great core messages the figure of Jesus is said to have taught.

      Love, a total respect for human life even the life of a murderer, a total respect for the sole right of god to electively take a human life, the grand perspective of an eternity of salvation that makes human desire for blood retribution petty by comparison.

      Francis is dragging the "American reactionaries" toward the primary messages attributed to Jesus:
      Love your enemy as you love yourself.
      If a man takes one thing from you, give him even more.
      Pray for those who persecute you.

      Death penalty proponents are proof texting past pontiffs and older scripture. Francis is teaching you the paramount messages Jesus came to teach all mankind.

      Francis has the authority granted by Jesus to Peter, through apostolic succession. Catholics better listen up.

  10. How discouraging it must be for committed Roman Catholics to have to try and reconcile their received Faith with the demoralizing and disjointed pronunciamentos of Bergoglio.

  11. I wonder if WCB quit the Internet long ago and just uses an AI bot to post weird esoteric nonsense? That is my working theory.

    Anyway till Francis changes Canon Law to impose excommunication on Catholics who serve as State Executioners and or support the DP then his teaching by definition is mere prudent council.
    Till he formally says Pope Benedict's teaching that Catholics may disagree with the Popes on the DP is now abrogated then I will continue to disagree with him.

    1. WCB

      Pope Francis, "The death penalty is a sin." This is not "weird esoteric nonsense".

      Pope Francis - "Fratelli Tutti"
      See sections 263 through 270, On the death penalty.

      "269. Let us keep in mind that “not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this”. [258] The firm rejection of the death penalty shows to what extent it is possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of every human being and to accept that he or she has a place in this universe. If I do not deny that dignity to the worst of criminals, I will not deny it to anyone. I will give everyone the possibility of sharing this planet with me, despite all our differences."

      "Fratelli Tutti" is a long encyclical with much to think about. Not just the death penalty. It is worth a careful read if you really take Catholicism seriously. Making snotty remarks here is not a substitute. You may not agree with all Pope Francis writes here, but Catholics owe Pope Francis an honest hearing.


    2. @WCB

      I hope the hot weather in Texas hasn't melted yer brain. Opps! Too late.:D

      What the Pope says off the cuff in an interview has no binding authority mate(BTW that anon was me? I cannae figure out why it posted as anon?).
      As Aquinas said not everything the King says is the Law but only when he is formally speaking as a King and Legislature. Francis doesn't do that in an interview.

      If Francis believes (which he likely does) the DP is intrinsically evil then he has to spell it out. But he hasn't. He uses ambiguous language.
      How is the DP a sin? Intrinsically or extrinsically? Well? He doesn't say.

      Of course, I post this for the benefit of other readers. We all ken yer a Troll WCB. Yer not here to say anything intelligent. Now go and use a sock puppet account to bring in a "supporter". Away ye go.

    3. PS Fratelli Tutti can be read as prudent council not defining or redefining moral dogma.

      Of course you think animals are moral agents and the last time I talked to Dr. Bonnette we where laughting about it behind yer back. Or at least I was...

      Cheer WCB.

      You may continue to troll. I said mae piece.

    4. If I do not deny that dignity to the worst of criminals, I will not deny it to anyone. I will give everyone the possibility of sharing this planet with me, despite all our differences."

      'I will, just, ya know, put the criminal behind bars. I will not share my house and bedroom with him. Nor my street, my neighborhood, or even town. Yes, he can inhabit the universe, just a very, very tiny slice of it, about 10 x 15, and no more. THAT'S the kind of sharing I mean: freedom to all and to all alike...except not to convicted criminals. Illegal immigrants can freely move into any place in the world they wish (or the anywhere in the universe, if they can get there), but convicted criminals are allocated one specific assignment of 10 x 15 feet of the universe, at our choice. We won't deny that to him: that's his place in the universe. Share and share alike, a whole country for me, and 150 sq. ft for him.'

      You might want to be a little more cautious about swallowing Francis quotes without chewing on them a bit first.

    5. Son of Yakov, in response to your comments to WCB.

      Still seeing trolls under the bed are we Yako? Might people not just disagree with you , without being trolls? Do you think that this is possible?

    6. Of course you think animals are moral agents.

      Materialists are very childish and anthropomorphize animals, because they don't understand the difference between intellectual apprehension and the use of mental imagery.

  12. OP: For the dissenter, “freedom of thought comes to oppose the authority of tradition.” The dissenter “aims at changing the Church following a model of protest which takes its inspiration from political society.” In defense of his rejection of traditional teaching, he appeals to “the obligation to follow one's own conscience,” the “weight of public opinion,” “models of society promoted by the ‘mass media,’” and the like. These sources of opinion lead the dissenter to conclude, for example, that “the Magisterium… ought to leave matters of conjugal and family morality to individual judgment.”

    Interesting to note that the description of the 'dissenter' here might well better apply to (the present exercise of) 'the Magisterium' than to the targets Fastiggi is aiming at. To ignore this possibility seems a highly unreasonable petitio principii.

    OP: "One problem with such remarks is that they are aimed at a straw man. No critics of the revision to the Catechism hold that “their opinion of the Church’s teaching on capital punishment is definitive and infallible.” Rather, they claim that the consistent teaching of scripture and two millennia of tradition is definitive and infallible."

    Seems to me that this may not be best interpreted as a straw man. "Their opinion" can refer not to "their opinion as such" but "their opinion, i.e., their judgment of what constitutes the consistent teaching of scripture and two millennia of tradition." But then Fastiggi's problem is just that he's begging the question and applying a hypocritical and nonsensical double standard. The rather dumb argument amounts to: "They argue that their opinion about what the Church (definitively and infallibly) teaches is actually correct; how dare they!"

    1. Dr. Fastiggi seems, also, to believe that the new revised 2267 is not a prudential judgment of the pope, but a doctrinal statement - and that it does so in a way that corrects prior doctrinal statements of no less authority. But it is not at all clear that this holds up under examination, and trying to hold it up basically requires holding that the Church's overwhelmingly consistent teaching from about 405 to 2018 that DP is morally licit in principle was (a) only taught in the manner requiring religious assent, and (b) was in fact wrong. Everyone, including Dr. Fastiggi, should be uncomfortable with such a conclusion, but he evinces no discomfort with that prospect. Rather, he explicitly welcomes the change that Francis made to the Church's doctrine of 1600 years standing. I find it difficult to imagine the mental whiplash that it must take to hold (as a good Catholic should have held in June 2018) that DP is morally licit), and hold this as firmly as the resoundingly consistent religious assent doctrinal teaching of the Church required as recently as the 1997 CCC, and then positively welcome an immediate turn-about to the position that a teaching of 1600 years was in error, AND to hold that this is a "development" that is "consistent" with the traditional teaching. Catholics are supposed to be supple and bend with the wind, to be docile to the Church. This does not mean we are supposed to have no mind or spine at all.

      If Francis's version of "consistent with" the traditional teaching is that his new teaching is not overturning an infallible teaching, but rather overturns a reformable teaching, that must be a very novel sense of consistency. One can hardly fault Catholics for thinking that he penned rather a prudential determination.

  13. "The critics of the revision to the Catechism … argue that reading the revision as a deficiently formulated prudential judgment rather than as a change in doctrinal principle ought to be among the “legitimately coexist[ing] different ways of interpreting” it (to use Pope Francis’s words)."

    Then their argument is wrong-headed. For Pope Francis teaches categorically that the death penalty is morally inadmissible, and gives, as premisses for that teaching, reasons which are clearly intended to apply universally. (And the inclusion of that teaching and its premisses in a universal catechism should have removed even a shadow of doubt.) Hence Dr. Fastiggi got it exactly right when he wrote (in Part 3) that "the revised text of the CCC articulates a moral judgment that is not merely prudential."

    Neither should we pretend that the Bergoglian teaching and the Catholic teaching are not mutually contradictory. Their contradiction should be clear from a reduction to logical form:

    The death penalty is morally inadmissible.
    The death penalty is not morally inadmissible.


    All instances of the death penalty are morally inadmissible.
    Some instances of the death penalty are not morally inadmissible.

    Regardless of whether one considers that contradiction a doctrinal corruption or a doctrinal correction, one can hardly deny that it is doctrinal, not prudential, and a contradiction, not a development.

    Reginaldvs Cantvar

    1. Then their argument is wrong-headed.

      Then, I submit for your consideration, that Fastiggi's argument is also wrong-headed.

      The earlier Church teaching was that DP is, in principle, morally permissible. JPII said as much.

      It is an arguable thesis that this earlier Church teaching was in error, that it was taught AS reformable teaching, and Francis has reformed it by teaching that DP is inadmissible, what you further call "morally inadmissible." Dr. Fastiggi explicitly argues that the older teaching was reformable. Others argue that it was not. I think Fastiggi's argument, while not silly or pointless, is not as strong as he thinks it is, but it is in fact a decent argument, taken on its own.

      But if it (the prior teaching) was reformable and in fact in error, and in teaching that DP is (always) morally inadmissible, then Francis was correcting a prior error in teaching. And yet FRANCIS CLAIMS that his teaching is consistent with prior teaching, and is a development of it.

      Is Fastiggi wrong-headed for arguing that we are obliged to accept that the older teaching was still reformable precisely because Francis corrected it in magisterial teaching? When Francis said he wasn't reversing the prior teaching?

      We are permitted (even, required) to take Francis at his word when he says that his revision is consistent with prior teaching, if that is at all possible. If there is a way to do that, such an interpretation must take precedence over all interpretations that DON'T do so. Arguably, the best (so far) interpretation that does so is to interpret "inadmissible" as a prudential judgment, i.e. to color it as meaning "in the current state of the world and justice / penal systems, not using DP is always more compatible with human dignity, and in these conditions using DP is an unnecessary (and, therefore, improper, inadmissible) attack on human dignity." This interpretation gives effect to "inadmissible" while also accepting Francis's own claims about compatibility with prior teaching.

      If the older teaching was reformable and in fact in error, then Francis was right to correct it. But he was under no obligation to then characterize his change as a "development" that is "in continuity" with the older teaching. His choice to use those words necessarily colors how to interpret his revision.

    2. "We are permitted (even, required) to take Francis at his word when he says that his revision is consistent with prior teaching, if that is at all possible."
      (my emphasis)

      That possibility is precisely what I deny, for the reasons given. A further reason is that, in the source text for the quotation in that revision, Francis taught that "the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity" and "is per se contrary to the Gospel". Both the catechism revision and that speech were published in Francis's name, so the prudential-judgment interpretation is untenable. True, His Holiness always denies any contradiction when contradicting Catholic teaching on the death penalty, but it always seems uncomfortably like 'protesting too much' from him, and apriorism from the rest of us when we fail to acknowledge the contradiction.

      Reginaldvs Cantvar

    3. Francis: "the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor. "

      God: Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind. (Genesis 9:6)

      Would you care to delve into the reconciliation between God saying the DP is right because man is made in the image of God with Francis's assertion? Many of us would like to see such a reconciliation.

    4. One might assert this as following along exactly with Francis's logic:

      Incarceration is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human entails the willful curtailment of human freedom that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor.

      American jurisprudence recognizes "inalienable rights" of both life and liberty. If life is "inviolable" in the specific sense that it is inherently wrong to take it under any circumstances, then why not liberty also?

      St. Augustine taught that people do not have a universal right to killing in self defense: if someone is attacking you, and your only defense will kill the attacker, then you may well be morally obligated to let yourself be killed. If the attacker's life is inviolable, never ceases to be sacred, on what basis can we claim the right to take his in self-defense?

      No, the ongoing right to self-defense that even Francis allows shows that there is SOME sense in which the attacker's life, sacred as it is, does not trump other goods that are in direct competition in the given moment, and we can decide to take his life if that's the greater good. This can only be due to his guilt as the unjust aggressor, and the very possibility of this carries over beyond the moment of self defense, in circumstances where the common good is better served by the guilty aggressor's death than by his life. And in saying this, nobody need argue that the offender's life ceases to be a very great good due to man's human dignity as made in the image of God - it is not asserting that the offender has lost this human dignity. Any more than prison deprives him of human dignity.

  14. Fastiggi's key framing of the issue: "Is fidelity to the death penalty more important than fidelity to the Magisterium?"

    That seems to be the really central question begging straw man. Why isn't the question rather: Does fidelity to the Magisterium require acceptance of Pope Frank's pronouncements on the DP, or does it require insisting on the need to clarify an inherently problematic new teaching (one need not but might add: from a notoriously intellectually lazy, imprudent, incompetent, capricious, arbitrary teacher)?

    It comes down to whether one regards 'the Magisterium' as fundamentally the power to impose doctrine, or as a true teaching authority, which doesn't just imperiously impose on the basis of juridical power, but takes seriously the tasks of explaining and addressing difficulties, tasks that are integral to actual teaching, as opposed to mere commanding.

    Maybe a good question to ask -- that the servus servorum Dei himself has an obligation to humbly and seriously ask: Is this teaching genuinely 'development of doctrine,' or merely an ill-conceived imposition of ideological drift? How to tell the difference? Fastiggi's answer is clearly far too simplistic. If Pope Francis gives no evidence of exercising the requisite humility or diligence in inquiry that is required for serious doctrinal investigation, then that rather tends to answer the question (it's probably the latter option). Such merely imperious exercise of magisterial power also might suggest that Bergoglio hasn't reflected very deeply on the full scope of potentially deeply ambiguous meaning of the 'inalienable inviolable dignity of the human person.' It would be lovely to see some actually balanced intelligent discussion of the relevance and significance of this apparently could-mean/imply-anything concept from people like Francis or Fastiggi (or JPII).

  15. WCB

    From Fratelli Tutti.

    "263. There is yet another way to eliminate others, one aimed not at countries but at individuals. It is the death penalty. Saint John Paul II stated clearly and firmly that the death penalty is inadequate from a moral standpoint and no longer necessary from that of penal justice. [246] There can be no stepping back from this position. Today we state clearly that “the death penalty is inadmissible” [247] and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide. [248]

    This is not something that sprang de novo from Pope Francis. Pope Francis notes opposition to the Deatgh Penalty is not new. Pope John Paul II is noted as having opposed it. Plus others as far back as Lactantius.

    Again, as Francis noted the church supported slavery but now does not, old ways and dogmas are not beyond reform on a logical and moral basis. During the era of various inquisitions, the RCC endorsed and practiced torture. Now the RCC does not. Change can be good, the old ways are not always the best ways.

    Again, Pope Francis is building on the moral teachings of Pope John Paul II.



    1. SPJPII made a significant error, which was passed along into both the 1997 and 2018, with no fact checking nor vetting, by the Church.

      He finds that the only time executions can be justified is when they are required “to defend society” and that “as a result of steady improvements . . . in the penal system that such cases are very rare if not practically non existent.”

      This is, simply, not true.

      Murderers, tragically, harm and murder, again, way too often.

      Three issues, inexplicably, escaped the Pope’s consideration.

      First, in the Pope’s context, “to defend society” means that the execution of the murderer must save future lives or, otherwise, prevent future harm. When looking at the history of criminal justice practices in probations, paroles and incarcerations, we observe countless examples of when judgments and procedures failed and, because of that, murderers harmed and/or murdered, again.

      History details that murderers murder and otherwise harm again, time and time again — in prison, after escape, after improper release, and, of course, after we fail to capture or incarcerate them.

      Reason dictates that living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and/or murder again than are executed murderers.

      Therefore, the Pope could err, by calling for a reduction or end to execution, and thus sacrifice more innocents, or he could “err” on the side of protecting more innocents by calling for an expansion of executions.

    2. dudley,
      "protecting more innocents by calling for an expansion of executions."
      So, loving your enemy as you love yourself means killing your enemy?

      Is that how you love yourself, by killing yourself?

      Makes no sense.

      Have you considered that you have "a very strong reactionary attitude"?
      (see quote below)

    3. I have an attachment to facts and truth.

      The reality is that criminal justice systems are way more dangerous than the priestly horrors of the last 80 years and that the Church would, easily, know that if She cared to look, which , since 1995, She has refused to do, as is easy to confirm with simple fact checking and vetting.

      Did God love us with the Flood? Did the Holy Spirit love Ananias and Sapphira when He killed them? Did Jesus love St. Diamas when He allowed him to be executed.

      The answers are all, "yes, of course"

      "This fits exactly with St. Thomas’s opinion that as well as canceling out any debt that the criminal owes to civil society, capital punishment can cancel all punishment due in the life to come. His thought is . . . Summa, ‘Even death inflicted as a punishment for crimes takes away the whole punishment due for those crimes in the next life, or a least part of that punishment, according to the quantities of guilt, resignation and contrition; but a natural death does not.’ "

    4. Star:

      It appears to make no sense to you, as you are looking at things within humanism, not eternally.

      For example:

      Saint Thomas Aquinas: " . . . the death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprived of the power to sin anymore." Summa Theologica, II-II, 25, 6, 2

      A more obvious example of expiation may not exist, than this:

      Jesus: Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Jesus) replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 39-43.

      It is not the nature of our deaths, but the state of our salvation at the time of our death which is most important.

      Quaker biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey: “. . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy.” synopsis: “A Bible Study”, from Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992. Dr. Carey was a Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College.

    5. dudley,
      "Did God love us with the Flood?"
      Need I remind you that you are not god?
      Jesus told you to love your enemy.
      Those are instructions from god to man.
      God is not obligated to conform in his own behavior to the instructions he has issued for man to follow.

      "St. Thomas’s opinion"
      Need I also remind you that Thomas was not god?

      Francis is reminding you what god told you to do.
      God gave instructions for man to love man, including man's worst enemy.

      Francis is also reminding you that you are obligated to follow god's instructions to man above god's free choice to act as god sees fit, and above the opinions of man.

    6. "For example:
      Saint Thomas Aquinas"
      Thomas is not the sitting Bishop of Rome, nor is his word superior to the that of Jesus.

      God does not require the assistance of Aquinas in the cessation of sinning.

      "It is not the nature of our deaths, but the state of our salvation at the time of our death which is most important."
      By executing your enemy instead of loving him you deny him his due time to achieve salvation prior to his death, and you therefore cheat god, rather, you play god, usurping god's right to determine the time of death.

      "For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have,"
      Then all unrepentant men should be sentenced to death, thus incentivizing them to repent with due haste.

    7. Star:

      You have not properly followed our conversation and act as if I have not rebuted your points, previously, as I have.

      You make up false points about what I have stated, without reason nor care about truth.

      Do better.

    8. Dudley,
      "You have not properly followed our conversation"
      Care to be more specific about the aspect of your conversation I have, in your view, failed to properly follow?

      "You make up false points about what I have stated,"
      Such as?

      "Do better."
      About what, specifically?

  16. There are 12 factual or rational errors within CCC 2267 and 14, if you include 2264.

    Some few:

    Error 6) The awareness of the dignity of all persons has been factually, biblically and theologically, well, known and discussed since Genesis through Revelation, through Jesus and St. Dismas and from the beginnings of the Church through today.
    There is no new nor growing awareness. The teachings have been clear and eternal, since the beginning of man. The Church "forgot"?

    The Church accepts knowing this with CCC 2261: 
    "The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator."

    CCC 2261 and 2266 are both the opposite of an execution causing a loss of dignity. It is the correction of the offender, not the "correction" of the sanction. Expiation is not the loss of dignity, but the return of it. 
    As per CCC 2261 and 2266, such could hardly be more obvious.
    Romano Amerio, a consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council:  
    Some opposing capital punishment ". . . go on to assert that a life should not be ended because that would remove the possibility of making expiation, is to ignore the great truth that capital punishment is itself expiatory." (15)
    "In a humanistic religion expiation would of course be primarily the converting of a man to other men. On that view, time is needed to effect a reformation, and the time available should not be shortened." (15)
    "In God’s religion, on the other hand, expiation is primarily a recognition of the divine majesty and lordship, which can be and should be recognized at every moment, in accordance with the principle of the concentration of one’s moral life.” (15)
    Humanism and other errors have infected the Chruch, on this topic, since EV, in 1995.
    By reason, the only way humans can lose their dignity is by themselves, within themselves, by their free will and by sin. An unjust aggressor who rapes and murders children has thrown their dignity away, while also trying to take away the dignity of their victims, which they cannot do, thank God.
    No sanction can take away the dignity of the unjust aggressor, nor does it. Only they can do it to themselves, opposing God's will, with a sinful free will, as the Church confirms, within CCC 2261 and 2266, and as with:
    CCC 2259: "Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: "What have you done? the voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. and now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand."
    A clear description of a murder, which causes the loss of dignity, for the murderer, by the murderer's own actions . . . as we all know, and as the Church must, as well.
    The loss of dignity is not by any sanction for that murder, as Pope Francis and the 2018 amended CCC 2267, wrongly declare, an error that must be obvious to the Church, pre the amended 1997 CCC, through today, and by reason.
    Clearly, the 2018 amended CCC 2267 misplaces the subject of dignity, as the Church, at one point, recognized and must know, now, Herself, within 2259, 2261 and 2266, as well as since Genesis and by reason.

  17. You have seen that in the United States the situation is not easy: there is a very strong reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally. I would like to remind those people that indietrismo (being backward-looking) is useless and we need to understand that there is an appropriate evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals as long as we follow the three criteria that Vincent of Lérins already indicated in the fifth century: doctrine evolves ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate. In other words, doctrine also progresses, expands and consolidates with time and becomes firmer, but is always progressing. Change develops from the roots upward, growing in accord with these three criteria.

    Let us get to specifics. Today it is a sin to possess atomic bombs; the death penalty is a sin. You cannot employ it, but it was not so before. As for slavery, some pontiffs before me tolerated it, but things are different today. So you change, you change, but with the criteria just mentioned. I like to use the “upward” image, that is, ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate. Always on this path, starting from the root with sap that flows up and up, and that is why change is necessary.

    Vincent of Lérins makes the comparison between human biological development and the transmission from one age to another of the depositum fidei, which grows and is consolidated with the passage of time. Here, our understanding of the human person changes with time, and our consciousness also deepens. The other sciences and their evolution also help the Church in this growth in understanding. The view of Church doctrine as monolithic is erroneous.

    But some people opt out; they go backward; they are what I call “indietristi.” When you go backward, you form something closed, disconnected from the roots of the Church and you lose the sap of revelation. If you don’t change upward, you go backward, and then you take on criteria for change other than those our faith gives for growth and change. And the effects on morality are devastating. The problems that moralists have to examine today are very serious, and to deal with them they have to take the risk of making changes, but in the direction I was saying.

    1. Rationally, looking backward can confirm the truth or not. Looking forward, one can, most often, not confirm the truth or falsehoods, until much later.

      That is, very much, the exact debate that we are in, right now and is, precisely, what Feser just did, within his essay.

      It is important to be aware of your surroundings.

    2. dudley,
      Then, apparently, the current pope is not aware of his surroundings?

      Really? You actually believe that?

      Have you considered that he is, rather, vastly more aware of his surroundings that anybody on this site, including the site owner?

      How narrow your view is to suggest that Francis somehow does not consider the past.

      His point is to evolve, to make learning and gaining understanding a continual human endeavor, not to develop a rigid ideology.

      Have you considered that Francis places more emphasis on the beatitudes, the new message of love Jesus brought, how Jesus forgave even the worst of all people, and just how long eternity is?

      The point Francis is making is that rather than quote mining past pontiffs and this or that bible verse you should be turning to the core messages of love, forgiveness, and salvation.

      Love your enemy as you love yourself.

      Jesus did not say to execute your enemy if he did really bad stuff. Executing your enemy is not loving your enemy as you love yourself.

      Jesus came to Earth to deliver a new message of love for all, forgiveness for all, and salvation for all.

      Put the murderer in a cage to protect society and leave the rest up to god, not your call.

    3. @Stardusty:

      Hmmm... But Jesus was false. Telling people to believe 'obvious' falsities is some new level of logical weirdness.

      Darwin was the true prophet, and he told us to follow our animalistic, violent and selfish natures.

      But poor Stardusty doesn't like the Darwinian Gospel. His neurochemicals have been selected to contradict themselves at every turn and in every post.

      It's a spectacle to behold.

    4. I would like to remind those people that indietrismo (being backward-looking) is useless

      One cannot avoid laughing at Starbuffy, making a laughingstock of himself in picking up these comments from Francis. All of life involves some kinds of looking at the past: prosecutors cannot establish the guild of a defendant without establishing what happened in the past. Celebration of festivals almost always involve remembrance of some big events that happened in the past. Paying your bills means accepting obligations made in the past. And, in the Christian context, paying attention to what Jesus said obviously is considering the past. It is all backward looking in some sense. Anyone with a microgram of sense would know that life requires looking backwards for lots of stuff. Even commenting on this blog post means looking backward - Feser released it days ago, in the past. If Francis were being literal, he would have to condemn listening to the Gospel, because it was written in the past.

      But of course he was not being literal. Actually, there is no possibility of setting out any formula, algorithm, or rule which tells you which examples of looking back are good ones and which examples are bad ones for Francis, other than this: he will castigate the examples he doesn't like as "indietrismo" and he will praise the ones he likes. There is no principle behind it. It's an empty name-calling. He just uses it to browbeat people who use the traditional teaching of the Church to show up his short-comings as a teacher. He might just as well call them meanies and bullies or any other word for name-calling, it's not like his invented epithet has any weight to it.

      But one would not expect an indietrismo-saddled chucklehead like Starbuffy to get any of that.

    5. "Anyone with a microgram of sense would know that life requires looking backwards for lots of stuff."
      So, the current Bishop of Rome lacks even a microgram of sense? Harsh words. Are you a Catholic?

      "There is no principle behind it. It's an empty name-calling. "
      Really? It seems as though it is you doing the name-calling.

      "it's not like his invented epithet has any weight to it."
      No weight at all? The admonitions of the RCC pope have no weight at all?

      Francis makes it pretty clear that the backwards thinking he is speaking against refers to reactionary ideology, an unwillingness to change, a looking back to how things used to be that is an inhibition to evolving under new circumstances.

      It's the difference between being future focused versus intransigent.

      Backwards thinking as a fault arises when one stubbornly clings to past ideologies because that is how things were done in the past, as opposed to the reasons things were done that way and recognizing "things are different today".

      You have heard of apostolic succession, haven't you? You know, the idea that Jesus gave authority to Peter, who in turn passed that authority on in an unbroken chain to Francis.

      By that doctrine a key word is "succession". Among other things, Francis is asserting his authority as holder of the Keys of Heaven.

      Hardly some randomized bit of nonsensical name calling, as you so shallowly characterized his words, Francis is clearly asserting a firm principle, the principle that he is the new sheriff in town.

    6. @Stardusty:

      It's the difference between being future focused versus intransigent.

      You've nailed the description of the materialist.

      An intransigent individual who stares in the face of proof and yet decides to keep being wedded to his dying paradigm.

      It's awesome what an inexistent free-will can achieve.

    7. Francis makes it pretty clear that the backwards thinking he is speaking against refers to reactionary ideology, an unwillingness to change, a looking back to how things used to be that is an inhibition to evolving under new circumstances.

      Oh, please! You're going to make me puke from laughing so hard! Francis spends half of his time insisting on NOT changing certain things, and half insisting on changing other things. The only difference that can be found in the things he says must be held fast from the others are that HE thinks they should hold fast. Is he being a "reactionary ideologue" when he insists on these? Of course he is, if refusing to change in those matters is being a reactionary ideologue.

      What the sane person realizes is that we MUST change for certain things, and that we ought not change for other things. The hard work is deciding, and then explaining properly, which ones are which. Francis's idea of explaining which ones are which amounts to little more than "because I said so" and then call those who don't follow his "reasoning" to be "ideologues". This is natural to a well-trained modernist, because modernism uses this tactic for molding public opinion, but remember: he uses it against any and all opponents of whatever stripe, whatever name works best in the moment. He doesn't mean that he really grasps the essence of the category "reactionary ideologue" and rightly discerns you fit that category. The accusation is just a political tool, meant for ends separate from advancing any state of knowledge.

      So, the current Bishop of Rome lacks even a microgram of sense? Harsh words. Are you a Catholic?

      As usual, you create straw men and other fallacies whenever you type. I did not say that Francis doesn't realize that some things you have to look to the past for. (And I affirmed just now, above). What I implied was that his rhetoric achieves whatever force it has from naively assuming a thesis like "past is bad" or the like, when Francis himself knows that no such "past is bad" thesis is valid in any literal way. Once you realize that Francis really believes that we ought to look to the past for some things, and that in this passage (and all other passages where he criticizes traditionalists) he fails to provide even a hint as to the distinctions that separate out the good kind from the bad kind of looking to the past, the rhetorical ploy empties of all force and is just blather. When (if he ever bothered to do this) he got around to specifying some content or criteria that separated out the "ideologues" from his own kind of looking to the past, we could envelope this passage with some actual meaning. Until then, it's a just more of his "I don't like them" diatribes.

      By the way, Catholics are not required to like the same things a pope likes, and to dislike the same things a pope dislikes. His likes are not Holy Writ.

  18. You have been to the United States and you say you have felt a climate of closure. Yes, this climate can be experienced in some situations. And there you can lose the true tradition and turn to ideologies for support. In other words, ideology replaces faith, membership of a sector of the Church replaces membership of the Church.

    I want to pay tribute to Arrupe’s courage. When he became superior general, he found a Society of Jesus that was, so to speak, bogged down. General Ledóchowski had drafted the Epitome – do you young people know what the Epitome is?[5] No? Nothing remains of the Epitome! It was a selection of the Constitutions and Rules, all mixed up. But Ledóchowski, who was very orderly, with the mentality of the time, said, “I am compiling it so that the Jesuits will be fully clear about everything they have to do.” And the first specimen he sent to a Benedictine abbot in Rome, a great friend of his, who replied with a note: “You have killed the Society with this.”

    In other words, the Society of the Epitome was formed, the Society that I experienced in the novitiate, albeit with great teachers who were of great help, but some taught certain things that fossilized the Society. That was the spirituality that Arrupe received, and he had the courage to set it moving again. Some things got out of hand, as is inevitable, such as the question of the Marxist analysis of reality. Then he had to clarify some matters, but he was a man who was able to look forward. And with what tools did Arrupe confront reality? With the Spiritual Exercises. In 1969 he founded the Ignatian Center for Spirituality. The secretary of this center, Fr. Luís Gonzalez Hernandez, was given the tasks of traveling around the world to give the Exercises and to open this new panorama.

    You younger ones have not experienced these tensions, but what you say about some sectors in the United States reminds me of what we have already experienced with the Epitome, which generated a mentality that was all rigid and contorted. Those American groups you talk about, so closed, are isolating themselves. Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies. When you abandon doctrine in life to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war.

    Portugal on August 5, 2023

    1. Just for those who might be interested:

      These kinds of comments by Francis are exactly the kind of rigamarole and silliness that makes thoughtful people just turn off when he starts to fulminate.

      "Arrupe's courage", hah! The Jesuits were 30 years ahead of the rest of the religious orders in theological degeneracy (or Arrupe could never have been elected), and Arrupe's deformation included just that degeneracy. It didn't take any courage to keep the Jesuits on the track they had already decided to imbibe to the dregs. All he did was resist the rear-guard actions of the old-timers already out to pasture.

      Some things got out of hand, as is inevitable, such as the question of the Marxist analysis of reality. Hah again! If it was Marxists "getting out of hand", all that could mean is that the Marxists showed their hands a little to early. The Jesuits in general, (and the theology crowd even in the US, for the most part) are wholly-owned subsidiaries of cultural marxists promoting anti-Catholic agendas of every possible stripe.

      If the pope actually believed this tripe, it would only mean that he was completely taken in by the marxists who trained the Jesuits who trained him. (And, as Orwell showed us, it is a standard tactic to foist on your enemy the very epithet that actually applies to you. "You're living by an ideology" really represents "you're trying to resist the ideology we are forcing upon you".)

  19. Let's take a look at the Latin version of CCC on capital punishment, which says: Ecclesia . . . docet “poenam capitalem non posse admitti quippe quae repugnet (repugnet is in the subjunctive mood not indicative) inviolabili humanae dignitati.”

    So, it does NOT say: The Church . . . teaches that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Rather, the Latin says: The Church teaches that the death penalty is admissible in as much as (not because) it could be (not it is) an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. Notice: this leaves the door open for an exception.

    “Cannot be allowed to take place” is the translation of the passive participle posse admitti. This phrase does not speak of the “nature” of capital punishment but its non “use” especially given today’s circumstances. If it were in the indicative mood, then it would be speaking against the very nature of capital punishment. Therefore, it is a pastoral statement implying exceptions not a doctrinal statement condemning absolutely capital punishment.

    1. Fascinating! As a certain pointed eared man might say....

    2. I'd have thought you need 'would' not 'could.' But possibly you could translate "quippe quae repugnet..." as "certainly that [use of CP] which would be repugnant to...," leaving open, as you say, the intrinsic nature of CP.

    3. Another shot at translation of:
      Ecclesia . . . docet “poenam capitalem non posse admitti quippe quae repugnet inviolabili humanae dignitati.”
      "The Church teaches that capital punishment cannot be admitted, a) certainly not in the case where that would be repugnant to inviolable human dignity; b) since that would be repugnant to inviolable human dignity."

      Either way, I would suggest it appears to be about a) the general condition governing when it is not admissible, or b) the general reason why it would always be inadmissible, but not about c) exceptions to a general rule of inadmissibility.

    4. The CCC is still clear, the loss of dignity is specific to the murder and the murderer, not the sanction for it. All of those statements are still within the CCC. Fundamentally, it is Pope Francis, himself, that switches it to the sanction, a change which make no sense factually or rationally.

      The loss of dignity is by the murderer, caused by the murderer, by the murder itself, a sinful act by the murderer, whose sin causes his loss of dignity, which the sanction cannot do.

      No new, unexplored definition of dignity has come forward to define a just sanction to be the loss of dignity.

  20. Thanks to the person who mentioned John Gray. I had not thought of him in a few decades. The remembrance was nostalgic.

  21. It's wild that this change to the Catechism is just hanging out there. How many people who would be justly executed and who may even be a threat to society if they are not, will be held as prisoners instead on account of this teaching? (Probably very few given the Church's sparse influence on the law, but still.) My question would be: For the Catholic Church to be the One True Church, must this addition to the Catechism be revised someday? Or could the Second Coming happen with this teaching left unrevised? If this teaching must be revised by the Second Coming, must all teachings in need of revision be so revised by then, or can the Second Coming happen without some teaching being revised by then? If so, might this teaching on the death penalty be left unrevised for all time?

    My point is a thought experiment in which the "One True Church" may leave an unsatisfactory (to say the least) teaching in place, with the simmering tension it creates, for the rest of humanity's earthly existence. Do we have to be prepared for that, or is it guaranteed to be resolved one day, even if not in the lifetimes of all of us now living?