Catechism Declares Death Penalty Morally Forbidden

I'm pretty sure that I don't agree with this decision, or the chain of logic behind it. As the article spells out, it's a long evolution for the Church (which has in the past practiced the death penalty itself). Previous Popes have all participated in the motion. It wasn't done quickly or without thought.

All the same, it strikes me as philosophically disordered, and unsupportable from revelation as well. It cannot be a violation of the dignity of the living to die in this metaphysical system, as the God who made all of the living built death into the experience as an unavoidable aspect of that life. Nor does it seem reasonable, in a faith whose scripture teaches that 'the wages of sin is death,' to refuse to pay the wage to someone who has shown a certain commitment to the sin. A workman, after all, is worthy of his hire.

Forgiveness of the soul is important, crucial, perhaps the greatest and hardest and key teaching of Jesus. But the body dies, and so necessarily that natural theology cannot reasonably be read as otherwise than suggesting that it is God's will that it should die. It is freedom, not life, that is the dignity that needs to be most carefully preserved. To preserve life instead of freedom, and indeed at the consequence of lifelong imprisonment and unfreedom, strikes me as a fundamental moral error. To give them the wage they chose to seek is to respect their freedom; to refuse them their wage, and instead imprison them for decades in conditions far more restrictive of liberty than even slavery is the true violation of their dignity.

I suppose I am in danger of falling into heresy. What remains to be decided, by me, is if I will to be.


douglas said...

Same here. If I do choose to be heretical on this point, where do I go?

I also wonder, with this reasoning- "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" (and I'm going with the CNN interpretation via editing, which is always dangerous especially with papal news, even if they are quoting), is Just War doctrine next? How does that not violate the dignity of persons?

douglas said...

On the other hand, what have I to fear from heresy when the church does nothing about outspoken public figures who speak on their authority as practicing Catholics and also endorse, or worse defend, abortion?

Dad29 said...

Actually, the Pope is a material heretic on this matter. He will become a FORMAL heretic after he's been warned on the issue. Have no idea who will do the 'warning.' But it will be fun to watch.

Meantime, you're NOT a heretic, so get back to penance and fasting.

james said...

Is this kind of statement binding? I do not trust CNN's presentation--they are typically spectacularly ignorant about religious matters.

I'm a little puzzled by Francis' notions of crime and punishment. Jason D. Thug is a malicious murderer, who eventually attacks anybody nearby. Francis says you can't execute him. Francis says you can't put him in solitary where he can't hurt anybody. You have the responsibility to get him away from the general public. Common decency says you don't let him prey on other criminals.

So if you can't put him with people, and you can't put him by himself, and you can't execute him, what do you do?
Drug him into oblivion? That seems an even greater violation of human dignity.
Anoint him with holy oil and assume that God will fix him up? That seems presumptuous, to put it mildly--and having God and man angry with you is a pretty bad situation to be in.

I suppose you could cage all the incorrigibles together and let them kill each other, but that seems to push the limits of double effect. And you still have to figure out what to do with the survivor.

sykes.1 said...

The Catholic hierarchy has been heretical since Vatican II. The Eastern Orthodox might be the only Christians left.

Texan99 said...

That one nice thing about being a Protestant, or at least an Episcopalian, which is sort of Protestant: I listen to the guidance of the Church, but I never grant it exclusive authority over my conscience. If we disagree, we disagree.

Grim said...

That is the advantage of Protestantism. The whole heresy thing is kind of priced in.

douglas said...

Dad29, I finally had time to read the link to One Peter 5 from your post. It's great- the argument seems solid and the sources, mainly from the scriptures themselves and the Doctors of the Church seem unassailable.

I always held, without doing any serious research on the subject, that the message should have been pretty clear from the account of Jesus on the cross in Luke 23-

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

If Jesus wanted to be perfectly clear that capital punishment was wrong, he had the perfect moment to say 'no, this isn't just', when the criminal said "And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds"- but he didn't.

That had been good enough reasoning for me until now.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

CS Lewis noted that we don't know whether a man is more likely to repent when facing death clearly or in long years of imprisonment. If repentance and restoration are indeed our first goal, we should not presume to know what we do not.

Texan99 said...

I don't think I could justify executing or even imprisoning someone as a means of inducing repentance. For me it's all about deterrence and protecting society from someone who can't or won't control himself. Within that framework, I'd like to choose a method that's as humane as possible and respects an individual's dignity, including the possibility that he might change. That would be because I'd like to maximize the chances that we can let him out someday in reasonable safety, so we can quit the horrible process of keeping him locked up, which has a horrible effect on his jailers and society at large. I tolerate the effect because it's the price I pay for being unwilling to keep him on the street doing whatever it was he was doing.

You can see I'm very far from being willing to turn the other cheek. I struggle terribly with that directive.

douglas said...

JPII was inline with your preference for mercy and the possibility of redemption, but one doesn't have to preclude the death penalty entirely to take the position that it should be a limited solution.
The problem with Francis is that he's going against scripture (by definition, infallible), the founders and doctors of the church, as well as all previous popes.

Because of this I've also come across Edward Feser's piece at First Things which is also very good, and I may have to get the book he co-authored By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.

Grim said...


“When God out man in a garden
He girt him with a sword,
And sent him forth a free knight
That might betray his Lord.”

Might, or might not. But the sword was given, that at appropriate times it might be used. As Tennyson’s Merlin told Arthur: “Take thou, and strike!”

Ymarsakar said...

They were wrong when they burned, executed, heretics by drowning, torture, hanging, and fire.

They are wrong now. This isn't news.

State religion, like state centralized economic controls, are never right, even if theoretically their ideas and plans are sound.

Ymarsakar said...

At worst, people who the P of Rome, the so called Vicar of Christ as Pontifex Maximus, declare a heretic have lied to men. There is no holiness present in a human organization, certainly not one built upon the restriction of free will.

The Apostles did not need a human government to make you die. If your sins are judged to be on par with death, then your spirit will be directly called to make account in the Divine Counsel, which is above the Earth and not of the Earth.

A religious control system is based upon traditions and stories of where previous leaders had influence and control, but which the current system has lost the knowledge, power, authority, and holiness of. When they could not stand in the presence of the Divine Counsel and speak the words of the Godhead and render judgment, they used human facilitators and nations to do the killing instead. And when they even lost that, what else could they do but compromise with words.

When a god decides to kill a 150,000 man army in one night, there's nothing humans can do to stop it. When a god determines that a tribe needs to leave a nation, there is nothing that humans can do about it unless they can kill that god. When a god determines that a human spirit needs to make account for crimes against Divine Law in the Divine Counsel, there is no human organization, no human law, and no "most powerful leader of the free world", that can counter it.

Ymarsakar said...

I do further declare that the doctrine of the churches of England and Scotland, of the Calvinists, Huguenots and others of the name Protestants or Liberals to be damnable and they themselves damned who will not forsake the same.

I do further declare, that I will help, assist, and advise all or any of his Holiness' agents in any place wherever I shall be, in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England, Ireland or America, or in any other Kingdom or territory I shall come to, and do my uttermost to extirpate the heretical Protestants or Liberals' doctrines and to destroy all their pretended powers, regal or otherwise.

I do further promise and declare, that notwithstanding I am dispensed with, to assume my religion heretical, for the propaganda of the Mother Church's interest, to keep secret and private all her agents' counsels from time to time, as they may entrust me and not to divulge, directly or indirectly, by word, writing or circumstance whatever; but to execute all that shall be proposed, given in charge or discovered unto me, by you, my ghostly father, or any of this sacred covenant.

I do further promise and declare, that I will have no opinion or will of my own, or any mental reservation whatever, even as a corpse or cadaver (perinde ac cadaver), but will unhesitatingly obey each and every command that I may receive from my superiors in the Militia of the Pope and of Jesus Christ.

That I may go to any part of the world withersoever I may be sent, to the frozen regions of the North, the burning sands of the desert of Africa, or the jungles of India, to the centers of civilization of Europe, or to the wild haunts of the barbarous savages of America, without murmuring or repining, and will be submissive in all things whatsoever communicated to me.

I furthermore promise and declare that I will, when opportunity present, make and wage relentless war, secretly or openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Liberals, as I am directed to do, to extirpate and exterminate them from the face of the whole earth; and that I will spare neither age, sex or condition; and that I will hang, waste, boil, flay, strangle and bury alive these infamous heretics, rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants' heads against the walls, in order to annihilate forever their execrable race. That when the same cannot be done openly, I will secretly use the poisoned cup, the strangulating cord, the steel of the poniard or the leaden bullet, regardless of the honor, rank, dignity, or authority of the person or persons, whatever may be their condition in life, either public or private, as I at any time may be directed so to do by any agent of the Pope or Superior of the Brotherhood of the Holy Faith, of the Society of Jesus.

Satan at least serves a purpose in the Divine Counsel as in Job, even if Lucifer does not.

The human organization of Rome and the P of Rome is given a little temporary power over the saints, until it is no longer useful to create trials and tribulations and tests.

I do declare that no human doctrine and religious control system based upon human organizations, is Holy. People don't like when I write and speak the truth. That is to be expected. Humans have their tribal and national loyalties and traditions to protect after all.

There is nothing new under the starry skies or as Solomon wrote, under the sun itself. It is both pre destined as well as an open free world for the players to explore.

james said...

David Warren's musings