The Pope and senior bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have announced that the death penalty is now illegitimate and this is going to be enshrined in the Catechism.
This is a truly huge decision, a vast change, the implications are incalculable... So why? Read the linked announcement above. That tells us why.
Because... well... in a nutshell because they don't understand justice, they don't mention the basic Christian theory of legitimate punishment which is simply that the person should deserve the punishment. They just don't have a clue.
Except it is not really having no clue, as not caring enough to inform themselves, because to them Christian Justice is irrelevant.
The decision to abolish Capital Punishment is not made for any reason of justice, let alone theology; and indeed there is not even a pretence that it is. It is made simply because the Pope and Magisterium are neither Roman Catholics not Christians.
The decision was made because... well... the leaders of the RCC just want to align themselves with the leadership of current mainstream secular elite opinion; the power brokers of the mass media, the heads of the global bureaucracies, the Western politicians and international lawyers... That's it; end of story; nothing further needs to be said on the point. Closer alignment with the global cabal of evil is both necessary, and a sufficient reason.
Anyway, all this will be very helpful to serious Roman Catholic Christians, because it will clarify the situation they are already-in; and that must be better than living in a delusional state, a fool's paradise.
As CS Lewis said in That Hideous Strength, and as I keep repeating: things are coming to a point in these End Times; and the discernment of good and evil is becoming easier.
The two sides in the spiritual war are segregating, becoming more distinct.
As evil establishes its dominance more fully; so it reveals itself for what it is - because Good is now so relatively-small and weak, that evil perceives no need for secrecy or subtlety.
The sides have formed, the middle ground has gone, the default position is to drift into passive evil, pretending not to notice or saying that evil is inevitable. But everybody really has noticed, and everybody really knows that evil is not inevitable.
You, me, everybody has therefore, implicitly or explicitly, already picked their side; because those to whom we are loyal and obedient, those whose work we do, have already picked their side.
Un-consciousness is now evil, passive evil (because God will ensure that all are sufficiently conscious - if not now, then before it is too late). .
Not to make this decision your own is also to pick your side.
As clear and sober an assessment of our epoch as one will find anywhere. Voices like yours are exceedingly rare on the Internet compared to the overall demented din. Some others exist here and there (David Warren in Canada, for example). All are of extreme importance! Please keep blogging!
Would really like to see someone like John Zmirak weigh in.
Remember we all deserve to live in chaos and violence because executing murderers and corporal punishment offend against the dignity of man. The fact that both actually work and are prescribed in scripture is immaterial. The fact that the death penalty predates the law of Moses in the Pentateuch is also immaterial.
Every pope and previous bishops, the scriptures and the church fathers have all gotten in wrong you see.
Remember the state has a responsibility to protect the life of it's citizens. Just not from criminals.
On a more serious note there was a book written a while back about the lutheran and catholic priests sent to minister to the Nuremberg war criminals. I seem to recall that the prospect of death actually had a beneficial aspect from a ministerial perspective; it made the inevitable impossible to ignore.
Additionally, it seems to offend more against the dignity of a man and work against his repentance if you tell him it's not really his fault if he kills someone, but you're going to lock him up either in solitary or with a bunch of other criminals for years at a stretch.
I'm just angry, this is about way, way more than the death penalty. It ultimately means that order is not worth preserving.
Ed feser has written on this from a traditionalist RC persepctive - http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/
IMO The argument does not depend on any utilitarian calculus about best strategy; it is more like a natural law thing. We all know that death is the just penalty for certain acts.
The idea that you can ever eliminate the death penalty is one of the really great satanic lies. I have to rather admire the subtlety.
After all, if you are going to have a government of humans by humans without the aid of supernatural powers, then the resort to lethal force is indispensable. Even with numerical parity in the size of your police forces and general population, if the police are really not allowed to ever resort to lethal force, then those disposed to crime can always and in every situation reliably escalate the situation where the police must either retreat or be killed. You can do quite a bit to encourage police to avoid escalating situations to lethal violence, and there are many police forces in the world that don't do enough in this regard. But to say categorically that you will never allow the use of lethal violence by the police is to ensure that the very worst and most dangerous criminals have carte blanche to get away with crime by making it suicide for the police to attempt to apprehend them.
To say that the death penalty is always illegitimate when a criminal has been caught and properly convicted at trial, after careful judicial and jury review of the evidence, makes it completely untenable and immoral to suggest that police should have the power greater than that of judge, jury, and executioner against people merely suspected of crime. Indeed, it is not merely a theoretical difficulty, historically when police can get away with punitive actions that due process does not permit, such extra-judicial punishments become a commonplace function of police work in dealing with suspects who the police believe will not be adequately punished by a court of law. It is a hypocrisy with dire and very real consequences both for anyone accused as well as the integrity of the rule of law, since police will be engaged in a form of extremely vicious organized crime by virtue of administering extra-judicial punishments (and make no mistake, this already includes de facto executions, often by extremely inhumane torture, in the U.S.) without benefit of due process.
So to deny the legitimacy of capital punishment of duly convicted criminals after careful deliberation of the evidence against them is not merely logically but pragmatically untenable if you ever allow the police the resort to lethal force in any circumstances. You have to go all the way and say that lethal force is never justified by the police, even in self-defense. And that means abolishing any effort to deal with criminals willing to resort to lethal force against the police. After all, the punishment for trying to apprehend the most dangerous criminals is now worse than the maximum punishment that the state will ever sanction.
And yet, despite the obviousness of these facts, well-meaning people will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid admitting them or how they logically connect. I mean not merely evil people pretending to be well-intentioned and consciously lying, but ordinary good citizens who are in the earnest habit of trying to obey the laws and morality of their nation and culture. After all, the simple fact is that the entire reason you have any laws at all is to establish when you accept that lethal violence is a reasonable recourse against someone who refuses to obey your laws. And this is deeply unpleasant to the typical docile citizen who does not like to think that this is precisely what they are engaged in whenever they ask that something be made a matter of the law.
It is probably for the best.
Moderate Catholics have been deceiving themselves, or otherwise making mental loops, to claim Pope Francis's other breaks from tradition (namely that living in mortal sin is... well, no longer mortal sin) and the obtuse justifications for it aren't really new - that what he said isn't *really* what he meant.
A lot of Catholics are very angry right now at the clergy for promoting a notorious child abuser and pederast to the rank of Cardinal, and the large network which apparently helped protect and promote themselves, going so far as to even helped get the current Pontiff elected. They want to see action on *that* and immediately.
So instead we get... this, apparently more bowing down to the squishy soft embrace of evil.
It may be God's point to help make it very clear, at this time, unless one is completely blind.
@CCL - Good analysis.
An exceptionally blatant example of disconnect was the mass of US Democrats who supported BHO and opposed the death penalty; when BHO personally authorised a massive program of assassination, executing some hundreds and probably thousands of supposed terrorists (and the people nearby) by 'drone strikes. And BHO was quotaed saying he found the death penalty 'deeply troubling...'.
I have to have to agree with you on this one.
I might quibble with you about the nature of his motivations but ultimately his decision is wrong. He, like many others, has a "criminal focused" theology that ignores the victim. The whole approach is based upon the fact that justice does not matter.
The second more worrying implication of this approach is the notion that prison is a reformatory institution. This is how the Soviets used to view their entire Gulag apparatus. Re-education camps where a man is meant to come out "better" than when he came in. if the moral transformation of the criminal is the ultimate metric of the penal system then who determines if the criminal is "reformed"? Can we keep prisoners in jail until the do? Given the perversity of the human will, could we not foresee instances where a man is kept in jail indefinitely for trivial crimes?
By throwing the justice element out of the window we end up not only being unjust to the victim but unjust to the criminal as well.
The faithful are alone.
A very sad day for a Roman Catholic like me. Not that it is a surprise, coming from Francis.
You and the comments have done a fine job to analyze this decision. I am normally a guy who analyzes everything to death but today I feel like crying instead
As Mick Jagger put it, "every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints..." We now see Nietszche's transvaluation of all values, the world turned upside down. Let the invaders vote. We'll trade our racists for rapists. My moment of awakening was when George W. Bush, after the murder of 3,000 Manhatten office workers, was telling everyone, "Islam is a religion of peace." They don't care. They seem to like rubbing everyone's nose in it. They have spat on Logos, on the Lord Jesus Christ, and are proud of it.
Should Pope Francis have executed Cardinal Law?
By some act of cosmic serendipity, I find this blog on the day this duplicitous Pope makes this major announcement. Theologically, this removes a "cardinal" public relations problem for him regarding the discipline of pedophiles in his inner circle.
Cardinal Bernard Law dies seven months ago after spending much of his career shielding pedophile priest from the law. in the end, he found refuge and safety against prosecution at the Vatican.
Last April, it was announced that Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking official, was to stand trial on several charges of sexual abuse in an Australian court.
Ten days ago, news breaks that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick may face expulsion from the priesthood after a church panel found abuse allegations “credible and substantiated.”
And was it, in fact, the priest pedophile scandal that was the hidden cause leading to Pope Benedict's resignation five years ago? This from APF January 2016:
"AT LEAST 231 children at a famous Catholic boys’ choir in Germany were victims of physical abuse, a lawyer commissioned to investigate the scandal said today. The Domspatzen, a 1,000-year-old choir in Regensburg, Bavaria, was dragged into the massive sexual abuse scandal plaguing the Catholic Church in 2010, when allegations of assaults that took place several decades ago went public. The choir was run by Pope Benedict’s elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, from 1964 to 1994 when most of the claimed abuses took place."
So what does this have to do with the Pope's latest announcement that capital punishment is no longer on the legal books of the Catholic Church?
Recall Pope Francis' bold public relations statement that was headlined four years ago in the Christian Post: "Pope Francis Allegedly Says 1 in 50 Priests Are Pedophiles and 'Like Jesus, I Shall Use a Stick Against Pedophile Priests'" Recall this and ask yourself, exactly when did Christ take the stick against pedophile priests? or take the stick against anyone?
Oh right! The money changers in the temple. But that was a whip, right? And Christ's anger was against the temple being profaned as a marketplace as I recall. Right? Surely Pope Francis and his prelates who come up with these press releases would have known the same. Right?
So what did Jesus actually say when it came to those in authority "offending one of these little ones"? There is no way around the fact that in three Gospels the Lord makes an unambiguous argument in favor of capital punishment: "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea..."
Today, my question is: Should Pope Francis have executed Cardinal Law?
I don't want to get into an argument because that's not my style and your wider point about the Catholic hierarchy is a fair one. I do feel that I have to state my view though, which is that the death penalty is wrong and that its banishment by the Pope is no great loss to Catholic teaching.
I've always been opposed to the death penalty. Viscerally, intuitively and instinctively. For exactly the same reasons that I'm opposed to abortion and euthanasia. The taking of a life - except when in self-defence - is always wrong. A society should never give up on a person. No matter what crimes they've committed and no matter how long their prison sentence, there's always the chance of repentance and conversion. Also, how many miscarriages of justice have we seen over they years? A massive problem with the death penalty for me is that there's always the chance of sending the wrong bloke to his death. Remember Barry Bulsara - the guy who was convicted for killing Jill Dando in the 90s and was freed a few years later? Just as well for him that there's no death penalty in the UK.
There are some really powerful arguments made by yourself and your readers. I agree especially with Nathaniel that what we really need to see is some righteous anger and serious action from the Pope re the recent spate of abuse scandals in the US and elsewhere. I'm also aware that this statement rr the death penalty could be a harbinger of more changes to Church teaching which I too would find alarming. But not on this issue. My own concerns about Pope Francis don't come into it. I would simply not be true to myself if I said I supported the death penalty. Let's hope the Pope is as vocal about abortion when he arrives in Ireland later in the month!
@SP - Yes, indeed. CS Lewis is very helpful on these matters. Punishment as therapy is demolished in That Hideous Strength - it is a secular totalitarian doctrine.
On top of that, the assumption here is that prison is an appropriate 'punishment'; yet prison is not really an appropriate punishment for anything - properly, prison is simply used to hold people until trial, when their punishment is decided.
Of course prison was misused to hold prisoners for ransom. Or as a way of collecting debts from the families of debtors; but it is grossly misused nowadays. No wonder there is constant confusion between prison as an active punishment, as a neutral/ comfortable holding place, and as a therapy.
A civilised society could not tolerate the existence of permanent colonies of the incarcerated, and a permanent 'job' of managing them.
Oh, make no mistake, they intend to recognize the severe injustice of indefinite detention as a form of punishment soon enough. In fact, those who are out of step with the gradual elimination process already recognize that prison is exceptionally unjust and has far less value as either an incentive to repent (the indispensable first step in reform) or a deterrence to crime, compared with its punitive effects.
Once you make the argument that capital punishment is inherently unjust, abolishing the prison on the same grounds becomes trivially easy. Next is jails, then house arrest enforced by those pesky anklets. Eventually all law enforcement is a matter of people reporting themselves to the authorities and voluntarily paying a fine.
Of course, you still have the secret police to go out and kill, abduct, rape, torture, and otherwise act to deter any actions actually adverse to the interests of those in power. It is only crimes against the commoners that will be regarded as insufficient grounds to justify punishment. One can count on that.
@John - As you say, argumewnt is futile. But my feeling is that your gut feeling relates to a false framing of the issue - which is that of a modern mass state administering laws of the kind that we currently have, by the kind of mechanisms we currently use. In such a situation, real justice is unattainable except by accident (which isn't justice).
But as another way of framing this issue, consider that *real* fairy tales often end with the death of the evil villain. This is known by children as natural justice for some types of act. It feels right - indeed anything else is felt as an evasion, a Bowdlerisation. (Chesterton wrote well about this.)
It is not a matter of what we imagine as 'law (which is a crude application of very general principles, created by chans of voting committees), nor of the situation of an evil and incompetent set of rulers and rules and procedures -- It is better understood in a highly specific kind of way; such as an isolated village dealing with a specific person who has (for example) kidnapped and tortured children in a planned fashion.
It is ultimately a question of what is just; not just what is expedient. And this basic guidance is built-in. When that is overturned we get confusion...
@CCL - I repeat that the objective of the evil powers is not any particular state of affairs characterised by fear, suffering and premature death; but of a situation that best encourages self-chosen damnation.
It seems to me that the situation most conducive to evil is one of permanent confusion, a paralysing doubt. Your scenario is much too stable and organised for the needs of the demons - they want instead universal uncertainty, which is best attained by continual change without direction or unified purpose.
Exactly what we currently have, in fact. Modern Western society is the 'best' ever yet devised for the purpose of maximising damnation. It is chaotic and changeable enough to mess up the minds of almost everyone, but is prevented from tipping into the kind of collapse (such as many wars) that might suddently clarify realities, might bring people to their senses. Al this is sustained by the metaphysical assumptions in all public discourse of no God, no afterlife, no soul etc.
I think *that* is the 'purpose' (actually an anti-purpose) of the push for centralised totalitarian monitoring and control - we can see it in the UK wrt 'terrorism'. It's pretty clear that 'the authorities' use their considerable power and knowledge of terrorists in order to ensure the continuation of endemic, severe but low grade terrorism -
e.g. it seems that known potential/ actual terrorists are imported and placed, and deniably (by several steps of separation) enabled; and in sufficient numbers so as to be de facto unstoppable; such that from this prepared seedbed of thousands of potential terrorists specific incidents 'just happen' without need for detectable specific planning. Then the response to terrorism is manipulated via the mass media and the population's addiction to it.
The government (or rather, the demonic forces behind the ruling elites) does not want the terrorists to win; but/and they prevent effective action being taken to stop the problem and demonise those who advocate it: thus they maintain the situation at a fairly constant level, terrible but not intolerable, perpetual disorder and semi-confusion, which is presumably exactly what they want - because it works very well for their demonic purposes.
I doubt that a situation in which criminal activity is rampant and only punished selectively (when it results in injury to the most obviously evil in society) can ever be stable. But it can be highly damning while it lasts. The incentives to criminality, and thus dishonestly, as well as cowardly targeting of the innocent rather than the guilty, both tend to corrupt the souls of all those determined to go on living.
And a society which makes it sinful to live provides much incentive to the sin of wanting to give up on life.
If such a situation could be stable, I think demons would welcome it. Unfortunately for them, one can only push so far before society erupts in rage, much of it malevolent, but the foundations essentially righteous. The downfall of the global socialist elite is coming, the writing is on the wall. They are in a quandary where they cannot continue it without rolling back much of their corruption, whereas furthering the corruption is their entire purpose.
In response to John Fitzgerald's comment: I long shared your belief that there should never be capital punishment - and I'm no-one's idea of a bleeding-heart liberal. Over the years, though, that view changed back to an earlier belief that capital punishment can be the one that fits the crime, and in those instances the just punishment.
But what Pope Francis has done here is not ultimately about capital punishment. It is instead an unprecedented power-grab by an incumbent Pope: a claim that the catechism of the Catholic Church, instead of being refined over time by the collective wisdom of the Church's tradition and Magisterium, may be made up at whim by the Pope of the moment. In our fallen era, that means movement exclusively to accommodate the secular Left's preoccupations du jour. Exactly as we have seen from Jorge Mario Bergoglio from the day he became Pope, and for all I know while he was Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires and even before. I don't know how secular Jorge Mario Bergoglio is; that he's a Leftist I don't doubt for a second.
David Warren, whom Nova mentions in the first of these comments, has an excellent post today explaining why what Pope Francis has just done re capital punishment is a qualitative shift in the Catholic Church. (As are you and Warren, I am a Catholic: please don't take my remarks as an attack on the Church herself; re our current Pope and all the post-Vatican II dross from which we suffer, read into them as much as you like!) Here is the link: https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2018/08/03/on-capital-punishment/.
I think Warren gets to the heart of why this Bergoglian eruption is qualitatively different from all previous Papal pronouncing in these paragraphs:
"On the question of capital punishment, my first, rather naïve question was, “Can he do that?”
"Of course he can. Any pope could have rewritten any part of the Catechism, with which he happened personally to disagree, at any time through the centuries. But even popes such as Borgias and Medicis never tried it on. They broke rules but did not try to “revise” them.
"The damage that is done, and will be done, by this latest breach of “papal etiquette,” is broader and will be broader than first appears. Beyond the creation of a precedent for altering Church teaching by papal fiat, it confirms the politicization of our doctrine. Henceforth, and for the foreseeable future, the Holy See (even after Bergoglio’s demise) is re-oriented to social and political issues.
"Let me try to explain what may seem over-subtle. The very character of the Church is subverted by this. The question of salvation – the centrality of Jesus Christ, in other words – is replaced with very worldly, subsidiary questions of “who gets what.” Worse, in some ways, than being contradicted, Christ is progressively ignored."
Warren's entire column is short, and all worth reading. What the Pope is doing is not about the morality of capital punishment. It is another example, along with the rampant and unchecked homesexualism that befouls our Church and the deliberate demolition of our liturgy that renders our Sacraments banal, of something far worse: the de-Christing (forgive the vulgar neologism) of the very Church Our Lord Himself founded and entrusted to Saint Peter and the Apostles.
Dr. Charlton observes that every modern institution, no matter what it is or purports to be, has been seduced to evil in these evil times we have the privilege to be living through. Here, in the one institution that should best be able to resist, is enraging evidence that the good doctor is probably right.
Dr. Charlton, your post talks about things coming to a head and the discernment of good and evil becoming clearer (with which I agree), but you also say in the comments that purposive evil wants permanent confusion and doubt, about which they are currently succeeding. How to reconcile?
@Ansrew - They are two different things, so they don't need reconciling!
One way to think about it is that - as things get more evil - evil can afford to be most direct in pursuit of more rapid gains; I think a lot of it is due to impatience.
I'm thinking of the way that Screwtape has to continually rein-in the young tempter Wormwood who is keen to get immediate results, but in doing so reveal himself and his strategy.
Thank you very much for your response to my comment, Howard. Most illuminating.
I guess that a blogger has more knowledge that the Holy Pontiff inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Ok, let's see WHY Pope Francis' is spot on.
1) We have ALL been sentenced to death. We are ALL in the death row, the difference between convicted criminals and non-convicted citizens is the dimensions of the death corridor. For a convicted criminal, the death row is a dozen meters long, for a regular citizen is the entire world. The executioner is to be God, not us. The criminal will be executed by God at his appointed time, which is perfect and just.
2) We do not have the capacity to foresee the future, hence we do not know if God has planned to provide the grace needed for the criminal's salvation at the day of his departure from this world. Early execution may cut off God's plan of administering grace. And if the person dies before time due to our death sentence and falls in hell, we will have to stand before God and explain ourselves.
3) The death sentence implicitly denies the fact that it may be possible to lead the criminal into repentance, thus granting him salvation. Persistent prayer by holy men and women, together with mortification and penance, may pay for the sheeding of grace needed by the criminal to repent and convert. Death penalty assumes that the will of the criminal is locked in evil after the crime and cannot be changed by any means.
4) and finally, if any of the early christians had sentenced Paul before he departed to Damascus, we would not have one of the most spectacular and magnificent of all the Apostles.
You know, there is a virtue called "humility". I love your blog and the wisdom you share in your entries, here you need correction.
A very high-quality comments thread. It shed a lot of light on the capital punishment issue for me. (The light on the other issue, that of the current state of the papacy, was, alas, already glaringly bright.)
@EQ - Of course I am not a Roman Catholic, although I naturally wish the best for the largest Christian denomination, therefore I do not have the automatic assumption that the Pontiff has any specially elevated status as a Christian.
However, I do regard the previous two Popes before the current one as having been exceptional, and exceptionally holy, men.
@ED - Pope Pius XII said, “the coercive power of legitimate human authority” has its roots in “the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine” and so it must not be said “that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances” for they have “a general and abiding validity.” (Acta Apostolica Sedis, 1955, pp.81-82).
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