Friday, March 20, 2015

Did The Pope Utter Heresy In Regard To The Death Penalty?

We know that several of the previous pontiffs have personally opposed the death penalty.  Pope Saint John Paul II was one.  He wrote about it in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae.  However, he acknowledged that the state still had the right to legitimate use of the death penalty.  He never tried to abolish it outright.  He couldn't, for the legitimacy of the death penalty has been established Church teaching for the past 2,000 years.  I will link to two blogging colleagues who wrote pieces in response to the erroneous efforts by a number of Catholic press outlets.  One is by From Rome and the other from One Peter Five.  In my post two weeks ago I also presented some Catholic truth on the matter.  I think all this supports From Rome's premise, that it is a heresy to claim that capital punishment is wrong.

That makes the pope's words, released this morning by Vatican news outlets, to be quite troubling.

He stated today that the death penalty is "inadmissible, however serious the crime".  Ladies and gentlemen, that is not Catholic doctrine - and thus not the teaching of Jesus Christ.  Will this pope declare that his predecessors and many Doctors of the Church to be in error?  He rails against "punishing one murder with another".  His statement does not do justice to the definition of "murder" according to Catholic moral theology, as I explained in my March 6th post.

No pope can contradict the perennial teaching of Holy Mother Church - but that is precisely what Pope Francis did this morning!  St Thomas Aquinas defines heresy as "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith in Christ, corrupt its dogmas."

So does this blanket condemnation of capital punishment constitute heresy?


  1. The pope said the principle of legitimate personal defense isn't adequate justification because the death penalty isn't applied to a current act of aggression but "for an act committed in the past."Declaring "nowadays the death penalty is inadmissible," Francis built on church teaching, including pronouncements during St. John Paul II's papacy, that modern prison systems make executions unnecessary. Francis said there is "no humane way" to execute someone.

    The fact that the pope was using a political group to determine the Catholic Churches Moral Teaching regarding the death Penalty seems out of sync with the means necessary to determine a Catholic Statement regarding the Right or Wrong regarding the death Penalty. Suggesting that it is wrong because there are sufficient prisons, and NO humane way of executing someone does NOT give sound reasoning for the State NOT to execute an individual who has performed a horrible crime.

    What the pope sounds like he is saying is. The death penalty is wrong because I don't like it. which implies that it is his personal opinion and nothing more.

    1. It may well be his personal opinion but he should have made that explicit. It's simply unethical for him to couch his opinion with the weight of his hIgb office. There are only two possibilities here: 1) he's trying to throw two thousand years of Church teaching in the trash or 2) he's being unconscionably careless with his words.

    2. At this point I think an announcement from the Vatican should be made that says "This pope often gives his personal opinions rather than actual Catholic doctrine".


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