Pope Francis Has Exceeded His Authority on the Death Penalty

By John Zmirak Published on August 2, 2018

Today, in trying to reverse more than 6,000 years of Jewish-Christian teaching on capital punishment, Pope Francis exceeded his authority. All he is entitled to do is pass along and explain the Divine Revelation that ended with the death of St. John the Apostle, and clarify points of natural law. He’s like the FedEx guy. He didn’t pack the Deposit of Faith and he’s not allowed to tamper with it.

Or as I said this morning on Twitter, on reading the news:

Way Beyond His Authority

No pope has the authority to decide that penalties demanded by God in the Old Testament, and not condemned in the New, are now intrinsically evil. Pope Francis hasn’t quite said that, but he now claims that the death penalty is “inadmissible.” And his claim that the death penalty violates the Christian commitment to human dignity comes close to claiming, contrary to all previous Church teaching, that it is intrinsically evil.

But he does not have the authority to reverse the Church’s constant teaching accepting capital punishment, which culminated in the popes’ employing it for centuries, and the death penalty remaining on the books of Canon Law through 1968. The pope is the Vicar of Christ, not ANOTHER Christ. So he can’t say things like “Previous popes and Moses told you X, but I say unto you Y.” 

Apologize to the Nazis

If capital punishment violates human dignity, then it is not only wrong going forward. It was always wrong. It was wrong when the Allies executed the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg. (With Pius XII’s encouragement.) Perhaps we owe those dead mass-murderers an apology for violating their human dignity.

And we’re supposed to believe that we’re just now finding out this eternal truth, as if via some oracle in Rome? What else will find out that the Church has been wrong about for 2,000 (and Jews for 2,000 more) years? Maybe we’ll learn that when cardinals sleep with teenage boys, that’s not a sin either.

Pay No Attention to Uncle Ted Behind the Curtain

Make no mistake, the Vatican launched this smoke bomb this week for a reason. (It was actually decided months ago.) To get the world’s liberal activists’ attention. This sends the memo: “Don’t talk about all those molested boys. Talk about this instead!” As even Salon has noticed, it’s a bright shiny handkerchief in the magician’s hand, distracting us from all the sickening sin and corruption. From the fact that the priesthood itself is danger of seeming like a homosexual cult. (Also from the law permitting abortion about to pass in Francis’ native Argentina, about which he has been comparatively silent.)

Make no mistake, when the next tranche of stomach-churning gay sex scandals emerges, we can expect a swift response from the Vatican. Namely, another ham-handed revision of the Catechism, probably on immigration. We will learn then that every Christian nation in history was violating human dignity when it policed its borders.

As someone who has known and benefited from many good and holy priests over five decades, that outrages me. The McCarricks of this world and their enablers? They are to the priesthood what Lt. Calley was to the U.S. Army when he massacred civilians at My Lai. A stain on the flag.

Make no mistake, when the next tranche of stomach-churning gay sex scandals emerges, we can expect a swift response from the Vatican. Namely, another ham-handed revision of the Catechism, probably on immigration. We will learn then that every Christian nation in history was violating human dignity when it policed its borders. Especially wealthy countries whose fragile political and economic systems inspire envy and hatred — of the kind shown by “vice-pope” (and sex abuse coverup mast) Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga.

Not Infallible. Not Even Plausible.

Let us be clear. Pope Francis did not invoke his ultimate, infallible authority in issuing this statement. It contradicts previous statements by popes and councils, not to mention Sacred Scripture. That means that from a Catholic perspective its value is probably null. It’s like the teaching of Pope John XXII that at death our souls just go to sleep, awaiting the final judgment. That heresy got condemned by the very next pope.

At the very most? Pope Francis has removed the death penalty from the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, which functions by consensus over the centuries. (See my explanation here.) He has left us free to argue about it on the merits, instead of accepting as final the universal (but never formally infallible) teaching that the death penalty is just.

So let’s talk about the merits.

Do We Execute Animals?

Does the death penalty violate human dignity, as Pope Francis argues? No, it reaffirms it. Here’s how. Do we ever speak of “executing” animals? Of bringing lions to justice, even for eating people? Sane people don’t. Nor have Christian countries approved of executing children, or the insane. Abuses occurred, of course, but this principle has deep roots in Christian common law.

We aim at least to execute only competent, culpable adults for grave offenses against justice. Primarily for taking innocent life — because we regard such life as profoundly sacred. Also for treason, and murder of law enforcement personnel, because those attack the life of the State, and the common good of citizens. We execute primarily to render justice, to render on earth some portion of God’s justice, and properly direct our common outrage.

Pope John Paul II Erred, Too

The argument that we only execute people as a last resort to protect society against them goes back no further than Pope John Paul II. It was wrong when he said it and it’s still wrong now. I explained why in 2015. Let me quote that at length here:

A justice system based on the modern liberal moral code does not imprison people to punish them for crimes; it identifies primates whose behavior is causing social problems by diminishing the happy moments quota. So a thief or a killer is not a “criminal” meriting punishment so much as a buzzkill who’s hogging the bong and ruining the party. Have the bouncer remove him, but put him someplace comfortable. Give him a cell with satellite TV porn and lots of Prozac. Maybe the dude will calm down, and we can let him back in later. …

To reduce the role of the state, as some Christian critics of capital punishment do, to the lone, lame goal of “protecting people,” is to march 70 yards closer to the secular liberal “happy moments” theory of life. We would not execute or imprison people as punishment — that’d be judgmental and vindictive. No, we’d put people away for our protection, and for their own, so they could get the help and rehabilitation that they needed. In fact, some [including Pope Francis] say, we should not even imprison people without parole, because then they would live without “hope” — which they redefine not as a Christian virtue focused on salvation in the next life, but rather as the “hope” of grabbing a few more happy moments in this one.

Some critics of capital punishment allow for executions in theory as a last resort — in a society where prisons are insecure, for instance. They seem not to realize the ominous principle they’re admitting here. They believe that no one really deserves to die at the hands of the state, in the name of justice. But they will allow the state to execute someone if he is a persistent danger to society. His guilt is irrelevant to whether he lives or dies. That depends on the thickness of prison walls, and whether the guards can be bribed.

Consider the logic of this position for a moment. Stephen Spielberg played it out in his anti-utopian film Minority Report, where criminals were captured and punished before they’d even had the chance to complete their crimes, for the better protection of the innocent. If we can execute people not because they are guilty — remember that that is a sin — but only out of expediency, then why can’t we imprison them for the very same reason? Why wait for them even to commit a crime? Much better to put them in therapeutic confinement the moment they are diagnosed with strong anti-social tendencies.

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Before you scoff at that as science fiction, remember that states across the country have tried to enact “preventative detention” laws, holding sexual abusers captive after they’d served their sentences, to stop them from striking again. As genetics advances, and we learn more about “predator genes,” do you really put it past the mad scientists who make up our country’s bioethics as they go along — who have filled IVF center’s freezers with hundreds of thousands of embryos — to get behind preventative detention? Why not eugenic screening?  The last thing Christians need to do is to encourage such madness, by abandoning the clear, stark standard of justice as the only criterion for punishment.

If we will not execute terrorists whose guilt is plain as day, but instead leave them to sit in comfortable cells composing their memoirs and manifestos, we dishonor the lives they ended and degrade our very own. We embrace, whether we know it or not, the secular liberal consensus that life is cheap, so it needs to be fun, because nothing really matters.

That’s what Pope Francis just told us. There’s plenty of reason to disagree, whether you’re Catholic or not.

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  • Nunyadambizness

    I’m sorry, but this is not the first time this Pope has “erred”–otherwise known as putting one’s foot in their mouth. In my opinion he needs to study the Bible some more, pray for more guidance, and speak less. His position on current issues shows himself to be a Leftist/Globalist, which does not serve the church well.

    • stumpc

      Any such proclamation would defy 2000 years of Christian teaching. Therefore, not valid.

    • Micha_Elyi

      You do know why Pope Francis was quick to kick off those traditional papal red shoes don’t you, Nunyadambizness? He didn’t like the taste of their red polish when he put his foot in his mouth.

  • Patmos

    I think Francis just prefers the option of cruel and unusual punishment for a person serving a life sentence as they sit in a confined space for most of their existence until their psyche breaks down, because after all, torture is so dignified.

  • ImaginaryDomain

    It is always wrong, except to defend yourself or others. Self defense or defense of others is exactly that, not murder. Period… What part of “thou shalt not” seems so difficult to understand?

    Capital punishment is wrong. Period.

    • John F. Kennedy

      You know better than God.

    • mbabbitt

      Thou shall not Murder (the.word is not “kill”) . The lawful execution of a criminal in not murder. Read Genesis 6: 5-6 “From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” The Noadic Covenant has never been canceled. Thank you.

      • Micha_Elyi

        The word is “kill”, yes indeed. When the Scriptures were first translated into English that was the word used. There was another word used for killing without regard to justice, guilt, or innocence; a word we still commonly use today to describe indiscriminate death-dealing, especially for but not limited to animals: ‘slaughter’.

        Yes, the meaning of words change over the centuries but we humans are reluctant to give up archaic words in our liturgies and prayers–the Our Father has plentiful examples of this. However in profane use, the word ‘kill’ drifted in meaning towards the meaning of ‘slaughter’ so the French word ‘murder’ (which means ‘to kill’) was pressed into service and laden with the older meaning of ‘kill’.

      • ImaginaryDomain

        I stand corrected. Thanks for that.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    This papal operation is beta testing for the “doctrinally development” recalibration of the Catechism’ s BIG ONE – the one about homosexuality.

    This morning Pope Francis dog-whistled Fr James Martin (S.J., of course): “Let’s go Catechism hunting”.

  • James Blazsik

    Agreed – let’s not get our eyes off the sex abuse crisis. We need the laity to take a stand that the Church cleans up now.

    • SonoftheChurch

      “Take a stand”…how? Please explain just what you expect the laity to do. March on Rome? Protest in front of Chanceries? Boycott the Collection Plate?
      There is always a great deal of “blog” verbiage about the laity “rising up” or “taking a stand” but never any specific, credible Plans of Action or Strategic Initiatives set forth to organize and implement a REAL effort to confront this diabolical insanity…..just a bunch of TALK.

      Who’s going to MAKE the (in your words) “Church clean up now?” And just how do you suppose we do that, other than by prayer, fasting and reparations? I’d really like to know, because I’m sick of hearing all the talk about the laity “rising up” but there is NEVER any well-planned, well-organized, comprehensive, global effort of the laity set forth by those who write and speak regarding these issues….NEVER.

      And even when something pro-active or hard-hitting is proposed, such as the collection-redirect thing, there is never any consensus or mass unity to support it. Everybody starts making their own excuses for not wanting to participate because of how it will effect THEIR own little corner. “My diocese is just fine, and I don’t want to deprive our retired Priests from the support they need to live on.” Or, “My Pastor is very conservative, our Parish doesn’t have any boy-rape problems.” Or, “Our Bishop works so hard to promote vocations, I’d never want to hinder that.” Or, “I’m not sure we can neglect our canonical obligation to support the Church, which is what I’d be doing if I don’t give to my Parish.”

      So NOTHING ever gets done. No movement (or anything that could be defined as such or worthy of the name) of the laity. No taking a stand by the laity. No challenge from the laity…..NOTHING…..not a single thing but TALK and venting in the blogosphere. Please tell me, where is all that alleged “outrage” and what is being done with it? Who and where are all of the so-called “enraged laity” ready to “storm the Church?” What are they supposed to be ready to do? ……………….(crickets chirping).

      TALK, I tell you….nothing but cheap TALK….while the smoke of satan is SUFFOCATING the Church.

      • James Blazsik

        Now, that was a rant.
        Of course it starts with prayer, because it starts with me. I have to have a clean, pure heart
        We have to realize that the Most Holy Trinity wants a clean, pure Church.
        We must petition the Holy Mother and the Saints.
        We must cultivate a devotion to the holy Eucharist.
        We must evangelize and disciple our families
        We must get involved in our Churches.
        We must work and pray with like minded people.
        We must work with leaders in our Churches – with love and respect.
        We must work with our Bishops. (Now that will be hard).
        We must control the use of our giving
        We must discover our gifts and use them
        We must not give up. We are in it for the long haul.
        But in the end, it will be the work of God.

        • Chris Griffin

          How about a massive youth education program to educate against abortion, homosexuality and errant Catholic clerics? Yes, God wins in the end but in the meantime millions of babys murdered, millions of a horrible sexual sin and millions of unworthy clerics.

          • James Blazsik

            You are right! Good on you.

          • The worst part is when you have those things in your life. Have you fixed them in yourself?

        • Kevin Quillen

          “We must petition the Holy Mother and the Saints.”
          Serious question……what is the Biblical basis for this?

          • Mara319

            The Holy Mother and the Saints, among others, believe in Jesus Christ Our Lord. Look at what the Lord promises to those who believe in Him:

            Jn 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.

          • Kevin Quillen

            holy mother and the saints are dead, how can they help. are they now equal with Christ who intercedes for us?

          • WithHisGrace

            Are they “dead”? “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the
            dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the
            Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow
            them!”” Rev 14:13. Of course they are not equal to Christ! Sheesh!

            As to those who are now with Christ praying for those of us still here on Earth, why not? What would stop them? Why would God not want them to do so? And in reality, are they not in a prime position to do so since they have begun the eternal quest to know God and already know more about what pleases Him than any of us here on Earth? There are 2 attributes to the Catholic Faith that help bind her teachings together: natural law and common sense. Catholics believe that since the resurrection of Jesus, a veil stands between us and eternity. Before, a solid wall kept us out until our Redeemer came. With a veil, those with God can see here below, but it is our Father’s wish that we not see above: “Eye has not seen, ear…” We’re not zombies in heaven; we have emotions. But we are perpetually happy and at peace because we finally understand. If it pleases me to pray to Jesus for my loved ones on Earth, as I did when I was on Earth, why would that be taboo, evil, or offensive to God? Where did protestants get THAT from?

          • Kathy

            The veil was torn in the temple when Christ died on the cross, indicating that we believers now have full access to the Father. No longer is there a need for a priest (or anyone else) to intercede for us.

            When you wish to communicate with your loved ones, must you first ask another person to be an intermediary for you? Why would God, who desires a personal relationship with each of His children, ask them to first go through other channels in order to gain access to Him? I’m sure you don’t require that of your loved ones.

          • Kevin Quillen

            thank you Kathy, you typed exactly what I was going to.

          • How convenient for you to usurp the entirety of Apostolic Succession and the Deposit of Faith for yourself.

            I will tell you though that necromancy (attempting to commune with the dead) is a mortal sin. One may ask your family to pray for you or for Saints to pray for you, but to ask for an audience as if they need to take orders from you or that they need to hear your decrees, only gets you demons exploiting your immense ego into possession.

          • Kevin Quillen

            Please tell me where in the Bible do I find about the veil between us and eternity? And where is the verse about the “wall”?

          • The word apocalypse and revalation refer to removing the veil between the material and spirit world, but also between creation (which includes both material and spirit worlds) and Heaven (which is the Throneroom of God).

            This will be removed just before the Last Day. All angels and demons operating here will be able to be seen. Maybe it was edited out of your “bibles.” It’s in the aptly titled, Revelation.

          • Mara319

            John 11:25

            Jesus said unto her, I AM the resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he is dead, yet shall he live;

          • The Mother of God is the Queen of all creation, and was assumed into Heaven. The Saints are anyone who is in Heaven.

            These people are dead? There is just you and Christ who waits on whatever your ego wants.

            Please understand that blasphemy cries to Heaven for vengeance. If you had any idea what punishment that incurs in damnation, even you would wise up and realize not to do it.

          • Catechist Kev

            See Rev 5:8, 8:3-4. Also 1 kings 2:13-21… to mention just a few.

          • James Blazsik

            Great question.
            1) Eph. 3:15 – Christ’s body is in Heaven and earth. When you die, if you are Christian. you are still part of the Body of Christ. The Church Triumphant in Heaven.
            2) Heb. 4:16 – we are commanded to approach the throne of grace in Heaven.
            3) Heb 12:22-24 – when we come before the throne, we also approach the saints.
            4) 1 Tim.2:1 – the Bible commands us to pray for one another.
            5) The book of Revelation shows this truth in practice.
            Asking the saints to pray for us was part of the early Church. The Church in heaven is a living reality.

          • Kevin Quillen

            thanks for the reply. I do not get it though. The New Testament “commands” nothing except to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves. Knowing Jesus and obedience to God is all there is. Now, Paul’s admonishment to “work out your own salvation” puts the onus on each individual to study and pray and discern how to follow Christ’s example. The truth will set you free. The truth is…….there is NOTHING one must do beyond trusting God through the relationship with Christ. The book of Revelation is about the end of the Jewish age and the complete incoming of the New Heaven and New Earth. It is about the destruction of the Jews for their unbelief and the killing of the Prophets. Matt 23: 31-38. I feel you are in an organization that keeps you bound to man made traditions and restricts your freedom.

          • WithHisGrace

            I smiled so broadly when I read your post, because when I am in the state of Grace and in full communion with the Church, I feel freedom beyond measure, trust in my Lord without limit, and determination to live for and please Him. You can’t understand because you are an outsider, and have learned and still believe many falsehoods about the Catholic Faith. Want a straight forward way to know what all this Catholic stuff is? Don’t look to the “New Catechism of the Catholic Church”, get the “Baltimore Catechism”: straight forward, Q & A format. This is not to persuade you, but to educate you, so at least you’ll truly know with what you are disagreeing.

          • James Blazsik

            I was in the Evangelical world for over 20 years. I attended various non-denominational churches. Was a United Methodist youth pastor. Went to a Pentecostal college. Even attended a baptist church. Got into Calvinism. Became an Anglican priest. A Lutheran pastor gave me a biography of Martin Luther and it led me to the Catholic church.
            You know what I found out? All follow teaching tradition. All follow man made rules.
            In Eph 3:18 commands us to comprehend what is the width, length, depth and height with all all the saints. It’s not just you. You are part of the Body of Christ.
            When I came into the Catholic Church I got it all. In Christ, you get everything. Even fellowship with the Church in heaven.
            I found the Eucharist. Jesus said in John 6:53-58, that without eating His Body and Blood you have no life in you. Also, He said to abide in Him you must eat His Body and Blood. Jesus said in the Last Supper that the Bread and Wine is His Body and Blood.
            Your take on our relationship with Christ is your teaching tradition.

          • Kathy

            My husband (now a former Catholic) was raised in the RCC, attended Catholic school through the 8th grade, and has an uncle (now deceased) who was a priest. Of course he would be more knowledgable and has more experience than i.

            He wasn’t saying anything that wasn’t already obvious to me, but I overheard him telling someone that the RCC inserts itself between God and man. More often than not, there is no direct access to or personal relationship with our Father, there must be either someone (Mary, saints) or something (i.e, the Eucharist) that acts as a go-between. A love for the “things” of the church translate to a love for Christ. As you know, Scripture tells us our only mediator is Christ Himself.

          • So your husband has an 8th grade knowledge of the Faith. This is the mountain that you declared Apostalic Succession for yourself on. Yikes.

            The fundamental problem with your pride (aka “building your throne above the Heavens”) is that you only accept things that facilitate the idea that God is your butler. Again, you just use Christ as a label for “akashic field” or “gnosis” garbage that hindus and gnostics claim allows them to change reality to their ego.

            I will wonder in a rare showing of intellectual honesty if you will tell me the immense sin that made your husband believe denying God would make the game go away.

          • WithHisGrace

            If I can ask you to pray for me now, why can I not ask you to pray for me after you have died and are in heaven? Does your honor and duty to pray for others cease just because your physical body is temporarily unusable? Of all the people on Earth, who do you think was closest to Jesus? Maybe His Mother? And even after He told her that it was not yet His time, He gave in to her command that He provide the wedding party with more wine. Did anyone else have such influence over Jesus while on Earth? Of course, I am not including God the Father. As to the saints, and how someone is proclaimed a saint and what that means is too complicated to be dealt with here.

            And as to everything having to have a “biblical” basis, that is a purely protestant thing. Scripture itself says that “all the books in the world could not contain all that Jesus said and did during His time on Earth”. Out of “all the books in the world”, do you really believe that all the important teachings could be squeezed into one book? Or perhaps the Holy Spirit provided additional means for mankind to know Jesus? Tradition: oral teachings. Magisterium: consistency of belief through the centuries. Scripture: the Word of God explained through, and in line with, tradition and the magisterium. The Catholic Faith, the true, unadulterated Faith, flows gently from one teaching to another, through interwoven doctrines, time tested, and unchanged for almost 2000 years.

          • Kevin Quillen

            belief in extra-biblical sources is very dangerous. therein lies the problem with Catholicism.
            special revelation given to special people. cultish.

      • Chris Griffin

        Right on target SonoftheChurch. It;s been nothing but talk and whinning.

      • James Bowman

        “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

  • stumpc

    Keep the focus on the homosexual predators in the clergy.

  • tz1

    Francis the talking mule goes over the line here, however there is a serious problem of Justice since there are two problems involved – the Death Penalty needs to be a just Desert and not a deterrent or something else (see CS Lewis on “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment”), and it requires the man the state executes be guilty. There have been more than enough examples of questionable guilty findings, after-the-execution exhonorations, prosecutorial misconduct, etc. to give us pause.

    We aren’t arguing about how to fix the Justice system, so the system becomes “We don’t care if we imprison in solitary an innocent man for life as long as we insure we get the guilty”. But the implementation is the means to the end, and we’ve forgotten Justice and replaced it with quarantine, rehabilitation, or something else.

    But the former problem is not irrelevant. We should bring back the guillotine. It looks horrible but is probably the least cruel method. Because if you go beyond desert to deterrent, then why not torture someone to death in the most horrible, painful, and SLOWEST way possible. I’m sure with technology we’ve been using to enhance torture, I mean “interrogation”, techniques, we could make “Capital Punishment” several years of something like hell that would for someone who repented managed to be a penance that would empty Purgatory.

    A final problem is it might be useful to cleanly kill people, rendering them brain dead so we can harvest their organs. The demand for organs is high, so the penalties might be increased like you notice when some jurisdiction doesn’t have sufficient taxes and starts having the police write traffic taxation tickets. It goes back to desert and the gravity of the crime.

    I prefer the Death Penalty to be technically licit while practically banned because those implementing it are as fallen as those who would be executed.

  • Chris Griffin

    Excellent article. PF is trying again to “weasel” his opinion in the CCC without quite being an out-right heretic. It won’t work with Catholics who know the truth.

  • Jim Walker

    in sheep skins@t@n15t in sheep skin

  • The official Catholic teaching hasn’t changed. With this action, Pope Francis is asking us to teach a subjective personal opinion (of few theologians) over the objective moral truth of the Catholic Church. That is unfortunate.

  • LgVt

    If there’s any comfort to be taken from this, as I understand matters, it’s that this isn’t locked in stone yet–it’s a draft of a revision to the Catechism.

    There’s still time for an outcry to send Francis backpedaling, just as he did at the synod a few years back.

    • Howard

      Francis is far too humble to ever admit he was wrong.

  • Kevin Quillen

    The Bible tells me that in my relationship with the Father, through Christ, there is no one between me and God. Therefore, I never have understood the relevance of the pope.
    The issue of the death penalty is tough, but I cannot get around Jesus saying we should love our enemies as God loves us. He forgives everything and gives us life. Shouldn’t we? Humane imprisonment is sufficient. The murderer can no longer harm society and may yet come to Christ. From a purely economic standpoint…..life sentences are cheaper than the death penalty. The mandatory appeal process is extremely expensive. Cheaper actually to house and feed for life.

    • Micha_Elyi

      Whatever authority you believe the Bible has, Kevin Quillen, comes from the authority Jesus Christ gave to His Church through His Apostles, especially Peter the Rock on whom He built His Church.

      If you want to know what the Bible tells you, ask the Church that produced it, protected the Christian Scriptures through persecutions, authorized it, then promulgated it throughout the world.

      • Kevin Quillen

        every believer in Christ constitutes the Church. Peter as the first Pope? Hogwash! The church is built on the revelation/recognition of who Christ is. The Holy Spirit is the believers teacher, I need ask no man for meaning of scripture! Christ revealed Himself to me, that is all I need. Thirty plus years of individual study has equipped me just fine. The truth will set you free. I am free indeed! No where in scripture does it say that there is anyone between you and God, once grace is received. Stick with your man made traditions and look to your holy father if you please, I live in peace, anxious for nothing.

        • WithHisGrace

          “I need ask no man for meaning of scripture! Christ revealed Himself to me, that is all I need.” By this, you have made YOURSELF YOUR OWN AUTHORITY. That is why there are as many meanings to scripture among protestants as there are words contained within it. You all can’t be right! But I am s-u-r-e that YOU are s-u-r-e that YOU have an IN with the Holy Spirit and that YOU ALONE know the true meaning of scripture, right? BTW, thank the Catholic Monks who spent their entire lives writing copies of the bible in order to preserve it; otherwise, you would not be able to hit us over the head with it, use it to deride our faith, or have it be a source of your arrogance (“Thirty plus years of individual study has equipped me just fine.”)

          • Kevin Quillen

            so are you sure the Catholic theological positions are correct by your own study or by faith in another man’s study? You are right, all cannot be right. Are you sure the Catholic teachings are?

    • Nathan James

      “life sentences are cheaper than the death penalty”

      It is far, far easier to execute and bury a criminal than to house, feed and guard one for decades. Astronomical costs of death sentences are contrivances arranged by those who hate the death penalty.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    Also, if not actually, this is a gift (a signal) to the homosexualist Fr James Martin (S.J. of course). Changing those pesky gay entries in the Catechism is possible, probable, and – on the face of it – a done deal.

    Bag your popcorn. Showtime. The Synod on Youth is going to rock and roll.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Now that “violates human dignity” is to be the standard, what about imprisonment? Being kept in a cage like an animal certainly “violates human dignity”. Furthermore, requiring men* to participate directly in this practice of keeping others caged “violates human dignity” as well. Saying that prison guards are paid doesn’t take away the sin.

    * most prison guards are men

    • Robert

      But I think the point of either incarceration or execution (from the Church’s point of veiw) is to render someone incapable of doing further harm).

      I found last paragraph of the current 2267 from the CC below:

      Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

      • Howard

        I wonder what state he had in mind that “effectively prevents crime”? Italy? Argentina? The USA?

        Oh, and nice move for the Catechism to now refer to a sinner “redeeming himself“.

  • Delawanna

    Lupus Intus!!!

  • James B

    Pope Francis is a disaster

    • Aliquantillus

      It is time for his defenestration.

  • Howard

    I somewhat agree, but with qualifications.

    Human dignity surely consists largely in being made in the image of God. Since God had no body prior to the Incarnation, clearly this cannot refer to our bodies; instead, it refers to the fact that we make moral decisions of real consequence. Indeed, the Church has always taught that those consequences can include Hell, that every human will die, and that every human death is ultimately the consequence of sinful human choices. It probably would be heretical to claim that no one can commit a crime grave enough that he deserves not merely to die, but to die at the hands of his fellow man. Note, however, that neither the old nor the new language really addresses justice. Both assume guilt has been proved, and neither addresses what the criminal deserves.

    One might reasonably expect that if the emphasis is not on the cardinal virtue of justice, it must surely be on the theological virtue of charity. What, after all, could be more central to Christianity? Perhaps a reference to the parable of the unmerciful servant is in order?

    Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

    Yet there is no reference to charity, or to mercy, or to forgiveness!

    • Howard

      Instead, it appears the emphasis is on prudence. Thus the rather bizarre insistence that modern prisons are somehow more able to protect the public than ancient or medieval prisons. Escape from prison has always been rare, and it has always been the result of one or more exceptional circumstances: the prisoners have resourceful friends who break them out (at least in the ancient and medieval worlds helicopters were unavailable), or the guards are bribed, or seduced, or lazy, or stupid. In fact, none of that has really changed.

      So we are not charged in the new language to actually show mercy or to forgive, but we continue to be assured that we now have high-tech oubliettes into which we can throw the guilty. That’s what prisons are without mercy or charity, Please note, if it is now mandatory to prolong the prisoner’s life, that leniency is mere obedience, not mercy.

      It is also an appeal to prudence to allow more time for the offender to repent. In principle this sounds very good, but in practice it makes death an indistinct inevitability which is presumably in the distant future, so that repentance can be indefinitely postponed. It’s hard not to contrast this with the words of Samuel Johnson:

      Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

      Consequently, even the appeals to prudence are both unpersuasive.

      • Howard

        As an illustration of how prudential arguments can actually work, consider the case of O.J. Simpson. Just about every honest person now agrees that he brutally murdered his ex-wife and her friend, and that he did so in a horrific way that surely makes him worthy of death for the murders. Yet even if he were now to confess to the crimes, he would not (according to the way law has traditionally been applied in the USA) be vulnerable to any penalty whatsoever, let alone the death penalty. That is because although we believe strongly in justice, we also know that courts can too easily be used as a tool of government oppression, and so we have protection against double jeopardy. I suppose scarcely any Catholic from any time would be offended at this in principle as a matter of prudence; we accept some injustice as a safeguard against greater injustices, though of course it is hard to bear injustices when they hit close to home.

        I think a somewhat similar argument could be made for prohibiting capital punishment, as we now prohibit double jeopardy. Note that any such prudential argument depends on certain prerequisites of society, which supposedly now exist but did not really exist in the past. Personally, I see no evidence these prerequisites have suddenly appeared, and even if they have, upheavals in society and the passing of generations may easily remove them again. The prudential arguments may not be persuasive, but at least they provide a charitable perspective from which to read this pronouncement.

        • Howard

          What concerns me much more is the chronological snobbery. Francis is the most recent Pope, but we need not pretend that he is the wisest, most learned, or holiest; nor would any sane person say that the current college of bishops is the holiest or wisest ever to walk the planet. It is hard not to see this as being strongly implied, though not actually asserted, in the way the controversy over the death penalty has been handled. He could dress in a potato sack, but if Pope Francis really thinks he is the summit of the pontificate, he is far from a humble man.

          • Howard

            One more thing: Even if the Pope’s statement is unpersuasive as an argument, and even if it has to be read as an example of prudence rather than a more important teaching on justice or charity, it can still be understood as falling within his authority to govern. It can be binding on our actions even if we are convinced it is wrong-headed.

          • Zmirak

            Nope. He can’t contradict his predecessors and expect our loyalty. He’s on his own.

          • Howard

            So now you’re going to carry out executions in defiance of the Pope? I kinda doubt it. For you and for me, obedience in this matter is very much an abstraction.

            At any rate, if authority is not binding on our actions even if we are convinced it is wrong-headed, then it isn’t really authority.

          • WithHisGrace

            What was ‘true’ cannot suddenly become ‘untrue’. Just because a pope changes the wording in the catechism doesn’t make it ‘true’. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The teaching as it has been handed down through the centuries is ‘true’. It has weathered the test of time. We are under no obligation to believe and profess that which we know to be ‘false’ regardless of who says it.

            Blind obedience to authority is dangerous. Just, God-given authority is to be respected by us. When we see a cop car with lights on behind us, we pull over because in that arena, he has legitimate authority. If the same cop tells me that he doesn’t like the color of my car and that I am to have it painted, I am under no obligation to obey him as he has exceeded his authority. The pope is the guardian and proclaimer of the teachings of the Church as given to him by the Holy Spirit through the popes that came before him, the magisterium, tradition, and scripture. He is not the developer of the doctrines and teachings of the Church on faith and morals; so when he acts in a manner in which he adds, deletes, or changes that which has been written in stone for centuries, he has exceeded his authority and, therefore, I am under no obligation to obey. I will hold fast to what is ‘true’.

          • Howard

            If you read down to this point, you should know that I am not impressed by Pope Francis’s reasons for declaring what, when stripped of its flawed supporting arguments, is merely an indefinite moratorium on the death penalty. Likewise, I was not at all impressed by the reasons given by the Bush administration for attacking Iraq; at best they were an appeal not to what Bush knew, but to what he did not know. (This was clear even as events were unfolding. Of course, after the fact, it became clear that Bush’s fears were unfounded, but even in the run-up for war he did not claim to actually know that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program. That was only claimed by imaginative supporters of his with no real knowledge.) I was as confident that Bush failed to meet the standards of Just War Theory as I am that Francis is wrong on the death penalty.

            Perhaps you think all Catholic servicemen should have mutinied against Bush’s orders. After all, he was ordering action, not inaction, and a man killed today cannot be restored tomorrow, but a man spared today can always be killed tomorrow, and Bush was ordering a major change in what they were doing, whereas to “obey” Francis on this would not actually change what you, or Zmirak, or I are doing, so there was a much stronger argument for mutiny against Bush than against Francis. Perhaps there should indeed have been a mutiny; but I am not completely unsympathetic to the hundreds of thousands of Catholic servicemen who did not consider this grounds for mutiny. Perhaps they were all cowards who merely feared the personal consequences of disobedience, or perhaps they were bloodthirsty savages — or perhaps they had a point in thinking that a command must be very wrong indeed before it is right to disobey it.

          • Zmirak

            Since it contradicts previous Church teaching it has ZERO authority. None. Nada. At most, Francis has removed this issue from the accumulated Ordinary Magisterium (which functions by consensus). Please read my “Myth of Catholic Social Teaching.”

          • joeybot

            Hey dude, saw you flip out on Pakman. Way to not be able to even be asked a question without going nuts. Also, you look like a crazy hobo, try using a comb.

          • Kathy

            Don’t always agree with his positions, but he’s a very talented writer with equally strong convictions. I have heard him on the Eric Metaxas show and never remember him “flipping out”. Do you prefer wishy-washy people who don’t take a stand for what the believe?

          • Zmirak

            Oh absolutely. I would now volunteer for the job as a means of flouting this unjust and false abuse of authority.

          • Howard

            OK. Out of curiosity, is this because
            a) you think Francis was never validly elected,
            b) you think Francis was validly elected, but has effectively resigned as Pope by committing heresy, or
            c) you think this is entirely in the secular domain, and the Church basically has no real authority over even Catholics with regard to this matter.

            If c), do you still think that the Church is right to insist (however feebly in practice, I’m sad to say) that Catholics should work to make abortion illegal, rather than merely refusing to participate in it and discouraging it through argument and social pressure?

          • Zmirak

            It is because the Ordinary Magisterium refers only to matters taught consistently since the Apostles, and this is completely inconsistent with it. Imagine a pope woke up announced that contraception was good, and we ought to vote for state-funded sterilizations. You would NOT be obliged to obey.

          • Howard

            Do you even understand the difference between persuasion — ideally proceeding from undeniable principles through flawless logic to an inescapable conclusion — and authority? If I can persuade you to do something, I do not need to have the authority to require it of you. Conversely, if I have authority over you, I do not have to give you any explanations whatsoever, let alone ones you agree with. You seem to believe that no one has authority over John Zmirak — John Zmirak had better be convinced, or he will not comply.

          • Zmirak

            The pope’s statement HAS NO AUTHORITY because it contradicts previous Church teaching. Got it?

          • Howard

            I’ve got it that you HAVE NO IDEA what the difference is between a teaching and a directive.

          • Zmirak

            My stance against abortion has literally ZERO to do with what the RC church says. It’s a clear deduction from natural law, which (as Jerome Lejeune said) is so clear that if the RC church taught otherwise, we should LEAVE her.

          • Howard

            That wasn’t the question. The Catholic Church teaches that one should attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, and that one should fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but She does not ask for these obligations to be enforced by law. She makes a distinction between “no one should do X” and “civil authorities should make X illegal”. Saying that “no one should induce abortion” is therefore not enough to prove “civil authorities should make abortion illegal”. Is the Church right to make ANY demands that civil laws ban CERTAIN things no one should do, or should the Church butt out of the sphere of civil laws altogether?

  • Tim Pan

    A lost soul is not human . So the execution of an animal is permissible.

  • Martin McDermott, sj

    I am an elderly Jesuit priest. Pope Francis has no business or authority to forbid the death penalty. Instead, I would be delighted to see it applied to all the

    priests, bishops, and cardinals who abuse children–according to Mt 18:6. I say this because of the dignity of innocent victims.

    • Zmirak

      I agree, Father. Thank you for your service, and may St. Ignatius console you for all you have suffered.

  • Enough

    I agree with many of your articles but not this one. He absolutely has the right as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. If we don’t value life then what are we about. The eye for an eye was from the old testament. Punish if great if one has to serve out their life in Prison. Only God has the right to take a life.

  • Chris Griffin

    Here are two quotes from the CCC that contradict PF…

    2260 The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God’s gift of human life and man’s murderous violence:
    For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning. . . . Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.59
    The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life.60 This teaching remains necessary for all time.

    2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party

    • Robert

      I think that second quote CCC 2266 actually agrees with the Pope,

      “punishment then in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety has a medicinal purpose; as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party”

      I beleive the Pope is saying (not me) execution has no medicinal purpose contributing to the correction of the guilty party and protecting people’s safety and defending public order can be done with detention of the guilty party.

      • Chris Griffin

        Hi Robert,

        Thanks for agreeing my first quote from the current CCC does indeed contradict Pope Francis.

        The key phrase in the second quote is this… “Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense.” Proportionate punishment is not only allowed it is a duty according to the CCC. Punishment for murder is referred to previously…”Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.59.” So indeed the second quote endorses the death penalty and contradicts PF.

        I also agree with the post by the elderly Jesuit priest Martin McDermott, sj. Thank you Father McDermott for being a wonderful man of God.

        • joeybot

          Right, and an unwanted pregnancy has offended the mother, that’s why she can get an abortion.

          • Chris Griffin

            Actually “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.59” means that an abortive woman should receive the death penalty as they did in the Old Testament.

          • joeybot

            Deuteronomy 21:18-21

            18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

            So this guy gets a death penalty and didn’t shed blood. Do the people who kill him get it too?

            I mean, God killed the firstborn sons of all those Egyptians, he shouldn’t be so self-righteous.

          • Chris Griffin

            Hi joeybot,
            Lot of ground to cover in your post. I am not a saint so I’ll give you what I can. The punishment for shedding innocent blood has never been revoked or replaced.

            The thing about the rebellious son is no longer in effect. Please be kind to your son.

            Yes God’s love killed the firstborn of Egypt…”to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever.” Psalm 136;10. Goes to show that God’s love punishes sin in extreme ways.


          • joeybot

            So as long as you love someone a LOT you can kill them?

            Also, the part about the rebellious son…you say it’s no longer in effect, can you back that up with scripture where that was specifically done? You can’t just make up your own rules on this.

          • Kevin Quillen

            Jesus fulfilled the law, it is no longer in affect. Not hard to look up.

          • joeybot

            Sure he did, convenient that stuff you don’t agree with is wiped out cause of Jesus, but stuff you do agree with is still in play.

          • Kevin Quillen

            you’re ignorance is showing.

          • joeybot

            Your hubris is too.

      • Irene Neuner

        The pope is craftier than Obama with his words. Indeed if the Vatican wants its bread buttered on both sides then they chose the right man.

        If the Vatican wanted the clear and simple message from God and His son Jesus Christ via the pope …

  • Seamrog

    At what point will you stop referring to that man as ‘Pope?’

    I understand, it took me a good while, but at some point, you have to stop pretending and accept what is plainly before you.

  • Ray

    What is the man’s agenda if he has one, and how would this, work toward that agenda? I heard a warning about the Pope on something I heard on social media, about him working toward an all inclusive one world religion, a mish mash of just about anything goes, a regular mess. I say we watch and see where this man goes.

    • Isn’t that what Christ called his Disciples to do? Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. That pretty straightforward. The Jews think they will dominate the one World system when their Messiah comes.

  • joeybot

    Wow, saw this guy flip out on Pakman’s show. What a puss, he can’t take a question without flipping out. Also, he looks like a crazy shut in, try combing your hair, jagoff.

  • This opening sentence is fake news, “Today, in trying to reverse more than 6,000 years of Jewish-Christian teaching on capital punishment”

    God forbade Capital Punishment in the very beginning of Genesis when Cain committed the 1st murder killing his brother, and the Bible makes that very clear, regardless of what men wrote in the Bible subsequently.

    And Cain spoke to Abel his brother, and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.
    And the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
    And He said, “What have you done? Hark! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth.
    And now, you are cursed even more than the ground, which opened its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand.
    When you till the soil, it will not continue to give its strength to you; you shall be a wanderer and an exile in the land.”

    And Cain said to the Lord, “Is my iniquity too great to bear?
    Behold You have driven me today off the face of the earth, and I shall be hidden from before You, and I will be a wanderer and an exile in the land, and it will be that whoever finds me will kill me.” (fear of Capital punishment)

    And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be wrought upon him sevenfold,” and the Lord
    placed a mark on Cain that no one who find him slay him. (The mark was to prevent Capital punishment according to God’s Will)

    Somebody else killed somebody else and violence increased until Noah
    Now the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth became full of robbery. And God saw the earth, and behold it had become corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.
    And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh
    has come before Me, for the earth has become full of robbery because of
    them, and behold I am destroying them from the earth.

    These Days, it’s BIG BUSINESS to devise new ways to kill people, and no one pays any mind to it, as they Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition – until the Time appointed for the End all Signs are pointing to may happen in our Lifetimes.

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