Students welcomed Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to speak about the Church and Catholic perspective surrounding the death penalty as part of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory juniors’ preparation for the most intensive research project in ethics class all year. The death penalty was one of many social justice issues juniors pondered in the weeks prior to the event. SHC’s Brother Victor Kenneth, FSC, facilitated the conversation with the archbishop in the school’s theater on the De Paul campus. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions about the archbishop’s perspective and engage in an open conversation with him on the importance of this topic.
Archbishop Cordileone has previously spoken out against the death penalty. As an archbishop of the Catholic Church, he considers the death penalty to be unnecessary and ineffective as a tool for enforcing justice….
In this conversation with Brother Kenneth, the archbishop shared his personal experience in familiarizing himself with the death penalty during his college years, honestly admitting to having not given it much thought throughout high school. It did not seem like a pressing issue to him then. Through his relationship with God and his faith journey in becoming an archbishop, he shared the story of his first time at San Quentin visiting prisoners on death row….
Archbishop Cordileone reflected that after looking in the eyes of each prisoner, it became clear that the human dignity they possessed was being stripped from them. He proceeded to pray for each prisoner. He said many prisoners on death row still had faith and practiced that faith by reciting prayers and carrying a crucifix. From this experience, he urged everyone to remember the value of human life, which is a gift from God.
When asked about inequalities in society that may lead to a disproportionate number of certain groups of people being on death row, such as African Americans, Archbishop Cordileone agreed and said it is a complex issue. Racist attitudes are still around in our country, he said, and that is part of the problem. But it is much deeper, more subtle and more insidious than that. He sees it as a long and lingering effect from slavery, which separated families. This left the African American family structure in a weakened state at a time when other social revolutions were taking place related to sexual activity, childbearing, child rearing and marriage. As a result, a disproportionate number of African American families continued to splinter. Today, he said, the out-of-wedlock birthrate for African American families is 75%. The archbishop quoted several studies that indicate the harmful social consequences of fatherlessness. This doesn’t mean, he said, that those growing up in single-parent households are not going to do well in life. Many are blessed with single parents making great sacrifices for their families. But when the problem grows dramatically, it begins to impact circumstances that we see today….
Full story by Isabella Rinaldi, Sacred Heart student, on San Francisco Archdiocese site.
It’s not because of slavery. It’s because of welfare payments from the government, which decimated black families by incentivizing illegitimate births and disincentivizing nuclear families. Now you can add the fact that Democrats refuse to punish crime because to do so would be “racist”.
Has Cordileone looked in the eyes of relatives of murder victims? Does he sympathize with them?
This country would be a lot better off, and communities would be safer, if we would be tougher on crime. That includes having recourse to occasional use of the death penalty.
The marriage and illegitimacy rates of whites and blacks were comparable in the 1950s, nearly identical when corrected for poverty. If the effects of slavery on black marriage and illegitimacy did not exist then, how could they have appeared, as Jim Crow was dying? Bad data never make for good arguments.
Sorry but “Welfare” is wrong. The Church is not teaching in favor of “recourse to occasional use of the death penalty.” The Church is calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Abolition. The Church has judged that the death penalty is inadmissible. No matter how heinous the crime is, if the penal system can defend society in ways other than executing the criminal, then the Church teaches that society must use those other means rather than using the death penalty.
To use the death penalty today would not make this country “a lot better off” nor would it make “communities safer.” That’s flawed reasoning, a non-sequitur. Instead, the death penalty violates the dignity of human life.
The entire Magisterium of the universal Church is unanimous in this teaching. The entire Magisterium has taught this since the reign of Pope John Paul II. In other words there is no bishop alive today who disagrees with the Pope and the rest of the bishops on this issue.
And if the Magisterium is united in this teaching, then you can be sure that Christ has definitely spoken on this issue through them. And if you disagree with the Magisterium on this, you are basically disagreeing with Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Would you dare do that?
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
“The Magisterium” was apparently united the other way until very recently. All the popes up to Pius XII supported the death penalty and Benedict XVI declared that support for the death penalty was not sinful. Looks like this is a matter of prudential judgment, in which the popes certainly have a right to a say. So do I.
A recent convert from Islam observed that she could not at length understand Mohammed’s insistence that God changed His mind in the 600 years between Jesus and himself. Are you asserting God changed His mind after 2000 years?
“Tom Byrne” is wrong, and needs to read up on the concept of the development in the Church’s understanding of doctrine and dogma. Popes and bishops up to Pius XII rightly supported the death penalty, because this form of punishment was admissible in times past. But the death penalty is not admissible in our time, not since the reign of Pope John Paul II who declared it “cruel and unnecessary.” He did so because there are now other means to protect society other than by killing the criminal. Therefore this change in circumstance (the availability of other means to protect society) has made the use of the death penalty in our time a violation of the dignity of human life: sinful. Catholics must not cooperate neither formally nor materially in a sinful and inadmissible act.
Catholics are bound to this teaching folks: this is not left to your “prudential judgment.” The judgment of popes John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis and the rest of the bishops is the prudential judgment on this issue to which all Catholics are called to adhere to.
Lastly, contrary to what “Tom Byrne” falsely writes, Pope Benedict XVI never said that the death penalty is “not sinful.” That’s a blatant falsification of what the Pope wrote.
Pope Benedict XVI said in November 2011 that he hopes that the efforts of those who oppose the death penalty “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
Please don’t put my name in scare quotes. I don’t appreciate it.
What you speak of as a “development” can’t be an “about face”. From the Apostolic Age through the pontificate of Bl. Pius XII (who complained there were too few hangings at Nuremberg) the Church defended the use of the death penalty and Bl. Pius IX and his predecessors signed death warrants for the Papal States. At the same time, the Church did not require it (and before the risorgimento, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and some other Italian states had abolished it). That’s not my concern: take what view of the use of the thing you think just, but don’t damn those of us who think that 2000 years of YES can’t become of NO in one generation. (And if you do, don’t be surprised if liberals whine at us about the teachings on divorce and contraception.)
And Benedict XVI did respond to a direct question (whether supporters of the death penalty were guilty of sin, as were supporters of abortion) and plainly said NO.
You are changing what Cardinal Ratzinger said.
A link was provided to Cdl. Ratzinger said. Here is the relevant part:
3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
Based on this, I don’t think Tom Byrne is in error with regards to what Ratzinger said.
Contrary to “Tom Byrne’s” point, no where in that CDF document “Worthiness To Receive” is it written that those who oppose the Church’s teaching against the death penalty are not guilty of sin. No where.
Instead, the CDF document affirms that support for the death penalty does not carry the same moral weight as support for abortion, because as we all know, abortion is an “intrinsic moral evil”, and therefore those who have committed abortion and those who formally support it are in mortal sin which would make them unworthy to receive Holy Communion.
Support for the death penalty on the other hand is morally “inadmissible” (Catechism 2267). Acts that are morally inadmissible are definitely sinful; but whether or not they are mortal sins depends on the gravity of the act.
Supporting the death penalty, because it does not carry the same moral weight as supporting abortion, is therefore a venial sin which would not necessarily bar a person from Holy Communion. This is all that Ratzinger is writing about, people. Therefore, “Tom Byrne’s” point is mistaken.
As I have pointed out in the past, continuing to commit venial sins without the desire nor the effort to change one’s actions or beliefs can dispose a person to commit mortal sins, as the Catechism points out (Catechism 1863). Do not wrongly use this CDF document as an excuse to persist in your sin.
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
jon, if they don’t listen to the Pope, they ain’t gonna listen to you.
Archbishop Cordileone goes to the sites where murders have occurred and prays with the families.
“Has Cordileone looked in the eyes of relatives of murder victims? Does he sympathize with them?”
The family of victims are not served rightly, nor are they ministered to authentically by executing a capital criminal. No.
This is called false sympathy.
“, it became clear that the human dignity they possessed was being stripped from them. He proceeded to pray for each prisoner. He said many prisoners on death row still had faith and practiced that faith by reciting prayers and carrying a crucifix.” Death Row in California is in reality prison without parole, that is, lifers. Thus it seems to me that if their human dignity is being stripped from them, it cannot be from any fear of execution but from the fact that they will never leave prison and the particular circumstances of their prison life. Without going into the debate over capital punishment, I see that the Archbishop did not mention Mass and confession for those who were Catholics, just prayers. I can’t think of a group of men needing Mass and confession more than these who committed the heinous crimes that put them on death row in the first place. I might add these men lost their human dignity when they committed these crimes; a proper immersion into the sacraments and Catholic formation stands to restore what they threw away, IMHO. If such formation exists, it would be good to know.
“I might add these men lost their human dignity when they committed these crimes”. “Dan” is mistaken.
The Church teaches that “Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.” (Catechism, 2267).
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
No they have not lost their human dignity. Nor have they lost their Savior.
““I might add these men lost their human dignity when they committed these crimes”. “Dan” is mistaken.” I don’t know who “Dan” is, but Dan was imprecise and hasty in his characterization of violent criminals. On one level, sure, these are human beings, and bear the image of God, hence the dignity. I was not referring to this dignity. I was referring to the self-respect a person has for a life well-lived. That has been jettisoned, and as I said before, the sacraments and other forms of Catholic formation are very much needed to restore in these criminals a sense of proper self-worth. For those who would argue there is only one definition of dignity, I humbly conceive that may be true, nevertheless I meant a different idea, call it what you will.
People should really think things through first before they type.
…. you forgot to add your mantra …
Yes they have Mass and confession.
As I did my prayers today, it occurred to me how appropriate the “Breastplate of St. Patrick” would be for prisoners.
There is a seller on ETSY who for one dollar has a download of cards with both the short and long versions. Once you download, you can print as many as you want.
For decades, liberal sociologists and liberal Church clerics have been arguing that poverty, discrimination, social breakdowns, and poor circumstances in life create criminal activity. The emphasis on sin and personal responsibility for sin, has been distressfully absent. Historically, Blacks in our society were unable to achieve in school, and get good jobs, after the slave era ended, because of discrimination. Black men had a hard time, supporting a wife and children. Blacks also suffered because slaves were not allowed to be educated nor to marry– so, promiscuity and illegitimacy became rampant. Black families in the era of slavery were frequently split up, when members were sold to different slave masters. Promiscuity and illegitimacy continued, after slavery was abolished. Ignorance, poverty, and discrimination do cause hopelessness, anger, many social ills, sin and crime. However, our society today, has much more to offer people of all races. Discrimination is illegal. In a society where the churches are strong, and people are educated in morality, good conduct, love and respect for God and fellowman, personal responsibility to God and fellowman in society, having a good moral conscience, the serious consequences of sin, and rewards of a virtuous life– with strong religious and legal prohibitions and laws against sin and crime– the result is greater social control, more order in society, less sin and crime, better citizens, and a better society. Loss of religion and morality in American society, lawless permissiveness, and personal freedoms accepted in society and in the churches, and the breakdown of Traditional Marriage and Family, are among the most important things to rectify, to lessen sin and crime, and restore order to society. I believe in the views of St. Thomas Aquinas on the question of crime and punishments. If our Church clerics want less sin and crime in society– they had better get busy, with solid catechesis, and strong requirements to lead a good, virtuous, Christ-like life, following Church teachings and Canon Law. No more “individual freedoms,” dissension, disorder, permissiveness, lawlessness, and babying of wayward, immature people. And we also need lots of holiness, respect and reverence for God in the liturgy at all Masses, with good behavior required.
“If our Church clerics want less sin and crime in society– they had better get busy, with solid catechesis, and strong requirements to lead a good, virtuous, Christ-like life, following Church teachings and Canon Law.” Then you have to support Church clerics when they teach against the death penalty because that teaching is solid catechesis, leading a person to recognize the sanctity of all human life, even the life of those they do not like, such as criminals. This is solid catechesis because it teaches love and respect.
“No more ‘individual freedoms,’ dissension, disorder, permissiveness, lawlessness, and babying of wayward, immature people. And we also need lots of holiness, respect and reverence for God in the liturgy at all Masses, with good behavior required.” Indeed, no more dissentions please. Stop dissenting from the teachings of the Church on the issue of the death penalty and the liturgy. Stop Dissent. Stop Dissent Now.
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
Yes, jon, Abp. Cordileone is trying to preach Church teachings. But we need much more. We need solid Catholic catechesis in all Catholic schools. And the Church clerics need to be required to follow Canon Law obediently. Many have heretically publicly objected to Abp. Cordileone’s prohibition on Holy Communion for Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Objecting to the Archbishop’s disciplinary action against Pelosi does not constitute heresy. You should know that Jon, I’m surprised.
Just sayin,’ you are probably correct, but there is one more important issue, here. Many bishops, who have wrongfully attacked Abp. Cordileone, for denying Communion to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, have publicly stated that they have never denied Communion for any reason, to anyone– and do not believe in it. And that is contrary to our Canon Law, and is heretical.
Dear reply to Jon, you are still incorrect. Refusal to give communion is always a pastoral and disciplinary action, not a decree of faith and morals, and is therefore disagreement with it is never “heretical”. I don’t even think disagreement with a disciplinary action is a violation of canon law but if it is it seems to be violated by both sides of the debate.
No. Many bishops today, no longer follow Canon Law, and set it aside for their own beliefs and opinions. Canon Law is exact. For example, Cardinal Gregory said he would not prohibit publicly pro abort Pres. Joe Buden from being given Holy Communion — that is very, very wrong, of Cardinal Gregory. A Catholic who procures, performs, supports or enabables Abortion, is committing grave Mortal Sin, and must not recrive Holy Communion. That is not a matter of judgment, interpretation or opinion, it is a fact. Same thing with committing any other grave Mortal Sin, such as pedophilia, child rape, or same sex “marriage,” or worse. The bad German bishops also cannot interpret Canon Law as they wish, and publicly support and bless same sex unions in their churches, or give Holy Communion to Catholics who are divorced, or to spouses of Catholics who are non-Catholics. That is wrong. Canon Law is very exact.
To the third reply to:
Everything you said is wrong and in error.
You should get your facts straight before you put things on the Internet.
Even if you are right, “reply to just sayin”, violations of canon law do not constitute heresy, and certainly disagreements about the interpretation of canon law is not heresy. If you want to assert such, please provide the precise canons you claim are so precise.
The Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, and many theologians have called out errant bishops of today, for heresy. Even the pope has publicly stated that the errant German bishops are heretical and wrong. Yes, all Catholics, laymen and clerics, are obliged to obey Canon Law. See the famous Canon 915, regarding the sin of abortion– no, pro aborts cannot receive Comminion.
I tried to give just sayin a thumbs up but it did not work.
I agree that violating canon law is not heresy.
Heresy involves persistent error in divinely revealed truths of the Faith, like those in the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed.
To Just sayin’ and wrong– What you are referring to, in the practice of the Faith of many of today’s Catholic bishops, who “make individual choices” on following the Catechism and Canon Law — is actually a terrible hypocrisy. This evil hypocrisy causes many Catholics to commit serious mortal sins, and follow heretical ideas– such as teaching about or accepting abortion in Catholic schools and universities, or voting for Pro Abort politicians, like Biden and Pelosi–or actually working for an abortion clinic, or committing abortions, as a doctor or nurse — or obtaining one, if pregnant. Hypocrisy.
My apologies to jon. I was mistaken when I directed a comment saying essentially that he ought to know that objecting to Cordileone’s discipline of Pelosi is not a letter of heresy. Jon didn’t say that, “reply to Jon” did and they were the proper target of my comment. My apologies.
Tried to give you a thumbs up but it did not work. Thank you for correcting your error.
In my comment of May 1st at 2:15pm, I did not mean to imply that Black men have been induced by society’s ills and injustices, such as discrimination and poverty, to become criminals. I just used a common situation, often talked about, that poverty, discrimination, etc. can lead to sin and crime. But that is not always true. Great hardships can also produce great heroes. Mankind has Free Will to choose right from wrong.
If Democrats were tougher on crime and tough on border security, then that illegal immigrant residing in Texas, who had illegally crossed into America five times after being deported four times, who illegally possessed a gun and illegally shot five of his neighbors, murdering two of them, would not have been able to do that, and two innocent people would be alive today.
I say give that illegal immigrant murderer the death penalty. The death penalty has a valid use, and it is justifiable. It is not inadmissible. The pope is wrong. Some human beings are little more than animals in their grossly evil behavior, and they cannot be rehabilitated, and prison is not a guarantee they won’t be able to murder again. Murders happen in prisons.
Archbishop Cordileone and Pope Francis should weep for the two people killed, for the husband who lost his wife and child, and for the surviving children who lost their mother and sibling. They should not weep for the murderer if he gets the death penalty, as he should.
I think that the Pope and bishops are trying to do their best, but they all are a little naive on this subject. The Swiss Guards who protect the Pope and who also are devout Catholics, probably have a better grasp of this difficult subject. I am an older Catholic, I like the views of St. Thomas Aquinas. Also, I wish the Pope would protect his Chinese Catholics, and Jimmy Lai and Cardinal Zen from the evil Chinese Communists. I am also scared for the suffering Catholic laymen and clergy, of Nicaragua. They all desperately need tremendous help and support from the Vatican.
Thomas Sowell could enlighten Cordileone.
In the 1950’s black illegitimacy was LOWER than white illegitimacy.
Slavery has absolutely nothing to do with current black problems. The “Great Society” is the culprit. But no bishop will talk about that, because the bishops are taking government money hand-over-fist.
What bishops are taking government money hand over fist? And for what? In the US? No they’re not. What what does happen is that wealthy diocesan benefactors that hold heterodox views threaten to cut off the money stream.
Thank you Archbishop Cordileone for speaking out against the death penalty. Now please deny Holy Communion to any elected official in your diocese who claims to be a practicing Roman Catholic and who also supports the death penalty (mostly republicans).
Many people are adequately catechized but they reject the truth for their own ideas.
If a horrible criminal ever deliberately plotted and then assassinated the Pope, and the Pope died instantly, and if everyone saw it– no question of the assassin’s guilt– I wonder what someone like St. Thomas Aquinas might recommend, as possible punishments for the assassin? A huge capital crime!
He’d plead insanity and get assigned to a mental ward by a liberal judge where he’d enjoy TV, board games, internet, and hot meals every day.
The notion that church doctrine has changed much with respect to capital punishment is a bit dubious, so harkening to hypotheticals situated in the time of nSt Thomas carry less and less weight. The doctrine may not have been well spelled out, but it is coming into greater clarity starting in the 20th century as we have better and more effective means of controlling criminals, we have more attention to data gathering and psychology which helps us understand better the role of capital punishment in deterrence, and we have a greater appreciation for doctrines adjacent to the issue, namely the dignity and respect due every human person which saw greater clarity I’m starting in the 19th. What has changed are these surrounding issues which makes capital punishment in developed countries look ever more like a violation of the Ten Commandments.
Mis dos centavos
Well, YFC, that’s fine, all the modern professionals like psychologists, sociologists, criminologists, etc. etc. But criminals have not changed much. And in America, crime is ranpant, getting worse every day, and prisons are extremely overcrowded. Recidivism among released criminals is high. We are now in a so-called “post-Christian era,” the Culture of Death– an era of great cultural deterioration, degeneracy, decline, ignorance, corruption, sin, and crime. Religion is no longer a part of life for many Americans. I think that ancient pillars of Western Civilization, like Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others, have much to offer, much to give us to ponder, regarding our situation, today. Many of today’s professionals in all fields are very shallow, reject Christianity, are raised on, and taught in school, Godless, corrupt, politically liberal-leftist beliefs, which they live by, and bring into their professional practices, and they are no longer required to study great works in school, of the traditional “giants” of our civilization, nor the great Classics of antiquity, to help form their minds and professional practices. I think the “post-Christian” Modern era is the main problem. Many people today, have little understanding of right and wrong, little respect for God and fellowman in society, little formation and personal development in morality and a good Moral Conscience. Many have very limited understandings of humanity, and interpret humanity according to very shallow, immature, liberal-leftist, Godless beliefs and political agendas. If America returned to God and religion, and to active church-going (all religions– Jews attend synagogues) and to traditional religious and moral training, we would have a much better society, and much less sin and crime. That is what I believe.
YFC, I believe that great educational institutions we are blessed to have in today’s evil, dark, Culture of Death world, like Thomas Aquinas College and Hillsdale College, which emphasize training and formation of students in the Great Books of Western Civilization and Christianity, hold the key to restoration of America. One recent study reported that over 40% of the Hillsdale College student body is Catholic, while another study reported that about 26% of the student body is Catholic– not sure if more Catholic students are now enrolled at Hillsdale.
Anyway, Hillsdale, a Christian school, is very favorable to Catholics, and has lots of new, Catholic converts among students, each year. Hillsdale does not allow alcohol on campus, even for students of legal age. They are a Christian school, very serious about educating students, with Christian beliefs and principles.
Bishop Robert Barron is giving the graduation Commencement Address at Hillsdale, this year. Many of our Catholic clergy have given graduation Commencement Addresses at Hillsdale, in past years.
Reading the Holy Bible, which is very ancient, and reading the 2,000+ years-old life of Christ in the New Testament, reading the great classical works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and reading great works of the Early Christians and Church Fathers, and reading all the Great Books, all through history, is truly worth it. The Modernists of the Culture of Death must stop their evil, Godless, senseless “cancel culture” of all these very great, “pre-Modern” treasures. This is what has shaped the history of our very great Western Civilization. And the civilization and works of the great, ancient Greeks and Romans, led to the founding of our great country, America. Everyone needs a good, basic education in all of this. And to daily learn to read and treasure the Holy Bible, too! That must be a big part of the foundation of all our lives in America, of all Christians– and Jews, with their Torah, too!
The reply to Tom Byrne by jon May 2, 2023 at 7:04 am: “Contrary to “Tom Byrne’s” point…” needs comment. The link provided was Cd. Ratzinger from 2004 and needs no commentary. Up to 2004 at least, opposition to the death penalty did not constitute a sin requiring confession before communion, as is clear from
” For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. ”
Now Tom referenced Cdl. Ratzinger as Benedict XVI, so the link from which the above comes is dated. It would be better to find a link from the time of Benedict’s pontificate affirming the same. I found this link: https://www.usccb.org/resources/statements-holy-father-and-vatican (2011)
“Together with the Synod members, I draw the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty and to reform the penal system in a way that ensures respect for the prisoners’ human dignity. Pastoral workers have the task of studying and recommending restorative justice as a means and a process for promoting reconciliation, justice and peace, and the return of victims and offenders to the community.”
I could not find any statement from him at the time he was pope along the lines of his 2004 position. If he amended his 2004 stance, maybe a reader can help and cite the statement. Otherwise as things stand, Tom Byrne is correct regarding Ratzinger/Benedict, and jon’s rejoinder constitutes written sleight of hand by referencing Francis’ changes to the Catechism, whereas Tom was referencing Ratzinger. Whatever else one may think, Tom was correct.
Nice try by “Dan,” but both he and “Tom Byrne” are still incorrect.
Firstly, “Tom Byrne” and “Dan” are incorrect because they are essentially putting words in Ratzinger’s mouth. Contrary to “Tom Byrne’s” point, Ratzinger never wrote that those who support the death penalty have not committed a sin. He never wrote nor said anything of the kind. In this CDF document, Ratzinger merely situated dissent on the death penalty relative to dissent on the teaching on abortion and euthanasia. And because dissent on the death penalty doesn’t carry the same moral weight as abortion, then those who dissent on this issue may still receive Holy Communion because this is considered a venial sin.
We should not be surprised therefore that “Dan” here couldn’t find “any statement from [Ratzinger] at the time he was pope along the lines of his 2004 position” because “Dan” here grossly misrepresents and misinterprets Ratzinger’s CDF document by essentially “putting words in his mouth.” Pitiful.
Secondly, the death penalty has been considered sinful as early as 1995 when John Paul wrote the Encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” exhorting nations to use “bloodless means” to protect society rather than using the death penalty (56). He adds that using other means is “more in conformity to the dignity of the human person”: this is the same reason stated in the present Catechism as to why the death penalty is inadmissible, because it violates the dignity of the human person.
Therefore, quoting the recent change to Catechism 2267 to show that support for the death penalty is sinful is not a “sleight of hand” but rather is brilliant. It is brilliant because it demonstrates the continuity in the thinking and judgment of the Magisterium on this issue. Pope Francis is not introducing something novel here; rather Pope Francis has made the teaching more definite and has built up on the teaching of his predecessors.
Lastly, dissent from the teachings of the Church, especially moral teachings such as the death penalty, is always a sin. This is supported by Lumen Gentium, paragraph 25, which exhorts Catholics to render religious submission of mind and will to the authentic magisterium of the Pope. Since Pope John Paul II, the manifest mind and will of the Supreme Pontiffs have been against the use of the death penalty. Catholics who therefore dissent on this issue do indeed sin because they disobey the expressed teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the rest of the Magisterium. Again, whether or not the dissent is a mortal sin depends on the gravity of the action, which is merely what Ratzinger’s CDF document in 2004 identified.
It is astonishing to me that there are Catholics who still wish to cling to this rotting relic of the culture of death called the death penalty. Their position can’t be life-giving and envigorating for them spiritually. How can it? They’re pro-death.
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
jon, I believe Ratzinger’s words in 2004, which I quoted, speak for themselves, and require no further comment from me, you or anyone else. Just give those words their plain meaning and you can’t go wrong. And please, no more written sleight of hand, I beg of you. Give the words their plain meaning, without inferring things Ratzinger didn’t say or mean.
Folks, again, just for the record: Ratzinger never wrote in the CDF document from 2004 that it is not a sin to dissent from the teaching on the death penalty. You will never find that statement in the document. Therefore, “Dan” and “Tom Byrne” have failed to prove their point.
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
“The notion that church doctrine has changed much with respect to capital punishment is a bit dubious…” That is the issue, YFC. For a thorough discussion, see https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2020/10/07/three-questions-for-catholic-opponents-of-capital-punishment/
Dr. Feser teaches at Pasadena City College from which I am recently retired. He agrees with you that church doctrine cannot change and explores the implications of this with regards to Francis’ changing the Catechism. He is also the co-author along with Joseph Bessette of a book on capital punishment where these implications are likely explored at greater depth. I say “likely” because I have not read the book.
Catholics are asked to be unconditionally pro-life. If you are in favor of the death penalty, you are not pro-life.
When you remove that from the argument, you lose the whole point.
This is why the teaching changed.
Human life is sacred.
The Church wants to tell people that it is immoral to abort, immoral to euthanize, immoral to use IVF, immoral to make drugs from aborted babies.
But it is not wrong to premeditatively kill an adult human being?
The Church must be consistent.
” If you are in favor of the death penalty, you are not pro-life. When you remove that from the argument, you lose the whole point.” I never said I was in favor of the death penalty, however you may think otherwise. I do not, at the same time, agree with your point in the least. I think the issue is much more complex than you imagine. I shall leave it there.
On the one hand Dan supports an erroneous reading of the CDF’s document “Worthiness To Receive,” trying to put words in Ratzinger’s mouth, yet in the other hand he writes that he never said he is in favor of the death penalty. Dan here promotes the erroneous point by Fesser and Bessette who both support the death penalty, yet we’re expected to believe that he has never said he is in favor of the death penalty?
As to the article by Feser and the book by Feser and Bessett, I think it very thought-provoking but have actually never signed on to it, despite my great appreciation for Feser, with whom I worked at Pasadena City College. He and I were faculty advisors to a Catholic group committed to the Catholic view of marriage. I have sat in on his classes and he is a wonderful lecturer. And yes, Feser is in favor of the death penalty. I hoped I did not suggest otherwise. I am not in favor of the death penalty, but I think the Pope’s reasoning is wrong, and in earlier posts I have suggested why I think part of his reasoning is wrong, the part that relies on his prudential judgment on matters over which he has no particular expertise. I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on the 2004 statement.
The article by Fesser is “thought-provoking”? The first paragraph alone is full of factual errors. Just one example of Fesser’s error from the first paragraph alone: that Ratzinger “made it clear that John Paul’s call for abolition reflected a prudential judgment with which faithful Catholics need not agree”? That’s factually wrong. The CDF document never said that. Fesser’s subsequent quote from the CDF document does not support his false notion that Catholics need not agree with the Pope on this issue. He misrepresents Ratzinger’s words.
Pope Benedict if he were alive today would be aghast if he were to read Fesser’s words. Imagine: Fesser is suggesting that Ratzinger as Prefect of the CDF dare told Catholics that they don’t have to agree with Pope John Paul II? That’s outrageous. This is called “putting words in someone else’s mouth.” Plus, that Ratzinger would suggest something contrary to the clear teaching of Lumen Gentium 25? Preposterous.
The main flaw in Fesser’s article is neglecting the implications of the change in circumstance (third fount of morality), namely the availability in our time of other means to protect society without having to execute the criminal. Pope John Paul II made it clear that this change in circumstance (the availability of bloodless means to protect society) means that “cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent” (Catechism previous version of 2267). In other words, this change in circumstance vitiates whatever good that is in the death penalty.
Not only does Fesser ignore this, but also misrepresents it by saying that John Paul taught “that there may be rare circumstances where it is justifiable in order to protect others from the offender.” This is flat-out wrong. Fesser has twisted John Paul’s words. This is astonishing. Even more pathetic is that Fesser repeats this misrepresentation of John Paul’s words throughout the article.
The plain truth is that John Paul II called for the abolition of the death penalty. He called it “cruel and unnecessary.” He was vigorous, emphatic, and adamant in his condemnation of the death penalty when he spoke about it in speeches and homilies. John Paul was well-known for this, people. Have you folks forgotten? Was there no one paying attention to what the saintly John Paul said about this issue?
And Pope Francis, far from going beyond what John Paul II had said, built up on what his predecessor had taught. Fesser has done something unjust and uncharitable against Pope Francis, by indicating that the Holy Father went beyond John Paul’s magisterium. He did nothing of the kind.
Here’s an example of what John Paul said about this: “Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.” (Homily at the Papal Mass in the Trans World Dome, St. Louis, Missouri, January 27, 1999).
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
Dan, it was a rhetorical “you” and a response to the writing that you linked to.
Look at abortion.
Did the Church teach about abortion before Vatican II?
I never heard anything until 1970s.
If you just focus on the Church and her position changing, you miss the whole point.
Same with transgender issues. These people have been around for at least 6 decades. Did the Church ever say anything?
Do we negate what the Church is starting to say now? No, we listen. We accept. We obey.
But know exactly what the Church says because through human error and fault it gets misrepresented sometimes.
‘Did the Church teach about abortion before Vatican II?” Yes, in the Didache, a post apostolic work either in the late first or early second century.
“Same with transgender issues. These people have been around for at least 6 decades. Did the Church ever say anything?” I would prefer a Church historian answer this, and not a retired math instructor, but the transgender issue falls under the Natural/Moral Law, to which the Church has been in constant conformity at least since Aquinas, but probably far earlier. There was no reason to apply Natural Law principles until the issue raised its very ugly head; similarly in 1968 Paul VI applied Natural Law principles to artificial contraception, which made its most profound appearance in 1960 with the pill. The main point is that the principles guiding the Church have been along for a very long time.
“Dan, it was a rhetorical “you” and a response to the writing that you linked to.” Thank you for the clarification–it is much appreciated.
The Didache really is not a teaching of the Church. It is an old writing found in the late 1800s. No one really knows who wrote it. However, of course, abortion is immoral and the Church would have recognized that throughout the centuries.
One famous pro-choice politician claims “I was not taught that in Catholic school” and she probably wasn’t. Since it was illegal and Catholic girls were supposed to grow up, get married and have lots of babies and that was the era of keeping women in the dark about things.
But to reject the teaching because she did not hear about it until adulthood would be wrong. She should trust the Holy Spirit to be presenting to her through the Church what is proper morals.
As a Catholic, I never heard the words Natural Law until gay marriage came up. I know absolutely nothing about it. I have a book in my pile of “to be read” but have not gotten to it yet. But it does not matter. When the Church says it is immoral, it is immoral because the Church is infallible on faith and morals.
The Church is now changing it’s teaching on the permissibility of the death penalty, not the morality of it. I think jon is saying his own ideas which is that it is a sin to support it but I have never seen the Church say that. I do think that there are reasons for supporting it that would make it immoral such as revenge or being the real criminal or racial or other personal issues or executing an innocent. I think saying the teaching evolved is not correct. I think that our times needs the powerful witness that human life is sacred. There were always Catholics who thought it was wrong but instead of teaching what they thought they taught what the Church taught. We have to give the example of obedience to the Church, which is also something our time needs, with everyone choosing their own ‘guru”..
“I think jon is saying his own ideas which is that it is a sin to support it but I have never seen the Church say that.”
Excuse me but “Didache” is wrong. Catechism 2267 plainly says that the use of the death penalty is morally “inadmissible.” And that which is morally inadmissible is sinful.
jon, it says “inadmissible.” It does not say “morally inadmissible.”
If you can come up with anything…from the Vatican, a Pope, a bishop…that says it is a sin, I would appreciate a link.
Every time you bring it up, I go back into the Internet to try to find something, and I have never found anything that says that.
We did this on the DeSantis issue.
You are adding a word that none of them used.
I am not trying to argue but to clarify.
It does not matter that Catechism paragraph 2267 does not contain the adverb “morally”, because it is universally understood that the Church when judging the lawfulness of an action always judges the morality of it. Even if the adverb is not used, Catholics nonetheless understand what is being taught.
For example, Pope Pius XI in 1938 said: “It is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism. It is inadmissible.” Therefore, is anti-Semitism which is “inadmissible” sinful? You bet.
Also, Pope Pius XII in 1950 judged that depriving even priests of their just wages is “inadmissible” (Menti Nostrae, 128). So, is depriving priests of their just wages, which is “inadmissible,” therefore sinful? Certainly.
And in 1974, in a speech to the United Nations, Pope Paul VI repeated the fact that racial discrimination as seen in apartheid in South Africa is “inadmissible”: “We deplore the fact that, in certain parts of the world, there persist social situations based upon racial discrimination and often willed and sustained by systems of thought; such situations constitute a manifest and inadmissible affront to the fundamental rights of the human person.” Therefore is racial discrimination which is “inadmissible” sinful? Indeed.
Again, the adverb “morally” need not be used because the rest of the faithful understands what the Magisterium means. To insist on the use of the adverb is pedantic.
You are saying that the Church changed on morals.
That is serious.
Well of course it’s serious. The subject of the inherent dignity of all human life is serious. Are you saying that the Holy Spirit could not guide the Church into a deeper understanding of the dignity of all human life, including the prisoner?
No I think He has.
Governor Ron DeSantis — a Catholic governor — just signed a law allowing the death penalty for child rapists. Good for him. Child rape is almost as heinous as murder and deserves death. Anyone who rapes a child cannot be rehabilitated. Let God deal with him. Some priests have raped children but bishops protected them and covered up their crimes.
We need to pray more for prisoners, and for people to not kill.
And pray for more prisoners so that our streets are safer.
On the Didache — required reading in seminary (Fuller Seminary, 1972-76) was a book called The New Eusebius, a collection of post-apostolic writings. All the great names are there — Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, and many others. To my eternal shame I cannot find my copy, but Eusebius, an early church historian, places the Didache early in the post apostolic era in the time I originally noted.
For a modern assessment of the Didache, Wikipedia opens with The Didache (/ˈdɪdəkeɪ, -ki/; Greek: Διδαχή, translit. Didakhé, lit. “Teaching”), also known as The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations (Διδαχὴ Κυρίου διὰ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τοῖς ἔθνεσιν), is a brief anonymous early Christian treatise (ancient church order) written in Koine Greek, dated by modern scholars to the first or (less commonly) second century AD.
Everyone, please forgive the Greek, but Koine Greek is the Greek of the New Testament era and it is in this language that the Didache was written. It is an important post-apostolic work in which abortion is specifically condemned. Some in the early church wanted the Didache to become part of the New Testament canon, a testament to its antiquity.
response to ‘Didache’: while true that the Didache was found relatively recently, latest scholarship places authorship at 110 AD or even earlier. A google search will find a raft of authoritative websites vouching for it. It is now kept in the British Museum. Eusebius of Caesarea quotes from it in his Ecclesiastical History, along with many early Church Fathers. Its value for the pro-life Catholic world is it clear witness of the stance against abortion in the early Church
drewelow and Dan, thank you for the information on the Didache.
My point was that even if the Church never mentioned abortion before 1972, when the Church says it is immoral, it is immoral. Because the Church is infallible on faith and morals. We should not get an abortion.
If the Church says the death penalty is inadmissible, not to be used, we should obey that.
What jon fails to mention and that few, if any, call him on, is that the “inadmissibility” of the death penalty is a conditional “inadmissibility.” It is not an absolute “inadmissibility,” and never can be, for Scripture supports the use of the death penalty, and the Church has taught that nations may have legitimate recourse to its use.
So the “inadmissibility” of the death penalty depends on conditions for that “inadmissibility” to be in effect. Those conditions are an assurance that the suspect will not be able to harm again. If that condition is not satisfied, then the conditional “inadmissibility” of the death penalty does not apply. Pope Francis is mistaken if he believes that now and forevermore criminals in prison cannot ever grievously harm another innocent again.
Furthermore, “inadmissible” is not an ethical nor a theological term. Nobody knows what it really means in this context. Pope Francis introduced it hoping that people would form the conclusion jon has about the absolute moral prohibition of the death penalty. Pope Francis has not taught that the death penalty is sinful nor morally prohibited. Only that it is “inadmissible”. But something can be conditionally “inadmissible” (whatever that means) and not be sinful. It can be conditionally “inadmissible” and morally permitted, especially when the conditions of “inadmissibility” are not fully nor satisfactorily present.
Sorry but “conditional” is wrong. There is nothing in the Catechism that says that if there is an “assurance” that the suspect will not be able to harm again, then the “conditional inadmissibility” does not apply. Wrong.
Secondly, “inadmissible” is certainly an ethical and moral term. Pope Francis didn’t “introduce” it. That’s incorrect. The Catechism uses it in paragraph 2296 where the Church judges as “morally inadmissible” causing mutilation or death of a human being in order to harvest that person’s organs to the benefit of another person.
Plus as I had written above there are other occasions when various popes have judged certain actions as inadmissible: such as anti-Semitism, unlawful profits through exploitation, racism, depriving a worker (namely priests) of his just wages, and others. Look at my comment above.
These inadmissible acts are most certainly sinful. Dissent from the teaching of the Church is sinful. Not recognizing the inherent dignity of prisoners is sinful, inadmissible.
The problem for me is that those actions were always considered sins and capital punishment was not just considered admissible but also righteous.
How do you get around the problem that if the Church was wrong then, it can be wrong now?
This is how a lot of people lose the faith )or decide it’s Vatican IIs fault).
The problem is solved when you realize the recent magisterial teaching against the death penalty is conditioned upon a prudential judgment about the effectiveness and security of modern incarceration in Western nations. JPII couched his teaching within the prudential judgment that capital punishment is no longer needed to protect society from criminals because life imprisonment is almost always effective. (It doesn’t solve the problem of prisoner-on-prisoner crime, but I suppose solitary confinement could fix that.) Pope Francis is taking it further by claiming there’s definitively no need for the death penalty anymore, not just that it should be so rare as to be practically not used at all.
Yet imagine if there were to be a collapse of civilization, and Western governments as we know them to exist now were no longer effective agents of justice in protecting innocents from grievous harm committed by hardened criminals. In such a scenario, the death penalty would once again become justifiable and good as a punishment and as a deterrent.
Capital punishment is and always will be legitimate in principle. Whether it is legitimate in a particular time and place is a moral prudential judgment. In nearly all Western countries today, it would seem not to be necessary. But popes should not pretend that a prudential judgment about there no longer being a need for capital punishment today is a change in perennial teaching about the validity of capital punishment in principle when conditions warrant it. That’s where many Catholics get confused.
And Pope Francis has muddied the waters even more by stating on occasion that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is a virtual death sentence (a “secret death penalty”) and beneath human dignity, calling into question the moral permissibility of life prison sentences. But if you return hardened criminals to society by negating the admissibility of life imprisonment, you remove one of the arguments popes have made about there not being a need for the death penalty anymore.
You can’t say that the death penalty is inadmissible because life imprisonment is effective and then proceed to question the morality of life imprisonment. Undermining the latter negates the basis for the former.
The popes can’t have their death penalty cake and eat it too. They can’t have it both ways.
Yours is a very wise and measured response. Thank you. I also agree that Pope Francis erred in his seemingly contrarian statements about capital punishment. It’s no wonder that Catholics today find ourselves in a state of flux.
So this is a teaching moment, folks. Those who take care to think with the Church (“sentire cum Ecclesia”) in all manner of things will never have problems with things like the death penalty or liturgy. Consequently, they will never lose their faith. Such obedient folks know that circumstances change (third fount of morality), that human knowledge expands, or greater insight into the Church’s doctrines is granted. Such docile and obedient people will think and move with the Church according to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
However, those who are morally “rigid” and those who for whatever reason stubbornly refuse to move with the Church as prompted by the Holy Spirit will have problems; and we’re seeing this especially these days. For example, look at the people who are agonizing over “Traditionis custodes.” They are not at peace nor serene, people.
First of all the Church wasn’t “wrong then,” contrary to “how’s” point. It is good to remember the “traditional teaching” concerning the death penalty. According to the previous version of Catechism 2267, when the death penalty “is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor,” ONLY THEN can there be recourse to the death penalty. This is the traditional teaching, folks.
Therefore the Church wasn’t wrong in the year 1598 A.D. or the year 490 A.D. or during the time of Aquinas for making admissible the death penalty, because then it was the only practicable way to defend society from a capital criminal.
However, due to the change in circumstances namely the achievements in the penal system which now allows society to defend itself without having to execute the criminal (such as life without possibility of parole), then the use of the death penalty has become unnecessary and inadmissible because there is no longer any need for society to kill the criminal. To use it in our time violates the criminal’s inherent human dignity. It is therefore inadmissible in our time.
Therefore, it is wrong to say “Pope Francis or the Church changed doctrine.” Rather, Pope John Paul II applied the “traditional teaching” of the Church. And his successors continued his magisterium.
People, killing another human being has never been “righteous” and that includes the death penalty; the death penalty has never been an intrinsic good. Stop clinging to it. It’s not good for you.
“While it is true that human societies and communities have to often face very serious crimes that threaten the common good and the safety of people, it is not less true that today there are other means to atone for the damage caused…On the other hand, you can never abandon the conviction of offering even to criminals the possibility of repentance.” Pope Francis, February 2019, 7th Global Congress Against The Death Penalty, Rome, Italy.
Listen to the living Magisterium. Respect life.
I don’t think you should lecture anyone about being “morally rigid”
jon, I want to continue this discussion. I do not want to give support to those who support the death penalty. The Church’s support for the death penalty was a stumbling block for me when I came back to the Church. The things I am going to post are what is confusing me so please no one take something from this post as a rebellion against the Magisterium.
The traditional teaching of the Church is not what appeared in the revision of the Catechism. It was this:
Execution Of Criminals
Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life
and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the
innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of
paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the
Commandment- is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by
the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they
give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the
morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity
from the city of the Lord.
I do not know that this teaching reaches the level of doctrine (some say prudential judgement).
I looked up the document from when the Congregation changed the Catechism (let’s keep in mind also that the catechism is a “sure norm for teaching the faith” Fidei Depositum 1992)
Here we are not in any way contradicting past teaching, for the defence of the dignity of human life from the first moment of conception to natural death has been taught by the Church consistently and authoritatively. Yet the harmonious development of doctrine demands that we cease to defend arguments that now appear clearly contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth. Indeed, as Saint Vincent of Lérins pointed out, “Some may say: Shall there be no progress of religion in Christ’s Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For who is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it?” (Commonitorium, 23.1; PL 50). It is necessary, therefore, to reaffirm that no matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.
Sorry for the lack of citation. The section on the execution of criminals is from the Catechism of Trent. Officially known as the Roman Catechism and also called the Catechism of Pius V (although he himself did not write it, it was published in 1566.
The other recent quote is from Pope Francis in 2017 about the need for a change in paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which was revised as he wished in 2018.
NEW REVISION OF NUMBER 2267
OF THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
ON THE DEATH PENALTY –
RESCRIPTUM “EX AUDIENTIA SS.MI”
The Supreme Pontiff Francis, in the audience granted on 11 May 2018 to the undersigned Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has approved the following new draft of no. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, arranging for it to be translated into various languages and inserted in all the editions of the aforementioned Catechism.
The death penalty
2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.
Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.
The post uploaded before I finished.
jon has told me that I am wrong and maybe the Pope would too, I don’t know.
I have said that, as it is written in the 2005 USCCB document on capital punishment, that the state has the recourse to execute criminals of a heinous crime if it necessary to protect human life, while also calling for the abolition of the death penalty. (The Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death p. 4).
I think a lot of people’s opinions on the death penalty do not match what the Church is saying now but reflect more what was taught prior to the 1990s (although there were always Catholics who did not agree with the prior teaching, even some saints.)
jon is saying that it is sinful and I am saying that the Church has never said that.
The circumstances have changed.
This document from 1999 has an historical overview of the “evolution” of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty.