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Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

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Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

Aug. 2, 2018

24

ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases “because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a shift in Roman Catholic teaching on the issue.

Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the compendium of Catholic beliefs.

The pontiff, who is the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, said the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.

Previously, the catechism allowed the death penalty in some cases, if it was “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor,” even if in reality “cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender today are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

The new formal teaching acknowledges that there are new ways to protect society.

“There is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes,” it says.

“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.”

 

 

are there any catholic death penalty proponents out there that will argue this isn't infallible and thus not follow this teaching?
is this teaching infallible?

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BarbaraTherese

Personally, I am against the death penalty.

As I understand infallibility:

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http://www.catholicfaithandreason.org/papal-infallibility.html

The dogma of infallibility was formally proclaimed at the First Vatican Council in 1870. There are several requirements for a dogmatic, papal infallible pronouncement:

                (1) The pronouncement must be made by the lawful successor to Peter.

                (2) The subject matter must be in the area of faith and morals.

                (3) The pope must be speaking ex cathedra, that is from the very seat and office of Peter. In this                              way he must be specifically intending to proclaim a doctrine, binding the entire Church to its                                assent

 

If one or more of these elements is missing, there is no infallible pronouncement. Most "examples" of papal "errors" emerge when critics ignore the necessity of these three points. (Madrid, pp. 135-136, Pope Fiction)

 

 

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dominicansoul

I do not believe he's speaking with infallibility here, is he?  

 

I don't believe the Death penalty is needed to defend society as much as in the past.  But I think the way the catechism stated it was perfect.  There ARE cases where someone should be punished with their lives.  Very rare cases, but they still exist.  For example, in Texas a few years ago, a drug dealer was able to direct a hit on the judge who incarcerated him.  He had the Judge and his wife bludgeoned to death while they slept.  The gangster was still in direct control of his gang members and was able to plan and put into action this assassination.   In that case, I think this prisoner deserves to die before more innocent people's lives are taken.    

 

In some instance, the death penalty helps in the conversion process.  Men know they are about to die, so they want to make good with God.  Makes me think of St. Therese of Liseiux, how she prayed and offered up sacrifices for a murderer on death row.  He converted at the moment of his hanging.  Don't think he would have converted had he had the rest of his life to think about what he had one sitting in prison.  I mean, I'm sure there are conversions at any time, but when it comes to the moment when  you are about to die, it brings the reality of the next life more into focus.  

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linate

i think it could be argued to be infallible even with the elements mentioned above. the pope, binds, the church, on faith and morals. i think a person could argue the pope wasn't intending to bind anything, but was pastoral guidance only. but it's more than that, though. even if it was infallible, the catholic should argue it's proper development.... in that the church isn't saying the death penalty can never be justified in theory, just in practicality. the article says the catechism will be changed, and i wonder if it will be. 

to my understanding before it was taught that the death penalty should be rare if not existent, but if what i'm reading is true, it will now be "not allowed at all". i wonder what actual change is in store for the exact wording of the catechism. 

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dUSt

I don't understand how anyone could argue this is NOT infallible. All of the conditions are met--he even changed the catechism. 

So, suck it up it up buttercups. The death penalty is now inadmissible. If you can't handle it, maybe think twice about receiving communion.

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linate

you can trust catholic sources to give the real meat of it....
http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-francis-changes-catechism-to-declare-death-penalty-inadmissible

Until today's announcement, n. 2267 of the Catechism, promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II, read: 

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“Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

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."[1]

[1] John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56. 69 Cf. Gen 4:10.”

 

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the current teaching

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“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”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

 

 

it seems like the development goes like "death penalty should be used unless it's needed for safety" to "death penalty is never necessary for safety thus it can't be used". 

but i dont know how the pope can make such a blanket statement.... what about the example the poster above gave of guys who direct hits from prison? or what about less developed societies where they don't have the luxury to have that set up?

i know good catholics argue that the catechism isn't always meant to be infallible. but beyond that, i think a catholic could argue that the old teaching still stands, in that the pope is just talking for practical purposes it's not necessary any more. that's a stretch to what is actually taught here, but it's plausible, given the context, i'd suppose. 

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Is the doctrinal authority of the Catechism equal to that of the dogmatic definitions of a pope or ecumenical council?

By its very nature, a catechism presents the fundamental truths of the faith which have already been communicated and defined. Because the Catechismpresents Catholic doctrine in a complete yet summary way, it naturally contains the infallible doctrinal definitions of the popes and ecumenical councils in the history of the Church. It also presents teaching which has not been communicated and defined in these most solemn forms. This does not mean that such teaching can be disregarded or ignored. Quite to the contrary, the Catechism presents Catholic doctrine as an organic whole and as it is related to Christ who is the center. A major catechism, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, presents a compendium of Church teachings and has the advantage of demonstrating the harmony that exists among those teachings.

 

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-catechism-of-the-catholic-church.cfm

 

it's hard to get a straight answer on whether the catechism is an infallible document. you could argue the above from the college of bishops says that not all things are infallibly stated, but must be followed anyway. or you could read it to say not all things are infallibly stated in it outside the text too, but it is still infallible. 

the best answer i've come to as a former catholic and someone who follows the pope, is that it's not necessarily infalible. i thought there were teachings in it that have in fact changed, that even good catholics admit to, i'd have to think about that. 

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linate

they say doctrine changes, not dogma. and then the good catholic would get into that distinction. cause catechisms contain both dogma and doctrine

i think a person could argue if this could change to begin with, it can change back. that is, the doctrine changes, not the dogma that society generally shouldn't kill in retribution. 

so what should one make of something that can change like that? is it infallible or just something one must follow as if it was? it's infallible but something that can change, basically? that doesn't sound like it's truly infallible to begin with, but rather just has the authority as if it was infallible, cause truly infallible teachings don't change. 

it's all circling around what exactly the popes are intending. 

Edited by linate

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dominicansoul
1 hour ago, dUSt said:

I don't understand how anyone could argue this is NOT infallible. All of the conditions are met--he even changed the catechism. 

So, suck it up it up buttercups. The death penalty is now inadmissible. If you can't handle it, maybe think twice about receiving communion.

Doesn't matter to me, I'm not killing anyone and getting on death row.  Lol.  

I've never supported the egregious use of the death penalty.  I used to work in law enforcement and witnessed how brutally unjust our justice system is, how some innocents were murdered using the death penalty, and how badly it needs to be fixed.  I just wondered if this was in fact an infallible teaching or not, given the Church's 2,000 year teaching on the death penalty.   I do think there are cases where it is justifiable, just like self-defense and just wars.   I wonder if this new teaching will affect those other issues as well...

One of my close friends had her 14 year old daughter slaughtered like a butchered pig.  Found her body behind a bush near their home.  She wanted the bastard who did it dead.  It was very difficult telling her how I could not support the death penalty in his case.  I know what it feels like to want vengeance for the death of a loved one.   Yes, that is definitely wrong, because Vengeance belongs to God.  But the guy was later released, and then I felt he should have been put to death, because someone who commits such a brutal crime could perhaps easily do it again.  Maybe he's living near you now, would you want him to be out and about to do that to someone you love?  I sure don't... God forbid such a thing!

 

The Church taught the use of the Death Penalty, done properly, was in fact, justifiable.  I just want to make sure that what the Pope is saying today does in fact make the Death Penalty a mortal sin, which is contrary to what the Church has taught for 2,000 years.   Does this mean Catholics can no longer be in positions of law enforcement?  Because the death penalty was justifiable as a means of self-defense.  His proclamation today will certainly have an affect on self defense and just war.  Are we to allow people to hurt our loved ones while we stand by and do nothing to defend them?  Will we have to vote against going to war if a tyrant takes over countries like Hitler did back in the 30's and 40s?  

 

These are the things that came to mind at his announcement.  You can't easily erase 2,000 years of teaching and expect it to not affect other areas as well.  This is why I wondered, is this truly something that we should accept as infallible teaching??  IT is now a mortal sin to support or participate in the death penalty, which is in essence, self defense?  That kinda blows my mind...    

 

This has always been a difficult issue for me.  The Pope's proclamation today doesn't change my difficulty.  I just want to know if it was infallible or not.  I know I won't get the answer here, I'll have to look at what Dr. Peters says, EWTN or Catholic Answers.     

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Anomaly

I don’t think it meets the requirements for being an infallible decree.  He hasn’t really changed or spoke of anything significant in Doctrine or Dogma.  However, it can be argued he has provided a considered (and with the power of the Church traditions and authority) on a prudential matter. 

It is his opinion that the world penal systems does provide sufficient security for others to provide the convicted the opportunity for repentance and conversion.  His opinion of circumstances, provides respect for the lives of others in society as well as the convicts’s life   No significant change, just a clarification. 

The Church has long ago changed it’s Doctrine on the death penalty from appropriate punishment for taking a life to only to ensure the safety and life of others in society. 

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fides' Jack
4 hours ago, dUSt said:

I don't understand how anyone could argue this is NOT infallible. All of the conditions are met--he even changed the catechism. 

So, suck it up it up buttercups. The death penalty is now inadmissible. If you can't handle it, maybe think twice about receiving communion.

Generally it's considered that an infallible statement would include words to the effect of, "Let this be accepted by all Christian faithful," or "Let all who oppose this be anathema."  That's not present here.  In fairness, Pope Francis does not seem like the type of pope to make that kind of statement, anyway, even if he did intend it.  

In any case, as I understand it, it's not yet part of the Catechism.  It's being proposed, and there is a draft.  It doesn't seem to be finalized.  Maybe I'm wrong about that...

But, we also need to consider Church teaching on morality in general.  We know absolutely the Church does teach that morally speaking, there are theoretical cases when capital punishment would be morally acceptable (even the Bible says so).  We know that teaching can't change.  The only way I can see for a Catholic to accept this amendment, then, is to accept the interpretation that the pope is saying that in the modern world there are no practical reasons why it's necessary.  And that's not a teaching on faith or morals, anyway, but an opinion of modern times.  

I will add that if the pope did say that there is no theoretical case when capital punishment could be morally acceptable, that statement would be a contradiction of both Sacred Scripture and Divine Tradition, and all Catholics would be duty-bound to reject it.

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linate

"I will add that if the pope did say that there is no theoretical case when capital punishment could be morally acceptable, that statement would be a contradiction of both Sacred Scripture and Divine Tradition, and all Catholics would be duty-bound to reject it."

if that hypothetical were granted to be true, it should follow as granted to be true that the pope isn't infallible. unless you have good reasons to be a sedevacantist or something. ive seen those types try to basically argue if a teaching contradicts another, one of them is false but that doesn't mean there's a contradiction but that there's an anti pope. that sounds like they are just picking and choosing what to believe, because they simply choose which one is the anti pope. they need to be more principled about it, to say this or that pope is validly elected or not, and go from there. 

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linate

i guess a person could nit pick between whether a pope 'binds' a teaching or whether they merely teach it. you can find popes who say that popes can teach error, and if they do, catholics must reject it. this doesn't say they 'intended to bind as dogma' a teaching, though. personally, i think the popes who said this stuff probably didn't believe in infallibility, and to try to parse it like i just did, is anachronistic revisionist thinking. 

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Josh

Reader: "If Pope Francis can declare the death penalty--affirmed in the Old Testament, New Testament, and throughout Christian history--"inadmissible in all cases," what can't he do? What bounds remain on what a pope can declare?"

Mark Shea: If Pope Francis can declare slavery--affirmed in the Old Testament, New Testament, and throughout Christian history--"intrinsically immoral," what can't he do? What bounds remain on what a pope can declare?

The Church did not nail down the fact that slavery is intrinsically immoral till Vatican II.  She still has not even gotten that far with the death penalty.

Instead of having hysterics, it would be really good for people to try to understand the perfectly comprehensible logic of the Church in turning irrevocably against both slavery and the death penalty.  Try reading Newman: https://amzn.to/2Mg2Iyu

This is not "unprecedented".  This is *normal* in the life of the Church.

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BarbaraTherese

If I am for life, then it has to be for the whole of life.  Also, we are called to forgive, definitely not to kill.

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Ice_nine

I guess simple old me, I don't get it. I don't know what can change about church teaching and what can't. It's hard to be faithful when I don't even know which direction I'm supposed to go some times.

What about societies with a more rudimentary infrastructure? That can't quite easily contain dangerous criminals? Or when convicts continue to commit heinous acts inside prison walls because they don't care.

Max xecurity prison seems like hell. At least in the US. Should we adopt a system like they have in Norway (I think). It's more humane but it doesn't seem to respect the gravity of murder.

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