Pope Francis announced a change in the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph 2267, where it will call the death penalty “inadmissable.”  An odd term since it is mostly used in a legal context.  Its use comes across as ambiguous, as to provide a needed escape hatch from the coming admonishments to correct this contradiction of doctrine.

The truth is that the pope has no authority to make this change.  It is also odd that he didn’t change the bookending paragraphs 2266 and 2268 as there is inconsistency with his revision especially as it relates to 2268 which reads, “The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful.  The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.”  Paragraph 2268 is consistent with Scripture referred to in the definition of capital punishment by Fr. Hardon, highlighted in this article.

Here is a great summary and repetition of the Catholic Church’s unchangeable teaching on the death penalty (also known as capital punishment) from Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary:

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT:  The death penalty imposed by the state for the punishment of grave crimes.

It is certain from Scripture that civil authorities may lawfully put malefactors to death. Capital punishment was enacted for certain grievous crimes in the Old Law, e.g., blasphemy, sorcery, adultery, and murder. Christian dispensation made no essential change in this respect, as St. Paul expressly says: “The state is there to serve God for your benefit. If you break the law, however, you may well have fear: the bearing of the sword has its significance” (Romans 13:4).  Among the errors of the Waldenses condemned by the Church in the early thirteenth century was the proposition that denied the lawfulness of capital punishment (Argentré, Collectio de Novis Erroribus, I, 86).  St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) defends capital punishment on the grounds of the common good. The state, he reasons, is like a body composed of many members, and as a surgeon may cut off one corrupt limb to save the others, so the civil authority may lawfully put a criminal to death and thus provide for the common good.
Theologians further reason that, in receiving its authority from God through the natural law, the state also receives from him the right to use the necessary means for attaining its end. The death penalty is such a means. If even with capital punishment crime abounds, no lesser penalty will suffice.
The practical question remains of how effective a deterrent capital punishment is in some modern states, when rarely used or only after long delays. In principle, however, it is morally licit because in the most serious crimes the claims of retribution and deterrence are so demanding that the corrective value of punishment must, if necessary, be sacrificed.”

 

Pope Francis must reverse course on his personal change to the teaching on the death penalty as it is contradictory to Church doctrine and a danger to him and the Catholic faithful.  Sharing the error of denying the lawfulness of the death penalty with the condemned Waldenses is poor company too keep.

It is also worth stating that no doctrines can be changed even if amended in the Catechism in the future including, but not limited too: illicitly allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive the Eucharist, illicitly normalizing homosexual acts, illicitly allowing homosexuals to marry, illicitly allowing any form of contraception, illicitly calling for open borders, illicitly denying self-defense with a weapon, illicitly denying just war doctrine, illicitly promoting socialism, illicitly promoting communism, illicitly promoting socialism and communism as social justice, etc.

By P. Hodges

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