The big news of the day in Catholic (and other) circles concerns the announcement that Francis has issued a rescript to the CDF changing the neo-church teaching on the death penalty as stated in the so-called Catechism of the Catholic Church. (CCC)
In short, CCC 2267 most recently reflected the wishes of John Paul II to say that cases of the death penalty as an absolute necessity for effectively preventing crime are “very rare, if not practically non-existent;” the quote coming from his Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.
This treatment left the door cracked ever-so-slightly for the just use of capital punishment; in fact, Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the CDF subsequently affirmed as much.
One of the major flaws in this treatment, however, was that it focused exclusively on the death penalty as a means of protecting society; without any regard for its use as a form of punishment – more on that momentarily.
Now, thanks to Francis, CCC 2267 will henceforth feature a quote from his own most highly favored source of inspiration, himself, stating:
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 CDF explained the reasons for the change in a Letter to Bishops; one that makes perfectly clear that the Conciliar Captains of Newchurch have totally abandoned the idea that capital punishment is a legitimate exercise of civil authority in applying retributive justice.
At this, let’s take an abbreviated look at the Church’s traditional doctrine on Capital Punishment as stated in the Roman Catechism (aka Catechism of the Council of Trent).
In its treatment of the Fifth Commandment, the Roman Catechism states under the heading of “Exceptions” the following:
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. [Emphasis added]
One notes that the traditional teaching on the just use of the death penalty, unlike that of post-conciliar churchmen, recognizes the State’s duty to not only protect the innocent, but also to punish the guilty; it nowhere suggests that the State is always and everywhere duty bound to protect the life of the guilty.
NB: The Roman Catechism also speaks of the death penalty as that which tends toward “the preservation and security of human life.”
How can this be?
Simply put, the security of human life is not limited to man’s natural ends; a point lost on conciliar churchmen like neo-conservative superstar Archbishop Charles Chaput, who in a 2012 article in his diocesan newspaper equated the death penalty to “answering violence with violence.”
Completely absent from the minds of such men is the reality that proportionate punishment justly rendered (as in the case of a death penalty leveled against those who murder the innocent) can have a purifying effect on the soul of the perpetrator as expiation is made; thereby rendering a service to the spiritual good and supernatural life of both the guilty individual and society as a whole.
St. Thomas Aquinas affirmed that the death penalty can serve as a powerful impetus for the criminal’s conversion, and that it also carries the potential for having a purgatorial effect on the guilty party if the punishment is accepted with contrition. As such, the death penalty can hardly be dismissed as devoid of mercy, much less justice.
Consider as well the following citations of the traditional doctrine:
The secular power can without mortal sin carry out a sentence of death, provided it proceeds in imposing the penalty not from hatred but with judgment, not carelessly, but with due solicitude. (Pope Innocent III, DS 795/425)
Even in the case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life. (Pope Pius XII, Address given September 14, 1952)
The post-conciliar approach to the death penalty – epitomized in the Bergoglian treatment – is born of two errors; a hyper-inflated view of human dignity, and a distorted view of the State.
Let’s begin with a closer look at the latter.
From the time of Vatican Council II and the promulgation of Dignitatis Humanae, the Church has refrained from preaching the immutable truth that the civil authorities in the various States derive their authority neither from constitutions nor the will of the people, but from Almighty God (more properly, Christ the King) to Whom they are beholden.
Lost in the process is the traditional Catholic understanding of the civil authority as a representative of God.
As such, it is no longer clear in the minds of moderns that the State has the right to visit the death penalty upon the guilty; not simply as a means of protecting its citizens, but as a means of applying retributive justice in the name of God, thereby rendering a genuine and valuable service to the common good.
By contrast, Archbishop Chaput, whose arguments are representative of those who support the Newchurch approach to capital punishment, wrote:
Nor does [the death penalty] heal or redress any wounds, because only forgiveness can do that. (ibid.)
Modern day Rome’s movement to abolish capital punishment is a veritable time bomb that necessarily invites all manner of heresies that are lurking just beneath its surface.
- If indeed the death penalty does not “heal or redress any wounds,” what then shall we say of the Creator’s decree, spoken to Adam as an expression of Perfect Justice, “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death” (Genesis 2:17).
- If indeed the death penalty does not “heal or redress any wounds,” what then shall we say of the death of Our Blessed Lord on the Cross?
- If indeed the death penalty does not “heal or redress any wounds,” what then shall we say of the grace poured out upon the Church, “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus?” (Apocalypse 17:6)
You see, if one carries to their logical conclusion the arguments put forth in favor of the Wojtyłan-Bergoglian approach to capital punishment, effectively undermined along the way are such fundamental doctrines as the Church’s understanding that the wages of sin is death; her teaching concerning Our Lord’s work of Redemption, and the Catholic conviction that our individual sufferings and death can be redemptive for ourselves and for others.
But the devastation doesn’t stop there.
Also at stake is immutable doctrine concerning the identity of the Holy Catholic Church as the Mystical Body of Christ wherein the work of Redemption continues; the nature of Holy Mass wherein the Sacred Victim is offered in atonement for our sins, and therefore likewise our understanding of Holy Orders and the role of the priesthood.
Indeed, even the doctrine of the faith concerning Baptism as that through which we die with Christ – a death entirely necessary in order to rise with Him to new life – is placed in jeopardy.
In other words, if Newchurch’s teaching on the death penalty stands, like dominoes, numerous authentic Catholic doctrines are destined to fall.
This brings me to the more egregious error upon which the post-conciliar approach to the death penalty is based; namely, a hyper-inflated view of human dignity.
The aforementioned CDF Letter to Bishops repeatedly claims recourse to the “dignity” of the human person; with the underlying suggestion being that this applies specifically to those who commit the most serious of crimes:
This development centers principally on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life. Along this line, John Paul II affirmed: “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.”
…today the increasing understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes…
… eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners…
… a decisive commitment to favor a mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life…
Having made its case, the Letter claims:
It is in this light that Pope Francis has asked for a revision of the formulation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty in a manner that affirms 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.”
The inviolability and the dignity of the person…
The wording here is rather interesting; it suggests that the human person has both inviolability and dignity, which in a certain sense is true. And yet, we must take a closer look.
First, understand that “inviolable” simply means that which cannot be violated, corrupted, or diminished.
The human being has a unique dignity among the creatures of the earth. Unlike the beasts, having been created in the image and likeness of God, he is a rational person. Even the most egregious sinner remains a human being; i.e., he does not truly lose his personhood. In this sense, one may perhaps speak of the inviolability of the person, though in the present case, the phrase practically guarantees error.
It would be a grave error to imagine (as modern day churchmen most certainly do) that the human person therefore has “inviolable dignity” – that is, a dignity that cannot be violated, corrupted or diminished. It most certainly can. How? By sin.
St. Thomas Aquinas stated the following while addressing (in the affirmative) the question: Whether it is lawful to kill sinners?
By sinning man departs from the order of reason, and consequently falls away from human dignity … and he falls into the slavish state of the beasts. (cf ST, II-II, Q64, A2)
Interestingly, the Roman Catechism begins its examination of “exceptions” to the Fifth Commandment by stating that it does not pertain to the killing of “irrational animals.” From there, it addresses the just execution of criminals (cited above). This progression of thought is eminently logical in light of Aquinas’ teaching that by sin man can lose his dignity and descend to the state of the beasts.
Treating human dignity as inviolable, as if it cannot be diminished much less lost, however, is precisely the error upon which the Newchurch treatment of capital punishment is founded.
John Paul the Great Humanist – the same who paved the road that led to the recent Bergoglian update (if one can call it that) – made this error perfectly plain (to cite just one example) in a 1993 address to a gathering of psychiatrists in Rome when he stated:
…the human person is a unity of body and spirit, possessing an inviolable dignity as one made in the image of God and called to a transcendent destiny.
Do you see what he did there? He took the inviolability of personhood as based upon man having been created in God’s image, and he misapplied it to human dignity.
A decade before John Paul II made the statement above, a document issued by the Vatican’s International Theological Commission provided evidence of just how deeply this error had already taken root in Rome in a text entitled, The Dignity and Rights of the Human Person:
In his [sic] Incarnation he [sic] conferred maximum dignity on human nature. For that reason the Son of God is united in some way to every man (GS 22 § 2; RH 8).
Get that? Every man without distinction enjoys maximum dignity, in his human nature, simply by virtue of the Incarnation! If this were so (and it is not), then yes, human dignity would be inviolable.
Note the origins of this madness – Vatican Council II, and the disastrous inaugural Encyclical of the John Paul II’s pontificate, Redemptor Hominis.
While it may not be immediately obvious, what we have here is yet another concrete manifestation of the warning given by Our Lady of Fatima as described by the future Pope Pius XII, which reads in part as follows:
A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God.
You see, inviolable dignity rightly belongs by nature to just One, and that is God. In other words, the dignity proper to God cannot be violated, corrupted or diminished – the mechanism by which this happens being sin – because of who He is in His very nature.
One may be compelled to ask:
But what of Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man?
Perhaps a theologian could write several thousand words on this topic, but for our purposes, it is enough to recognize that the dignity proper to Our Lord, in His human nature, was inviolable by virtue of the hypostatic union; His “two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation.” (Council of Chalcedon)
As for Our Lady, the New Eve, while she lived her entire life in perfect union with the will of God, she could have exercised the free will to sin (thus diminishing her dignity) had she so chosen; just as Eve had. As such, we cannot say even of the Blessed Virgin that her dignity as a human creature of God was inviolable.
In conclusion, when a Dicastery of the Roman Curia states that the Incarnation has conferred maximum dignity on human nature as a whole, and John Paul II declares that the dignity of the human person is inviolable, and Francis decrees that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, we need to understand what is really happening:
Those who claim to speak in the name of the Church have surely succumbed to the temptation to believe that man has become God.
Just as Our Lady of Fatima forewarned.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The launch of the Inquisitor has led to a decrease in content posted at akaCatholic. Eventually, this will not be the case. In addition to costing time, the newspaper is taking a financial toll. I knew it would and accept this challenge willingly, trusting that Our Lord will – as He always has – raise up the supporters that we need. If you feel so compelled, now would be a great time to donate. – Louie