Francis on the Death Penalty: What we can learn

Death Penalty 2On Monday, December 7, 2018, Francis the Loquacious (alias: the “God of surprises”) addressed the “International Commission Against the Death Penalty.” Most regular readers of this space will find the content of the address predictable enough. Even so, let’s take a closer look to see what we might learn.

The portion of the address that has received the most attention is the following:

In past centuries, when the instruments we have today available for the protection of society were lacking, and the current level of development of human rights had not yet been reached, the use of the death penalty presented itself on some occasions as a logical and just consequence. Even in the Papal States recourse was made to this inhumane form of punishment, ignoring the primacy of mercy over justice.

Francis is accusing every pope of tradition – a number of whom are Saints (real ones) – of being either ignorant of, or deliberately ignoring, God’s mercy. According to Bergoglio, it was for this reason that the death penalty had merely the appearance of justice in the eyes of these foolish men.

In this, we are given compelling evidence that Francis understands perfectly well that he is rejecting that which has consistently been taught by the Roman Pontiffs (and others) throughout the centuries; i.e., he is making it known that he is not deviating from the infallible ordinary magisterium of the Church simply by mistake, but rather because he is convinced that he knows better.

This, my friends, is a solid working definition of formal heresy!

Francis is essentially claiming that, unbeknownst to countless Saints and Doctors of the Church, capital punishment is devoid of mercy, and that it somehow contradicts the words of Sacred Scripture, “Mercy exalteth itself above judgment” (cf James 2:13).

By contrast, St. Thomas Aquinas plainly affirmed that the death penalty not only carries the potential for having a purgatorial effect on the guilty should he accept his punishment with contrition, he also teaches that the specter of such punishment can also serve as a powerful impetus for the criminal’s conversion. In other words, capital punishment can rightly be considered an act of mercy in and of itself.

The Angelic Doctor also teaches, “Even in the damnation of the reprobate mercy is seen” (cf ST I, Q21, A4). As such, the death penalty can hardly be dismissed as being devoid of mercy, much less justice.

We must admit, however, that Francis speaks rather well when he states that the current level of development of human rights had not yet been reached – provided it is understood that he is referring to Vatican Council II where the so-called “rights of man” were insisted upon over and against the rights of Almighty God.

Moving on, Francis says:

The certainty that every life is sacred and that human dignity must be preserved without exception, has led me, since the beginning of my ministry, to work on different levels for the universal abolition of the death penalty.

There is a subtle but very important insight to be gleaned in this. You see, it is evident that Francis errs in imagining that human dignity is a resident characteristic of every man even apart from God. This is why he insists that it is up to rulers of States to preserve it.

In truth, it is the individual person who, in cooperation with grace, preserves, and even develops his own human dignity by entering into, and persevering in, communion with God. The role of the State in this matter is to promote the common good in such way as to guarantee that its citizens are afforded the opportunity to do so, and this it can do only by assuring “the freedom and exaltation of the Holy Mother, the Church” (cf Leonine Prayers after Mass).

Conversely and of the utmost importance in this issue, man can lose his human dignity by falling into sin and departing from communion with God. As such, Aquinas teaches:

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)

Francis does not believe this, which is why he speaks of the death penalty as “a punishment that seriously damages human dignity.” You see, he believes that human dignity is destroyed from without by other human beings; for instance, when a criminal is punished by death. This is typical Jesuitic thinking wherein personal duty is ignored in favor of imagining that the only sin worthy of condemnation is societal sin.

Most noteworthy of all, perhaps, is the following:

This is why the new drafting of the Catechism implies that we also assume our responsibility for the past and that we recognize that the acceptance of this type of punishment has been a consequence of a mentality of the more legalist and Christian era…

Here we are given to understand that Francis equates “Christian” with “legalist” and, furthermore, he lets us know that he considers the Church’s influence over society a regrettable thing of the past; something that must not be repeated much less sought. In other words, he is making it perfectly plain that he is laboring to construct the City of Man; he is not working to see “the Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, spread among all men and all nations” (cf Quas Primas 12).

In conclusion, for those with eyes to see, the bottom line lesson is simple:

Jorge Bergoglio is not Catholic.

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