Before emeraldlady, billsherman, et al. throw off their caps in jubilation over my frank avowal, however, I must note that I do not rejoin their position for several reasons, one of which I will attempt to concisely outline for anyone who might wish to probe my reasoning. First, I think we can all agree that if the teaching on the death penalty is circumscribed by divine law, then any prudential disallowance of it is fundamentally misguided and therefore illegitimate. On the other hand, if the death penalty was merely a prudential question all along, then it certainly seems as though the competent authority is free to revise the teaching as it sees fit—and that the competent authority, has, in fact, done so. This I believe is a fair representation of the anti-death penalty faction’s position.
My view, however, is that even a revision of a prudential nature is unacceptable because it causes the foundations of Catholicism crumble; for,
“…it would be contrary to the truth, if, proceeding from some particular cases, one were to conclude that the Church’s Magisterium can be habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments, or that it does not enjoy divine assistance in the integral exercise of its mission.” —then-Cdl. Ratzinger, Donum Veritatis 24
Changing the teaching now would prove that the Church was “habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments”, and consequently did not enjoy the guidance of the Holy Ghost for well over a century, if not the entirety of her history. If this is so, then Our Lord’s promise in John 16:13 would be risible, Scripture itself incontestably fallible and erroneous, and Catholicism itself not worth more than a cent in the penny jar of world religions. Not being inclined to favor this eventuality, I am instead left to conclude that what we are dealing with here is a judgment which will be overturned in the future.
At this point the following rejoinder can be made: “But J_Reed, aren’t you lending too much weight to Donum Veritatis ? If you abandon the idea that the Church cannot be habitually mistaken in her prudential judgments, that resolves all your difficulties in one stroke—just accept that the Church was mistaken for decades, or even centuries, and all will be well!”
To which I respond, “Prove to me that Donum Veritatis should be ignored, and that I am a better theologian than Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and am at perfect liberty to disregard their decree, and you will have made slight progress towards convincing me that this ‘development’ of the teaching on the death penalty is not a non-trivial concern,” as Ender put it. Until then, I will continue to maintain my position, which in any case is not a difficult one to adhere to, given that it entails deferring to my pastor, who like Fr. John Fongemie considers the revision to the Catechism erroneous, and has no qualms saying so from the pulpit.