Capital punishment...again


That Bishop Gregory was against the death penalty says nothing whatever about the section I cited, which dealt solely with the amount of time the church has raised objections to capital punishment. In everything you cited does any of it alter in the slightest the passage I actually quoted?

Only in the last 40 years of its history has the church come out against state-sponsored executions…

Is this claim right or wrong, and if it is accurate then why should I be sanctioned for referring to it? What is so grotesque about repeating a true statement? I made no implication about the bishop’s position on capital punishment itself; I was refuting the claim that the church had opposed capital punishment for 500 years. So I ask again: does the passage I cited accurately reflect Bishop Gregory’s comment about how long the church has opposed capital punishment? That is the only context in which I referred to it and is the only context in which my use of it should be judged.


Capital Punishment is no good. Why would Jesus Christ want someone to be killed early before they got a chance to find him in their life?


That is simply not true. The principle of punishment as Kant puts it, is a catagorical imperative, but sentences are relative. Sentences, for justice to be done, must as Aquinas puts it, be contingent on the ‘real mean’. Not the rational mean.

"the other moral virtues are chiefly concerned with the passions, the regulation of which is gauged entirely by a comparison with the very man who is the subject of those passions, in so far as his anger and desire are vested with their various due circumstances. Hence the mean in such like virtues is measured not by the proportion of one thing to another, but merely by comparison with the virtuous man himself, so that with them the mean is only that which is fixed by reason in our regard.

On the other hand, the matter of justice is external operation, in so far as an operation or the thing used in that operation is duly proportionate to another person, wherefore the mean of justice consists in a certain proportion of equality between the external thing and the external person. Now equality is the real mean between greater and less, as stated in Metaph. x [Didot ed., ix, 5; Cf. Ethic. v, 4: wherefore justice observes the real mean."

In other words, sentences must be imposed based on what serves the common good. We look to the society to determine the harm and the appropriate redress.

“We may speak of a thing being good simply in two ways. First a thing may be good in every way: thus the virtues are good; and there is neither mean nor extremes in things that are good simply in this sense. Secondly a thing is said to be good simply through being good absolutely i.e. in its nature, although it may become evil through being abused. Such are riches and honors; and in the like it is possible to find excess, deficiency and mean, as regards men who can use them well or ill: and it is in this sense that justice is about things that are good simply.” (ST II II 58 10)

In other words, some things like the virtues are ‘intrinsically’ good but the application of justice is good in its nature but require prudence by those ordained to apply it. A sentence authorised imprudently is there fore ‘extrinsically evil’. .


As Aquinas states, to be just, a sentence needs to reflect the real mean.

“The injury inflicted bears a different proportion to a prince from that which it bears to a private person: wherefore each injury requires to be equalized by vengeance in a different way: and this implies a real and not merely a rational diversity.”

If a form of redress, that doesn’t ultimately do more good than harm to the society it serves, it is no longer a just redress. That is why capital punishment has been legitimately abolished around the world.


Actually, speaking of Ave Maria University and one of its philosophy professors, His Excellency, Bishop Frank Dewane, the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, where Ave Maria University is located and under whom it exists, in conjunction with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has produced a wonderful video.

The video explains the Church’s opposition to the death penalty, shows when the Pope addressed the US Congress on this issue and it encourages American Catholics to work for the death penalty’s abolition in the United States through the political process.

His Excellency gives a wonderful explanation of the Church’s teaching on this urgent matter. All American Catholics should unite behind the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the means that they are deploying in seeking the abolishment of the death penalty wherever it is still being used.


This seems to come from an essay entitled “Magisterial Irresponsibility”. How do these dissenters keep their jobs in Catholic universities in the US?? When the Christian authorities and Jewish authorities in theology are all united in recognising the immorality (extrinsic evil)of the death penalty today, as perfectly in keeping with Divine Law, how do these self appointed experts justify their accusations of ‘irresponsibility’ of Christs Church?


Capital punishment as a species of justice was commanded by God in the Law he gave for the Israelites in the Old Testament for various crimes and sins. St Paul says “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). And there are innumerable texts in the Old Testament referring to the Law God gave to the Israelites through Moses as being perfect, holy, just, and good though the Old Law is not as perfect as the New Law of Christ. Accordingly, I don’t see how capital punishment considered in itself could be considered evil or intrinsically evil though maybe your not making that claim.


What you see it or do not see does not matter.

The Magisterium has spoken.


How do you respond to the Church as Christs Church on earth and the Jewish scripture and legal authorities, all unanimous in condemnation of the death penalty today despite it being supposedly ‘commanded’ by Scripture. People who are claiming to have more expertise than the most recognised authorities on Scripture, need to prove some sort of alternate God given authority.


Thus far I have not recieved any arguments that defend the premise of the consequential argument out forward by the Catechism in regards to the American society. The Catechism does not say “Death penalty is inadmissible by its own merits” but only that the death penalty is inadmissible because of these reasons, therefore if those reasons are not applicable to a certain society then the conclusion of the argument cannot be expressed as a universal regardless of the invalidity of the premises in the society in question.

The Catechism is very clear that the death penalty is only inadmissible now because of XYZ, so if XYZ are not present in some society than it cannot be said to be inadmissible in that society. If and when the Catechism says the death penalty is inadmissible in all circumstances, at all times, and for all time by its very nature then I think we could argue about that, but it does not say this so why do we keep arguing about things it doesn’t say?


Church authority has spoken.

Catholics are to work for the abolition of the death penalty wherever in the world it is still practiced.


The Church has spoken. If there are not adequate facilities to protect society, the killer is granted time to reflect and the opportunity to repent, and society will not be morally harmed by the execution (by a decrease in the respect for life and dignity) then the execution is morally lawful when carried out by the state.

All other interpretations are purely personal, and thus cannot be binding. Until such time as the teaching is developed further, that is.

Edit: in response to your points, Fr. I must explain, obviously the CDF letter is not personal. But we have to understand the letter in the light of what it is actually saying.

The catechism talks about XYZ Capital Punishments and says that those are inadmissible. The letter, when talking about Capital Punishment is talking about those XYZ Capital Punishments. It reaffirms that XYZ Capital Punishments are inadmissible.

The USA, unfortunately, does not qualify as an XYZ country. The letter is not addressing the USA, it is silent on the issue of USA Capital Punishments because the USA does not qualify under the rules of the Catechism: we do not have adequate facilities, we do allow plenty of time to repent, and capital punishment does not diminish our social respect for life.

The Magesterium is, of course, authoritative. And they have authoritatively ruled out XYZ Capital Punishments.


Are you seriously trying to contend that the letter of Cardinal Ladaria, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is making a “purely personal” interpretation when he is in fact acting precisely as the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

His Eminence decreed:

Pope Francis has reaffirmed that “today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been.” The death penalty, regardless of the means of execution, “entails cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” Furthermore, it is to be rejected “due to the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of judicial error.” 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 new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church , approved by Pope Francis, situates itself in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine. The new text, following the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in Evangelium vitæ , affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible



All of this shows that the new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism expresses an authentic development of doctrine

The new revision affirms that the understanding of the inadmissibility of the death penalty grew “in the light of the Gospel.”

The new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church desires to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favor a mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect.

His Eminence’s letter, that was sent to every Catholic Bishop in the world, concludes:

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 28 June 2018, has approved the present Letter, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 13 June 2018, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1 August 2018, Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori .

Luis F. Card. Ladaria, S.I.

Giacomo Morandi
Titular Archbishop of Cerveteri

To even postulate that this letter involves “purely personal” interpretations is beyond absurd. It is nothing short of blatantly ridiculous in the face of how the dicasteries work.


Have you read the letter which the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith promulgated, at the order of the Holy Father, addressed to the world’s Bishops, and which accompanied the revision of the Catechism, which was also sent to all the Bishops of the world?

This letter of the Cardinal Prefect has been posted repeatedly in this thread…so many times, in fact, that the Forum’s software keeps asking: “are you sure you want to post this again?”

The letter is clear – that is, moving forward, it involves all circumstances as well as every country which still practices the death penalty – thanks be to God a steadily declining number. There are no exceptions.

The death penalty, regardless of the means of execution, “entails cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”

What the Holy Father and the Congregation has written on the matter of the death penalty being morally inadmissible and unacceptable is CRYSTAL clear unless the reader has the reading comprehension level of a child – or, in fact, is fighting the Magisterium’s absolute and supreme authority to decree on this matter, which it absolutely and assuredly has. And that the faithful are compelled to give the assent of obsequium to this teaching, as mandated – whether they like it or not.


What I see in the new wording of the Catechism is the word ‘inadmissible’ and not ‘intrinsically evil’ or intrinsically or gravely disordered.


‘Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken)’ (John 10: 34-35).

I would respond by just telling them to read the Bible which we believe to be the inspired word of God. The Bible itself, both the Old and New Testaments including Jesus, testifies that the revealed Law of the Old Covenant was given by God to the Israelites through Moses. The Church has always taught this and still does naturally (cf. CCC#1961). It appears from modern biblical scholarship that some various precepts of the Law other than the Decalogue seem to have pre-existed the Sinai Covenant in a similar form among various ancient Semitic peoples and may have been inserted into the Sinaitic ‘Book of the Covenant’ by Moses through God’s command and counsel and thus ratified and sanctioned by Him , for the entire Old Law of the Israelites is presented in the Bible as coming from God through Moses in the context of the events of Sinai.

As far as the view that is held today among the Catholic Church and the Jewish state of Israel concerning the death penalty, this is a different issue than the Old Testament Law of the ancient Israelites. Your claim that the Jewish state and all Jewish scholars today are unanimous in their condemnation of the death penalty is probably questionable unless you can provide some evidence. I recently read an article on a poll taken from the Jewish population in Israel which was fairly recent I believe and something like 33% said they were in favor of the death penalty. At any rate, Christians are not obligated to believe whatever present day Jews believe concerning the death penalty. And, sadly, they have extremely serious interpretative problems with the Old Testament in the person of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who alone is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Still, I feel very close to the Jewish people as Jesus, Mary, St Joseph, and the apostles were Hebrews and all the prophets, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David.

At least presently, the entire body of the Catholic faithful, clergy and lay, is not entirely unanimous concerning the new teaching in the catechism on the death penalty. There are some catholic vocal critics and possibly many who are silent. And imo, we ought not be to quick to condemn those catholics who may have some misgivings about the new wording in the catechism which is only about two months old or so. I think they have reasonable misgivings and questions as I do myself not in the least of an unexpectant overnight conversion from essentially 2000 years of Church Tradition and of 1400 years of biblical teaching in the Old Testament prior to the coming of Christ.


I have agreed with this several times and addressed the concept of a just punishment quite specifically in post #349. Let me know if you take exception to anything I said there. I addressed it again in #389 in the context of comments from Pope Leo XIII.


It is indeed difficult to accept that what was a heresy to believe before is a heresy not to believe today.


Even if the Catechism is changed further with a novel teaching that wouldn’t mean it has force. This whole thing is rather strange as the Catechism isn’t the Catholic Faith but is used now to modify or tweak it. The Catholic Faith being handed down means it can be found in many places and not just the Catechism. The Catechism isn’t even the primary source for the Faith. It should reflect constant teachings clarified over time. When it is changed in order to change the Faith then that is a very unusual thing.

Modern Jewish authorities reject the very foundation of Christianity. Why would anyone consider them a good source for Christian doctrine? Beyond that educated people can invent some of the greatest lies. Common sense will serve anyone better than education.

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