Confused - What other teachings can the pope change?


I am seriously confused. Having taken the time to understand what the Church has taught on the death penalty and its moral reasoning, I now feel I’m being told, “Disregard previous messages - the death penalty is now always wrong.” When I came back to the Church, Catholic Answers and other apologetics organizations made what I thought was a convincing case that the Church can’t and doesn’t change it’s teaching on moral law – can’t because moral law doesn’t change and the Church is protected from error. Yet now I’m told that what the Church said was true yesterday it now says is false. What other moral teachings of the Church might be wrong? How can I defend Church teaching knowing that it might change tomorrow? Why should I rely on the Church’s moral teaching if it might be wrong?

Seriously – I don’t see how I am supposed to put faith in the Church’s moral teaching if it can suddenly change, contradicting what it said before.


The pope can’t change teachings.


I’ve been concerned as well, but after reviewing the additional supporting information about the reasoning behind the revisions to the Catechism, the intent isn’t to say that the death penalty is always and everywhere immoral full stop, but that it’s no longer a justified practice given the developments of the modern world and the reasonable alternatives now available.


So civil authority no longer has the power to issue the death penalty where it could before? The Church no longer teaches that civil authorities have this power?


It’s not about having the power, it’s about whether that power should be used. Read the CCC revision and the letter.


Rather, that it’s not a justifiable use of their authority anymore. This doesn’t seem to be a change in basic moral principles but about how those principles are to be applied in a modern setting.


I have read both. The revision states:

“Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good. Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. 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.”

Previously, the Church has taught:

Council of Trent: Catechism for Parish Priests:

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.

Pope Pius XII

When it is a question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already disposed himself of his right to live.

It sure seems like a change to me…


This has gone too far! Now you and your pastor are calling for the end of the papacy?!


Please read his quote carefully. There is nothing in what he said that violates Church teaching.


One can absolutely pray for the end of a papacy that one thinks is not in the Church’s best interest.


And everyone is his own Pope in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…


The prior statements weren’t wrong. But they were for the context of their times and setting and did not anticipate a world with the resources and reasonable alternatives we have today. The revision is how our principles apply to the present day.


Really Max? Bit of an overreaction isn’t it?


This gave me a good chuckle. :smile:


Oh goodness. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is in charge!

So amusing that the statement on the death penalty is scandalous to some. WOW. Literally people will take ANYTHING Francis says and make it an occasion of “scandal.”


I think you were the one that overreacted.


I never said that @KMG 's cause for prayer was good or bad.

I simply said that he can do that, if he feels as such is appropriate


Not everything the pope says or does is the work of the Holy Spirit.


The problem I think is in how these things look to outsiders. We may all justify/understand by saying well it’s just development or it’s not a change per say. To non Catholics it just looks like the Church is changing teachings. For a church that claims to be infallible on teachings of faith and morals that can become a P.R. problem even if there is no real issue.


The real scandal is not from Francis, but from those Catholics who are perpetuating the idea that he is making a drastic change to the Church’s fundamental doctrines.

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