Death Penalty and Dissent from Church Authority

It is my opinion that Catholic’s who do not abide by the prudential judgments of the last two Popes, and the clear teachings of the USCCB are doing so on their own and are in fact being disobedient to Church authority, who are speaking in the name of Christ.

I see this Cafeteria Catholicism coming now from conservative Catholics who are too comfortable in their beliefs to accept the Catholic Church’s often very progressive (in the sense the word is currently used) social teachings. They claim they are free to believe and act as if the death penalty is just and acceptable in this day and age. They do not question the Tea Party and the Republican’s economic policies which are in direct opposition to Church teaching.

As pointed out below, this is unacceptable, and doubly hypocritical due to the fact that conservative Catholics are constantly accusing liberal Catholics of doing just that.

I challenge any current Catholic Theologian on this site to refute this:

B. Teachings authoritatively but not infallibly proposed

The magisterium, moreover, is an authoritative teacher of Catholic faith and morals when it exercises its teaching authority in a manner that is not clearly intended to be infallible. When the bishops teach on matters of faith and morals in their capacity as bishops, they “speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent (obsequium religiosum) of soul. This religious submission of will and mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme teaching authority is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will” (Lumen gentium, 25). The meaning of this obsequium religiosum will be examined in more detail below, under #4.

  1. The nature of the “obsequium religiosum” and the question of dissent

It is interesting to note that the term “dissent” did not appear in theological literature prior to the end of Vatican Council II. The “approved” manuals to which the three bishops, who wanted Lumen gentium 25 to say something about the nature of the obsequium religiosum required for teaching authoritatively but not infallibly proposed, were referred did not speak of legitimate theological dissent from such teaching. [8] Rather, they recognized that a theologian (or other well-informed Catholic) might not in conscience be able to give internal assent to some teachings. They thus spoke of “withholding assent” and raising questions, but this is a far cry from “dissent.”

The Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has addressed this matter. It recognized that theologians (and others) might question not only the form but even the substantive content of some authoritatively proposed magisterial teachings. It held that it is permissible in such instances to withhold assent, to raise questions (and present them to the magisterium), to discuss the issues with other theologians (and be humble enough to accept criticism of one’s own views by them). Theologians (and others) can propose their views as hypotheses to be considered and tested by other theologians and ultimately to be judged by those who have, within the Church, the solemn obligation of settling disputes and speaking the mind of Christ.

But it taught one is not giving a true obsequium religiosum if one dissents from magisterial teaching and proposes one’s own position as a position that the faithful are at liberty to follow, substituting it for the teaching of the magisterium. But this is precisely what has been occurring. Dissent of this kind is not compatible with the obsequium religiosum. In fact, those who dissent in this way really usurp the teaching office of bishops and popes. Theologians, insofar as they are theologians, are not pastors in the Church. When they instruct the faithful that the teachings of those who are pastors in the Church (the pope and bishops) are false and that the faithful can put those teachings aside and put in their place their own theological opinions, they are harming the Church and arrogantly assuming for themselves the pastoral role of pope and bishops.

Dissent, understood in this sense, is thus completely incompatible with the obsequium religiosum required for teachings authoritatively but not infallibly proposed.

ignatiusinsight.com/features2006/wmay_authority_nov06.asp

May only Theologians respond? How about a response from a lay person?

You have referenced a lot of material having to do with authority, etc. What you have not referenced is any material about the death penalty specifically. And that, I gather, was supposed to be your point. So I assume you are talking about CCC 2267 (although it really would have been better if you had made this clear from the outset.) If that is what you refer to, then if you have read the many threads on this forum discussing this you know that the response usually given is that the teaching of the practicality of modern incarceration is not a matter of faith and morals but more of a matter of scientific or social fact. It is as if the Church taught that the population of Canada was 35,000,000. And if it is not a matter of faith and morals then teaching about it does not fall under what you quoted:

When the bishops teach on matters of faith and morals in their capacity as bishops, they "speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent (obsequium religiosum) of soul.

The pope disagrees with your position.

I assume you are referring to the memo from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger about the legitimacy of differing beliefs? The above quoted dismantles that defense. That memo was not a moral statement but an theoretical one. The chorus of the hierarchy (including the author of that memo) has made the position we are to take clear, and to choose not to follow that is dissent, not simply non-ascent.

That, the Compendium, the prudential judgment of the former two popes, and the USCCB have all made moral statements on the matter. They used scientific facts (social and otherwise) to come to that decision, however that does not mean dissent from that teaching is able to be legitimately claimed under that guise.

Indeed

The above quoted dismantles that defense.

No, it does not. Your misapplication of the quote is the issue here.

That memo was not a moral statement but an theoretical one.

Was it true and accurate?

The chorus of the hierarchy (including the author of that memo) has made the position we are to take clear, and to choose not to follow that is dissent, not simply non-ascent.

No, he has not bound Catholic consciences in the manner you are claiming. In fact, you attempt to bind where She does not.

It really would have been nice if you had quoted a few of them. You didn’t seem to have any trouble making voluminous quotes on the principles of Church authority in general. You would think you would have had time to cite at least one reference that supports your main point!

“Was it true and accurate?”

Yes, but not specifically applicable to our case. It is true that Catholic’s in theory can have legitimate differing opinions on such matters of the death penalty; there may be times when it’s use is morally questionable. As made clear by the hierarchy, now is not one of those times, and they have made moral pronouncements informing us of this.

“No, he has not bound Catholic consciences in the manner you are claiming. In fact, you attempt to bind where She does not.”

I am not sure how to make it more clear than this. What in this statement do you think does not apply to this situation?:

The magisterium, moreover, is an authoritative teacher of Catholic faith and morals when it exercises its teaching authority in a manner that is not clearly intended to be infallible. When the bishops teach on matters of faith and morals in their capacity as bishops, they “speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent (obsequium religiosum) of soul. This religious submission of will and mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme teaching authority is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will” (Lumen gentium, 25). The meaning of this obsequium religiosum will be examined in more detail below, under #4.

Ad hominem. I am assuming persons reading this are aware of such basic things. If not, it is on them as to why they have not properly informed themselves of the Church’s teaching on this issue.

[quote=whitej30] It is my opinion that Catholic’s who do not abide by the prudential judgments of the last two Popes, and the clear teachings of the USCCB are doing so on their own and are in fact being disobedient to Church authority, who are speaking in the name of Christ.
[/quote]

Let’s start with this admission since it greatly simplifies the task of rebutting your claim. Given that you recognize the statements of JPII and BXVI as being prudential you should also recognize that we have no obligation to assent to them. The obligations of assent apply to doctrines (infallible or not), not opinions.

[FONT=&quot]*[FONT=Arial]Since the Christian revelation tells us nothing about the particulars of contemporary society, the Pope and the bishops have to rely on their personal judgment as qualified spiritual leaders in making practical applications. Their prudential judgment, while it is to be respected, is not a matter of binding Catholic doctrine. To differ from such a judgment, therefore, is not to dissent from Church teaching. *[/FONT][/FONT](Cardinal Dulles, 2001)

Ender

Ha! You challenge people to refute an argument you refuse to even explain! If it is so basic then why did you bother to begin a thread inviting debate about it?

Well, I read this all with real interest. As it is I totally agree with the teaching on the death Penalty and totally disagree with the arguments presented here for why we must agree. I can understand why after a period of embarrassment and morel weakness the Bishops would seek to enforceable and reinforce their power. But I do not accept the idea of creeping infallibility. We are still and organization of people and we have more than enough history for the sinfulness of us all and the corruption of absolute “authority”. I still look to prayer, waiting on the Lord and a honest explanation of those who lead followed by the leading of the Holy Spirit in my Life.
Have a God Filled Day.

I don’t think you have a solid grasp of the difference between what the Church teaches and what her bishops recommend. There is nothing either the Tea Party or Republicans support that is in opposition to Church teaching for the simple reason that the Church has no teaching on how (most) political issues should be resolved. What the Church identifies are the objectives at which we should aim (heal the sick, help the poor, …); what she does not do is tell us what steps should be taken to achieve those goals. She specifies ends, not means and political arguments are over means, not ends.

Ender

I’m not sympathetic to modern American rah-rah-fry-em-all pseudoconservatives, but surely we can see there’s a distinction between the force of the Church’s teachings on the death penalty and the force of it’s teachings on, say, homosexuality. The former is qualified: there are circumstances under which the death penalty may still be licitly used (and while I’m fairly certain we far exceed those circumstances the vast majority of the time, the discretion is nevertheless still explicitly invested with those with authority), where the latter is evil without qualification.

This seems wrong to me, though, in two respects. First, the Church does explicitly teach that the means must be proportionate to the ends – we are not consequentialists here. And second, I think modern political debates have a vastly different vision of ends than you imagine. Modern liberals and pseudoconservatives don’t just differ with respect to how to achieve justice: they have entirely different conceptions of what justice is.

The magisterium, moreover, is an authoritative teacher of Catholic faith and morals when it exercises its teaching authority in a manner that is not clearly intended to be infallible. When the bishops teach on matters of faith and morals in their capacity as bishops, they "speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent (obsequium religiosum) of soul. This religious submission of will and mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme teaching authority is acknowledged with reverence,the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will" (Lumen gentium, 25). The meaning of this obsequium religiosum will be examined in more detail below, under #4.*

Tell me how Tea Party and Republicans support these teachings:

"The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.

2404
In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself."188 The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.

2405
Goods of production—material or immaterial—such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.

2406
Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.189

The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. *This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others.*191"

We are clearly not free to use any means at all to achieve our goals: “One may not do evil so that good may result from it.” (CCC 1761) On the other hand there is no reason to suppose I was suggesting otherwise.

And second, I think modern political debates have a vastly different vision of ends than you imagine. Modern liberals and pseudoconservatives don’t just differ with respect to how to achieve justice: they have entirely different conceptions of what justice is.

That is perhaps true. The mistake discussions like this generally start with is the belief that the Church has spoken out with sufficient detail that one side or the other can justifiably claim the moral high ground for the political solutions it prefers. This is almost never the case (abortion and a few other issues being the exceptions).

Ender

I suppose your point is that Tea Party and Republicans are in opposition to these teachings. (Although once again you failed to state clearly what your point is, so as to leave the reader guessing.) If you believe that their ideas are in opposition to Catholic teaching then the burden is on you to state which particular positions of Tea Party and Republicans you think contradict Catholic teaching. So how do you think they violate these teachings?

The teachings whitej30 referenced are precisely the kind of guidelines the Church provides and the thing to notice about all of them is their lack of specificity. For example this one: Goods of production—material or immaterial—such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number.

The problem here, as I pointed out before, is that specific policies that will meet the objective - in this case “benefit the greatest number” - are not identified. This is not surprising as it is the proper duty of the laity to determine what works. There will surely be disagreement over what actions will benefit the public and which will harm it … but these are all prudential choices, not moral ones. The Church wants us to direct our efforts to the benefit of the common good but she is utterly silent on how we should go about doing that.

Ender

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.