If you struggle with the issue of the death penalty, then read this. It is a wonderful piece that unpacks why, even as leaders in the Church are clearly changing their approach to the death penalty, there is still room for debate. It also demonstrates the right way and the wrong way to approach debate like a Christian. Like anything, the Catholic Church has its own group of people who will try to shout down debate or, by hook or by crook, convince you there is only one acceptable way to think. It’s not alone. And it’s hardly confined to the world of religion.
Naturally there are some topics that are not open for debate. For instance, you can’t reject the existence of God and still be in line with Church teaching. Other topics have room for discussion. The application of the death penalty is one of those topics. That doesn’t mean rejecting what the last three popes and the majority of bishops currently teach should be done willy-nilly. Like most things, Catholics should be cautious about questioning the guidance of Church leaders. If a doctor tells me to follow a certain path toward wellness, I need to have serious reasons, and serious research, behind me before I dismiss the doctor’s advice.As Catholics, following the teaching of the Church is the default position. There are some topics, like the existence of God or the sinfulness of abortion, that are not on the table for discussion. Others, however, have developed, grown and changed over the years, if not in substance, then at least in application. If there is a serious struggle, or a legitimate disagreement, especially with a topic that Church leaders have explicitly said is open to discussion, then don’t feel bad. Don’t be bullied into thinking you must accept one way or you don’t love Jesus or care about Church teaching. That’s just an old fundamentalist trick in Catholic garb.