The Church is not Going to Reverse its Development of Doctrine on the Death Penalty

The Church is not Going to Reverse its Development of Doctrine on the Death Penalty October 13, 2017

As much as kill crazy American Conservative Catholics and their close intellectual allies, the Communists and Islamic despots may stamp their feet and demand it, the Church is not going to stop calling for the abolition of the death penalty.  Pope Francis just made this clear again by telling us that capital punishment is contrary to the gospel.

The Usual Suspects on the RightWingoSphere are out in force panicking that the Pope is now a Full Blown Heretic and offering the usual stuff about how abortion is intrinsically immoral and the death penalty is not in order to attain their combox bulls of excommunication.

But, of course, one need not say the death penalty is intrinsically immoral (i.e. wrong by its very nature) in order to say that it is, practically speaking, always wrong.  And, indeed, the Pope does not say that.  What he says, in effect, is that killing people when it is not necessary to kill them is contrary to the gospel.  And by no small coincidence, that is what the Catechism (2267) says too:

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

It’s like this: the gospel, which is about grace and mercy, especially to the guilty (for whereto serves mercy  but to confront the visage of offense?) asks “How can we spare the life of the sinner if possible?  When do we *have* to kill?  And how can we avoid it if there is the slightest chance of doing so?”  So the Church acknowledges that there are situations in which killing cannot be avoided such as combat or, say, a hostage situation).  But she has concluded that, in the first world, there is no need to kill prisoners.  So since it is not necessary, let’s not do it.  That is why the past three pope and all the bishops of the world have called for the abolition of the death penalty.  Killing people when you don’t need to kill them is, indeed, contrary to the gospel.

But American Conservative Christianists don’t ask “When do we *have* to kill?”  They ask “When do we *get* to kill?”  And they are at war with the Church and the Magisterium (and virtually the whole of the Church beyond our borders) to maintain a system in which the statistical guarantee is that about 4 out of 100 victims of the death penalty will be innocent, but in which they prefer to murder the innocent in order to unnecessarily kill the guilty.

That is, indeed, contrary to the gospel.  Yet again, the Pope is right and his enemies are simply wrong.

I’ll stick with the Church.

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