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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Can the Pope Change Church Doctrine on Capital Punishment? Short Answer: NO!

We live in an era of papal confusion. Every time Pope Francis opens his mouth he throws a grenade at the faithful in the pews leaving chaos and flying shrapnel that obscures the teaching of the Church. On the one hand he will say something in conformity with Church doctrine; the next minute he acts in a way that contradicts what he just said. And then, refusing to clarify, he lets the confusion batter the faithful. One prudent friend said she just doesn't listen to him any more. What a situation for a Catholic where Peter, the chief teacher, bound to teach, govern, and sanctify has become a champion of confusion.  Pope Francis recently lobbed a grenade by saying that capital punishment is never admissible. That is a CHANGE in a perennial Church doctrine; not a development, not a clarification -- a break with past teaching. The papal posse on EWTN raises many troubling questions about the pope's actions in the video below. Raymond Arroyo observes that convicted murderers sometimes escape from prison killing more people in the process and gives examples of recent cases. How does that uphold the dignity and rights of their victims? It's a question that has always prevented me from jumping on the anti-death penalty wagon. How are prisoners and guards to be protected from homicidal psychopaths? Are their lives not worth protecting? How many murders does a criminal get before society can protect itself?

There is another troubling question that needs to be aired. Is the philosophy behind this limited to the death penalty? Doesn't the pope CHANGING doctrine open the door to CHANGING other doctrines? If the perennial teaching of the Church on the right of the state to defend its people through the use of capital punishment is now "inadmissible," what OTHER doctrines are up for grabs? The papal posse brings that point up. So does Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute. He was ridiculed, but New Ways Ministry, the gay advocacy dissent group condemned by the USCCB, saw the link immediately and claimed that the alteration in the catechism on the death penalty proves that "Church teaching can change."

Sorry, Charlie. Popes can't change the perennial doctrines laid down by Christ.

So the  question for me looms ever larger: Is Pope Francis a legitimate pope? Or are we in another age of papal confusion where an anti-pope rivaled the legitimate successor of Peter. Bishop Rene Gracida, retired bishop of Corpus Christi raises this question in an open letter to the bishops of the world and the Catholic faithful. Is Pope Francis the authentic pope:
Bishop Rene Gracida,
a voice in the wilderness
Claiming heresy on the part of a man who is a supposed Pope, charging material error in statements about faith or morals by a putative Roman Pontiff, suggests and presents an intervening prior question about his authenticity in that August office of Successor of Peter as Chief of The Apostles, i.e., was this man the subject of a valid election by an authentic Conclave of The Holy Roman Church? This is so because each Successor of Saint Peter enjoys the Gift of Infallibility.

So, before one even begins to talk about excommunicating such a prelate, one must logically examine whether this person exhibits the uniformly good and safe fruit of Infallibility. If he seems repeatedly to engage in material error, that first raises the question of the validity of his election because one expects an authentically-elected Roman Pontiff miraculously and uniformly to be entirely incapable of stating error in matters of faith or morals. So to what do we look to discern the invalidity of such an election? His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, within His massive legacy to the Church and to the World, left us with the answer to this question. The Catholic faithful must look back for an answer to a point from where we have come—to what occurred in and around the Sistine Chapel in March 2013 and how the fruits of those events have generated such widespread concern among those people of magisterial orthodoxy about confusing and, or, erroneous doctrinal statements which emanate from The Holy See.
We are in serious times -- the most serious I believe since the Arian heresy. Let us pray and fast for the Holy Spirit to raise up saints like Athanasius to protect and defend the faith. I urge you to read Bishop Gracida's letter. And here are more articles related to the crisis of the pope's change in doctrine on capital punishment and why it is so significant.

 Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment

Pope Francis and the Death Penalty (This article illustrates the abject confusion!)

Roberto de Mattei: Is the Death Penalty Intrinsically Evil?

What Catholics Are Missing in the Death Penalty Debate

LGBT ‘Catholic’ groups: If Pope can reverse Church teaching on death penalty, why not homosexuality?


Chriss Rainey said...

There can never be "an evolution of" doctrine because truth simply "is". It does not change.

Francis I am sure did this thinking Catholics would be dumb enough to agree. The purpose, however has nothing to do with criminals. It is to create the precedent for further "evolution" of dogma.

God, help us.

Unknown said...

Development of doctrine is only permissible in the direction of deeper understanding of the previously existing doctrine, not the overturning of such doctrine in conformance with the Zeitgeist!

Sojourner said...

According to Msgr, Charles Pope, doctrine was not changed and you who are making these accusations do not understand what was readily done.

“I have concerns that the reactions I have seen in the Catholic “blogosphere” have been too extreme. There are accusations of error, heresy, violations of Natural Law, and unauthorized changes to an unchangeable doctrine. There are calls to resist the Pope, to reject the teaching, and even to bring charges of heresy.

I think we need to be careful, slow down, and look more carefully at the wording. While I understand that there are legitimate concerns, I hope for a more respectful discussion among Catholics than I am currently seeing, at least here in the U.S.”

TLM said...

I agree with Chriss, Mary Ann........this was really ingenious in the way and the timing of this 'change in Doctrine' (that cannot change). This was a 2 pronged grenade that he threw at us: 1. The timing of pulling out this little ditty was to change the conversation from the clerical sex abuse scandal that is rocking the Catholic world. (as if we can't walk and chew gum at the same time) and 2. He's opening the door to changing the Catechism of the CC to teach any heresy his little heart desires. Isn't the 'Youth Synod' approaching?....And....isn't the 'World Meeting of Families' (which btw has many pro gay speakers invited) scheduled? This is the bomb that's going to give him the green light to change ANYTHING. Except for the fact that there are a ton of people including priests that are just not buying in. Hop on over to 'The Remnant' and listen to the latest video Michael Matt has put out. It is a bombshell sermon from a Catholic Priest from last Sunday's Mass. I even put it on twitter...every serious Catholic needs to listen to this sermon.

Oh and btw, I LOVE Bishop Gracida! Very smart, very solid Catholic of the few!!

Debbie said...

I've long suspected that Ann Barnhardt's theory that PBXVI resigned in substantial error is correct. Either way, substantial error or invalid conclave, Bergoglio has never been pope.

Aqua said...

I became convinced of the Catholic Faith over the Protestant, lifelong faith of my family for primarily one reason only: The perennial, unchanging teaching of the Church .... and the Pope as its guarantee.

Cool relevant ideas are cheap. I am easily able to follow this that or other Protestant Pastor with cool, relevant ideas. Shoot, I have plenty of those myself. But I gave up family and friends, longheld inter-generational family faith traditions, submitted myself to lifelong Church disciplines and significant sacrifice on myself, marriage and family for the sake of Truth that *transcends* me and all the fancy, charismatic fellows with cool, relevant ideas fit for the "times".

If I ever thought what the Pope was now selling was all the Catholic Church ever was and would be, I would pack it in yesterday. What a waste of time!

But I don't. Yes, my ideas are better than his ideas, by a long shot. But my cool, relevant ideas don't count for spit next to Church Dogmatic Teaching.

So I stay. He and his crazy, cool, relevant, ideas can go.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...


I respect Msgr. Pope, but he is NOT a canon lawyer. Here's his bio:

Fr. Gerard Murphy is a canon lawyer. So is Ed Peters who has written on the legitimacy of the death penalty a number of times and refuted the sentimental arguments of those who say it is always immoral. Even John Paul II didn't say that.

Both of these canon lawyers have expressed serious concern about the moves to claim the death penalty is categorically wrong in all circumstances. Those who equate it with the murder of the unborn are absolutely wrong! There is a big difference between the murder of the innocent and the execution of the guilty.

The best one can say at this point is that Pope Francis has lobbed another confusion grenade into the ranks of the faithful. One of the articles I linked to said exactly that. Was the wording a clever maneuver to avoid actually changing doctrine while giving the impression it was changed? I think most people would say that if something is said to be "inadmissible" (the new wording in the Catechism) then it is morally evil and cannot be done -- EVER. So what is the pope (if he is the legitimate pope) saying?

Satan is the champion of confusion. There is something radically wrong when a pope sows this kind of confusion.

Susan Matthiesen said...

Truth is never confusing. Pope Francis is always confusing. Therefore, Pope Francis does not speak Truth.

Sojourner said...

Mary Ann, do you believe it is possible for canon lawyers to be wrong? From what I understand of the change, Pope Francis is not saying that the death penalty is morally wrong. He is saying that for the times we live in, it is inadmissible. Inadmissible is not the same as saying it is morally wrong. The Church would never say contraception is inadmissible, but that it is morally evil. The same with abortion, Words do make a big difference.

Therefore, according to Msgr. Pope and others, the teaching has not changed. It is the application. Pope Francis is not alone in his attitude towards the death penalty. Many, such as St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Chaput and many others have spoken out forcefully against the use of the death penalty.

Sojourner said...

I have one more question, You seem to be questioning the legitimacy of Pope Francis. If you do not believe we have a valid Pope, are you a sedevacantist? From the blog, Canon Law Made Easy, it says:

“To sum up: Sarah is on the right track about sedevacantism, but it’s more accurate to say that it is a schismatic movement rather than a heretical one. As sedevacantist Catholics refuse to acknowledge the authority of the Holy Father(s), deciding for themselves that he/they are not really Pope(s), they are deliberately taking themselves out of full communion with the Church. It’s a dangerous thing to do, so let’s pray that despite the undeniable human imperfections of the current and previous Popes, Catholics will realize the need to remain within the Church, and let God sort everything out.”

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I appreciate your comments, Sojourner, and will try to answer your questions. Do I think canon lawyers can be wrong? Of course, but so can moral theologians. Pope John Paul II NEVER said that the death penalty is "inadmissible." The implication from the new wording is that the death penalty is sinful. I don't know how anyone can read what it being rewritten and come to any other conclusion:

“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,’ [1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

The implication from these words is that the Church for two thousand years has violated and attacked the "inviolability and dignity of the person." That sure sounds like a moral evil to me. I agree with you that words do make a big difference. It also smacks of moral relativism.

I also disagree that it deprives the guilty of the possibility of redemption. Facing the death penalty certainly focuses the mind. And it invites the faithful to pray and fast for the souls involved. St. Therese taught us that when she prayed for the conversion of the murderer Pranzini who reached out for the cross minutes before his execution.

It's one thing to talk about eliminating the death penalty in Western nations which have the resources to keep people in jail for years. But, as Fr. Murphy and Robert Royal bring up, there are serious questions relative to the poor nations of the third world. And, there are many cases of murderers who escape or are released and kill again. What about the inviolable dignity of their victims? It is simply untrue that modern methods "ensure the due protection of citizens."

I am certainly NOT a sedevacantist. Benedict is still alive. If Francis' election was invalid, Benedict is still pope. I believe we are in the same crisis as the Church has been before, for example at the time of St. Joan of Arc when there were several men claiming to be pope. We too have more than one man wearing the papal white. Do you never wonder why Benedict did not become once again Cardinal Ratzinger? Whoever is pope, I will follow the doctrine of the Church as taught by the Fathers and the saints and "let God sort everything out." But I can no longer trust anything Pope Francis says to be true unless his words agree with the perennial teachings of Holy Mother Church.

Sojourner said...

Thank you very much for your thorough and thoughtful response to my questions. I am afraid I don’t see how killing someone brings them closer to repentance and salvation. If death caused conversion, then it would seem we should kill everyone who commits any kind of mortal sin. Instead we give them a chance to repent. Self defense would seem to be the only justification for killing another person. We killed violent criminals in the past because we considered them a danger to society, and capital punishment was needed to protect the innocent. That is no longer true. The death penalty was never a grave evil because it involved protecting the innocent. Now that this is for the most part no longer true, it is “inadmissible”. That is how many, many good and devout Catholics believe, including popes, bishops and priests. As long as there is life, there is a chance to bring people to Jesus Christ. And since our Lord said he came for sinners and not the righteous, it seems we should have a very deep concern for violent criminals. To kill them just because they have comitted evil acts is nothing more than vengeance killing.

Saying you believe Pope Benedict XVI is still pope puts you in a kind of weird situation. Pope Benedict very clearly said at the time of his resignation that he would fully support his successor and told us to do the same. He makes absolutely no decisions regarding the governance of the Church, not even making any public statements. And what will you do when he dies? There will be no election for a new pope, and Pope Francis may still very well be pope at that time. Then there can be no question that you are a sedevacantist.

You are in a very difficult situation.

Aqua said...

God specifically commands Capital Punishment. Genesis 9:6,"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man his blood shall be shed". That is God speaking directly, and clearly on this topic. Capital Punishment is God's will.

This is also supported by the narrative of the entire Biblical story where God intervenes with Man through his chosen People to defend his holiness and justice. E.g, God commanded King Saul to kill every Amelekite man, woman, child, baby, animal; to leave nothing but smoke and ashes. King Saul actually lost his Kingdom because he was unwilling to kill them all, as God willed it. He didn't kill enough!

There is nothing in the Bible to support this change that we've evolved beyond Capital Punishment . Neither is there anything in the change that draws from the Bible or Sacred Tradition in its support. It is simply, heretically wrong. And it lays the logical groundwork for future heretical change more practically and immediately relevant to our personal lives and Catholic Faith.

If I were to ever purchase one of these new Catechisms (unlikely), I would take a big, fat black marker pen and scratch that offensive paragraph out. It is not a Catholic paragraph.

And as for this alleged Pope, I disregard everything he says. He cannot be Pope and get everything wrong as he does. I am at peace with my judgement that Benedict XVI remains Pope, as he himself claims, fully convinced. I stand with Sacred Tradition, not innovation.

Dymphna said...

I also respect Msgr. Pope. He was very kind to me and my family at a very difficult time for us. However, for as long as Cardinal Wuerl is in power the Msgr. is going to be very careful with what he says and will always be a good company man.

Dan said...

I hate to say it, but I figured it out. The Church WILL change. The evil men in charge figure they are enlightened. Or perhaps they are merely perverts who want the Church to accept the immoral as moral.

Either way it's going to change. We see the how with Francis' way of ignoring the dubia.

They will just ignore and marginalize and criticize Catholics such as us till we die and are replaced with increasingly pliant "catholics."

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...


I'm surprised by this comment:

"We killed violent criminals in the past because we considered them a danger to society, and capital punishment was needed to protect the innocent. That is no longer true."

How can you say this? Did you watch the video? My brother had a friend killed by a murderer who was set free and killed again. Raymond Arroyo brought up several cases where prisoners escaped and killed guards in the process. Capital punishment would have protected those "innocent" victims killed by criminals who had killed before. And how do you suggest protecting other inmates and guards from violent incarcerated criminals? They have nothing more to lose? Should those who kill while in prison just be given a free pass to try again?

I think it was Robert Royal who said something about "sentimental" approaches to what is a very real problem. And it is not an argument to say that many good people oppose the death penalty. Many good people disagree and can point to the Fathers of the Church to support their beliefs, not to mention the perennial doctrine of the faith.

And, yes, facing death causes many to get serious about where they are going. Oscar Wilde converted on his deathbed. John Wayne was baptized on his deathbed when he was dying of stomach cancer. Wild Bill Cody converted on his deathbed. Your statement that "it would seem we should kill everyone who commits any kind of mortal sin" is a straw man argument and a red herring. No one recommends that. And nobody I know who believes capital punishment is licit and necessary is in favor of exercising it willy-nilly. A domestic crime of passion clearly offers less threat to the community than a serial killer. But it is clear that the knowledge of impending death invites serious reflection. And so, like St. Therese, we need to pray for conversions.

In all this discussion we have not mentioned the cardinal virtue of justice, but that is another factor. The presumption is that the only motive for the death penalty is vengeance. The truth of the matter is that every wrong must be righted to restore justice. God is merciful, but he is also just. But that's a topic for another day.

Unknown said...

The purpose of punishment is justice -- not rehabilitation, not vengeance. Some crime demand the death penalty and it is unjust to not exact it in those cases where it is the just penalty. I lost a friend to an escaped murderer who was already in jail for multiple murders. He had traveled to the West Coast providing contract support for Lockheed Aircraft. While he was there the murderer escaped from jail, killing a guard in the process. He went to ground in a motel where he captured two businessmen, tied them up, and entertained himself electrocuting them. He went to a doctor's office of a doctor who was one of those who testified against him at his trial. Luckily he was not there. Then he hitchhiked and my friend picked him up (this is why I will never pick up another hitchhiker), pulled a gun on him and had him drive into a wooded area outside of L.A. --- he had him get out of the car, kneel down, and then he shot him in the head. There are a lot of murders who are this bad and deserve the death penality in all justice. If this guy had received his just punishment, at leat four other people would not have been murdered.

Fr.davenix said...

You're asking the question needs to be asked by everybody.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thank you, Father. If you are the Fr. Dave Nix who writes at Padre Peregrino, I just visited your blog and read your article on the death penalty. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It helped clarify my own thinking. May God abundantly bless your ministry! I just signed up for your posts and will look forward to reading them.

I read your article on attending the same-sex wedding. I think the same logic applies to attending weddings of Catholics who marry outside the Church. I told our children when they were teenagers that if they ever did that their dad and I couldn't attend the wedding because it's a mortal sin. All our children married in the Church thanks be to God.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Via Facebook:

#DrainTheLavenderSwamp Raze the USCCB to the ground and salt the soil upon which it stood, and never replicate it Remove Wuerhl Dolan O’Malley Mahoney Farrell DiNardo Tobin and Cupich- laicize the whole lot of them immediately and banish them and their followers to far off monasteries for the rest of their miserable pederast and sodomite loving lives, under vows of perpetual silence. NEVER let them out- they must spend the rest of their miserable lives doing penance for the betrayal that has been afflicted by them on the faithful Church Militant. If they must go to jail for decades, all the better- upon their release they then go the aforementioned monasteries. . Clean out every single chancery and defrock every single sodomite who has ever been ordained. They have destroyed what was entrusted to them. Willingly followed Satan and we, the Church Militant, are the ones to suffer from their spiritual negelct and malfeasance. Now burn it down and start over . One is only able to eliminate such filth through fire, so let it burn. Not one red cent will I donate outside of my Parish for the rest of my life- no peter’s pence no ACA, no more diocesan Ponzi schemes. Done. Don't call, email or send me a letter via the USPS decrying how poor the episcopate and its enablers are or how horrible it is that the poor have nothing, or the illegal aliens are being deprived - I am done with the DNC inspired catechism these sodomite perverts have embraced for the last fifty years. Don't want to hear how the parishes and schools are being closed due to lack of funds- that is on the episcopate of the last fifty years for failing to teach the Truth- now we have empty pews and emptier schools. We have empy seminaries and empty convents. Our patrimony and heritage have been stolen and I want it back. We have contracepted and aborted ourselves out of existence, to the glee of Satan and his minions at the USCCB. These pederast protectors destroyed my heritage and now I am taking it back. The Catholic episcopate in this country have lost my trust- I doubt that they are man enough to try and earn it back- the price is too high for them. So, I will spend my life ensuring that the faithful priests, that these filthy pervert lovers have abased and abused for decades, are supported- I will serve them with my heart, my body and my soul. I will slave, cook and clean to ensure that their temporal needs are met so that they may fight Satan. I will stand before them and defend them with my body and my soul, and I pray that other lay women will join this fight.

Deo Gratias Deus Vult!
Agnes Marie of the Holy Family Daughters of St Louis

Sojourner said...

Mary Ann - does this give you pause in your thinking at all?