5 August 2018

More on Deathgate

The Latin text has now been published; and there is indeed no suggestion that the death penalty is intrinsece malum. That would have been overt heresy.

On the contrary: the accompanying letter to bishops makes clear that the death penalty is not intrinsece malum. "The new formulation ... desire to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favour a mentality  ... in respectful dialogue with civil authorities ...  encourage the creation of conditions ..."

Suppose this were a matter of abortion or trafficking women for sex or paedophilia or genocide. The Magisterium would demand that the practice at once stop, not rabbit on about Favouring Mentalities and Encouraging Conditions. This is not how the Catholic Church talks about grave moral offences.

In the prudential sphere, I think, as I explained yesterday, that aspects of this move are profoundly unfortunate. Not least, the impression given through manipulation of the media that doctrine has been changed. This morning, the BBC account explicitly situated the item in these terms. As in the case of Amoris laetitia, heresy is being promulgated but carefully packaged so that it is not formally expressed. It is this mind-set and methodology which led some of us, last year, to issue the Filial Correction. I fear that PF remains every bit as badly in need of being filially corrected!

And I am as uneasy as I was yesterday about the confection of a new, undefined moral category of "inadmissible". The fact that the French version expresses things quite differently ("inhumaine") suggests that the authors were simply groping helplessly around for terms which sound incredibly stern but have no discernible meaning. People such as head masters, poor poppets, do that sort of thing when they are losing their grip, as they so often are. But have a heart. Don't be too sententious. It can't be all fun working for someone like PF, can it?

If you're feeling anxious, remember that, if doctrine' could be "developed" so easily and so soon as the result of changes in anthropological fads, it could be as easily "developed" again, or even "developed" back again.

If that were to happen ... in a few decades, under Pope Francis IV, we might once again (of course, with papal encouragement) be back to hanging difficult members of our underclass on multiple gallows for stealing thruppence. Or perhaps we shall be employing the picturesque Argentine practice of hurling them into the sea out of aeroplanes. Must move with the times.

Come on, chaps, don't get too het-up. Life's too short.

Just think: the Holy Father's initiative will mean that it will now be dear Cardinal Parolin's happy duty to explain to Mr Netanyahu that he and his political associates have got to drop their naughty campaign to reintroduce the infliction of the death pealty in Israel for terrorist-related murders. Just wait for the accusations of 'Anti-semitism' to start flying around the Eminent head. And next on his list there will be the Chinamen ... It couldn't all happen to a nicer chap.

Instead of panicking, toddle off and have a drink and a laugh. You know you deserve it. And there would be no harm in saying a decade or two ...


Mark said...

Father, perhaps I am dense. But after reading Fr. Zed's literal translation (I confess I have forgotten too much Latin.), it seems a new contradictory teaching has indeed been formally expressed.

If you spell out why you think this is not so, I would appreciate it.

A Daughter of Mary said...

This morning, in Canada, our national broadcaster (the CBC) stated that Catholic Bishops who do not agree with Pope Francis' "new teaching" will be in mortal sin. And of course our toadies will march right up to the edge of the cliff and jump over.

Sorry, Father, this is not funny. I'm going to have a drink tonight with dinner but I won't be laughing.

Our Pastor (FFSP) read out the ritual prepared by Pope Benedict XIV back in the mid 1800s which describes what is to be done to bad bishops. One of the exercises is to give the 'degradus' his mitre, then take it back, and SCRAPE HIS HEAD LIGHTLY WITH A KNIFE OR SHARD OF BROKEN GLASS to scrape off the graces he received on his installation as a bishop.

That's what should happen to any bishops who go along with this farce. And as Pope Francis reminds us often, he is "just" the Bishop of Rome.

Dad29 said...


I'll go with "constructive heresy". That new formulation ... desire to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favour a mentality ... in respectful dialogue with authorities ... encourage the creation of conditions ... by which we can discern, through accompaniment, what is not-quite discernable unless accompanied.

See? Works every time!!

Adam Michael said...


I don't understand why people are focusing on the meaning of "inadmissible" when the more important part of the catechism revision is the statement that the death penalty attacks the inviolability and dignity of the person. Are such attacks on human dignity ever not evil or sinful? If they are always wrong, how is the catechism not saying that the death penalty is, itself, evil since it causes the sinful attack on the inviolability and dignity of persons? This is why it is now forbidden for the secular authorities to have recourse to capital punishment - because it sinfully effects an attack on the dignity of the person. And since the catechism says "the Church teaches" this, this is no mere disciplinary stance, but now is considered the Faith of the Church.

Am I understanding this wrongly?

Adam Michael said...

I would add that I fear some in the Church are emphasizing their editorial discretion to the extent that they deny Pope Francis the power to teach. By requiring use of the term "intrinsic evil" (a term that I do not think Pope Francis has used for abortion or same-sex marriage, even they he clearly teaches against them) in order to say something is a sin, one holds Pope Francis to a standard higher than the Church Fathers who also did not use this term for sinful actions. It suffices to teach that something is an attack on human dignity in order to say that it is sinful (unless there are non-sinful attacks on the inviolability and dignity of people of which I am unaware).

Fr John Hunwicke said...

My second and third paragraphs explain why I am certain that this profoundly silly and unorthodox move does not cross the boundary into overt heresy. If readers do not understand my explanation, I doubt if they will understand me if I say it again.

The importance of the phrase intrinsece malum does not originate in Veritatis Splendor, but a great deal of the force of the phrase in current debates derives from its deployment in that document.

Adam 12 said...

Ignored is the deterrent effect of the death penalty and its ability to rescue potential future crime victims from monsters such as Ted Bundy, who escaped justice to kill and kill again. Ignored too is the suffering of victims of violent crime.

Sprouting Thomas said...

"...desire to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favour a mentality..."

Oh me, oh my! It sounds as if they've been praying to Saint Humphrey Appleby again. It's a pity that such comic genius is being kept locked away in the Vatican. Imagine if the early Christians had used this sort of stuff at their trials. They would have been acquitted on compassionate grounds.

"Inadmissible" clearly means that, if you have done it, you are not allowed to admit to it. I'm sure that as far as our friends in peaked caps are concerned, this was the plan anyway.

Aqua said...

We need to simplify considerably. Time to stop scratching our chins and see what is clearly happening in the bonfire of our Church.

Pope Francis changed Church Teaching on Capital Punishment.

Everyone knows this, except those unwilling to admit the obvious.

If I were to see the paragraph in question, I would take a big fat black marker pen and scratch the offending stinker out. It doesn't belong there.

Adam Michael said...

I still do not see how this is not a new teaching. Unless some attacks on the inviolability and dignity of the person are not evil/sinful, capital punishment is now taught ("the Church teaches") to be an inadmissible evil. Additionally, the CDF letter states, "The death penalty, regardless of the means of execution, 'entails cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment'" - this statement alone moves the discussion of the condemnation of capital punishment from the realm of discipline/application to that of a principled rejection since it precludes any moral and acceptable form of capital punishment in the present or future. Simply because the CDF is soft-pedaling the need to abolish capital punishment means little since nobody expects this pontificate to be harsh with any ethical violation.

lynn said...

It's the inviolable dignity of the human person wherein lies the overt heresy.

lynn said...

If the intrinsic dignity of the human person was inviolate then God's death sentence of Adam would make him a murderer.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

Lynn Phifer. Bingo (as we say here in the Colonies). The very recent putting this highly nuanced notion at the center of Catholic morals is like the Progressive Left's putting of tolerance and diversity at the center of secular political morality. They are not unconnected moves and they have the same set of disastrous results.

Dad29 said...

Since when does "societal progress" reverse the liceity of a deed?

So....in Vaticanspeak, what was morally licit yesterday is no longer licit today because 'progress.' Dear Father, your defense of this change remains un-convincing.

(As a matter of interest, I am perfectly happy with the teaching of JPII on the topic.)

Arthur H. said...

Dear Father,

Then, what are we to make of Pope St. Peter's "trial" of Ananias and Sapphira? While their capital punishment was effected by the agency of God, and not by human hand, it would seem, to my simple mind, to run afoul of Pope Francis's proscription against the violation of "human dignity". So, is God a badguy? Or should HE just go back to school?

Arthur H.

Colin Spinks said...

I wonder to what extent Article XXXVII of the Church of England is still taken seriously? From a personal point of view, as an Anglican who has for a long time been considering converting to Roman Catholicism, would I be required to change my viewpoint from one consistent with Article XXXVII (i.e. that "the Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences", whilst personally having considerable reservations as to the state actually using this prerogative) to one which contradicts Article XXXVII.

Aqua said...

"Don't get too het-up; life's too short".

Ps 69:9; John 2:17

Life is forever. Judgement is written in stone. "Zeal for His House consumes me. Insults to Christ fall on me".

Zeal for Christ, personal holiness and the holiness of His Bride protected from sacrilege is all that matters to me in life.

We live in an age of widespread apostasy, much of it in our midst. We need simple, clear, concise, insistent instruction in the ways of God and the path to righteousness. Keep it simple for a lost and sinful world. Return (repent) to the simple, holy ways of God. Explain it that way. Parsing Latin will not help us or them. Clear. Simple. Consistent. Insistent. Holiness of God. Holiness in God. And by all means, stand firmly against heresy or even the hint of it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father Hunwicke for the translation. That was very helpful.

Of course this most recent attempt to "change Church teaching" will be wildly successful among those who store their scissors and paste close by their Catechisms.

And it is of course nonsense.

As an aside and distinct from the issue involving "dignity", never before today has forensic science been more accurate in determining guilt and avoiding incorrect judgment. Past application of the Death Penalty occurred during times when rudimentary forensic science made mistakes a FAR greater likelihood than they are today. This position of Pope Francis is thus a ludicrous argument.

Not to mention St Paul justified the use of the sword by a PAGAN state which he was quite aware used it against Christians at times merely for being Christians. {Romans 13}

And Bergoglio's argument is not a contingency one, either. The death penalty is, as he says, "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.”[11] As the previous commenter stated, THAT is the operative phrase, not the word "inadmissible" {whatever that means}.

"Dignity" has nothing to do with pragmatic issues involving advances in law enforcement investigatory science as was Pope St John Paul's {admittedly somewhat weak} attempt at a prudent restriction. Pope Francis' position has to do with an objective truth that existed {"dignity of the person"} even, we assume, when Giovanni Bugatti, the Vatican executioner, was justifiably crushing heinous criminals' heads in with a mallet.

I also found the release date to be cringe-worthy, coinciding as it did with the confession of a Catholic priest for his forcible sodomizing of a 10-year-old boy {and the impending release of 300 names of accuse sex abusing priests in Pennsylvania, USA}. If ever an individual deserved an appointment with "Mastro Titta", that individual did/does. I almost wonder if this thus-truly disgusting announcement was meant as some sort of foul gesture to the law enforcement authorities {and the world} that the leadership of the Church cares not iota for the victims of her perverted leaders.

As a convert to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church I am finding less and less of several of those Four Marks exhibited. As a Protestant, I held a quite negative view of the death penalty and then as a result of reading the consistent teaching {that would be the actual consistent teaching, not the Pope's euphemistic consistent teaching...} I have come to understand the death penalty in very different terms. That is to say I now support it. And I still do.

Since, you know..."Popes can't change Church teaching"...

John Vasc said...

So what the Church taught, is now directly contradicted.

Fr Z has an interesting take on this: he asks if this new clause, which as he points out will be quite uncontroversial in many western societies, might be the prelude to some much more radical papal alteration in the Catechism.

John Vasc said...

@ A.M. - Nobody is 'denying the Pope the power to teach'. But teaching entails rather more than a blank sweeping away of existing doctrine without supporting argumentation. (Yet once again we see this papacy mounting a quick salvo of drive-by para-doctrine.)

The whole concept of 'inviolability' is empty of significant meaning. For if capital punishment is said to be 'an attack on the inviolability of the human being', the same may also be claimed of any form of physical retribution, or imprisonment or police restraint, or selling one's own house and giving a tenant or lodger notice to quit, or withholding food or shelter from any stranger who demands it as a right without payment, or any form of physical self-defence. The human being cannot claim 'inviolability' as a blanket get-out-of-jail clause. Societies and states have a perfect right to discuss and decide which criminal code to follow. That is where one must give to Caesar what is Caesar's.

Our Lord addressed this matter very clearly: 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' (Matt 10:28)

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear John Vasc

I certainly agree with "Fr Zed's take", which is why I made precisely the same point towards the end of my first post on Deathgate.

Marko Ivančičević said...

I don't think this concerns losing or retaining human dignity.
Some might argue that a criminal might retain human dignity, but he loses his right to freedom. Some others might argue that precisely because he loses human dignity he loses the right to freedom.

So there can be a long argument about:
1. Criminals lose or retain human dignity
2. Rights are lost in spite of retained human dignity or because of lost human dignity
And i don't think we would get very far.

What is at the core of this issue is that the new text says that the Church now teaches that the capital punishment is inadmissible (official translation http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/08/02/0556/01209.html ), whatever the reason be.
Now, there are no inadmissible acts which are intrinsece bonum, nor are there any admissible acts which are intrinsece malum.
Therefore, to say that a certain act is inadmissible (without qualifications), is to say that it is intrinsece malum.

Thechnical language sometimes isn't required to express one and the same message.

Anonymous said...

"John Vasc said...

Fr Z has an interesting take on this: he asks if this new clause, which as he points out will be quite uncontroversial in many western societies, might be the prelude to some much more radical papal alteration in the Catechism."

Hardly a prophetic prediction.

The dissidents know the deal and they are just about to throw a garden party;


And not a peep yet from the prelates who are supposed to be defending the faith. You know, like the fellow who promised to "correct" the Pope!

God Save the Catholic Church {from her leaders...}

Fr. David Evans said...

Surely the point of these recent alterations must be considered from the conclusions to see if they help clarify the situation.
No evidence is given to justify ‘in the light of the Gospel’ (yet). But Capital punishment is ruled inadmissible. In any Court of Law if something is rules ‘inadmissible’ barristers and solicitors seek to find ways to make it admissible. Thus, the alteration to CCC gives provision for such admissibility; viz. if effective systems of detention have NOT been developed and those systems do NOT ensure the due protection of citizens. It would appear that Capital Punishment could be considered.
Likewise, if the ‘effective system of detention does NOT serve the ‘dignity of the person’ again Capital Punishment could be considered: For example, what if the person after due repentance recognized the horror of the actions and sought execution?
Or what if the balance was that incarceration without possible release was considered a ‘violation of human dignity’ against the swift dispatch. (It is to be noted that Pius XII wished for swift dispatch at Nuremberg.) It would appear that little has in fact changed since the alteration of St. John-Paul II.

coradcorloquitur said...

Clever as always, this Francis: begin the heretical change of the Deposit of Faith with a footnote about divorce and the reception of the Eucharist (meant to go unnoticed except by those firmly establishing the practice world-wide under the guise of pastoral guidance and sensitivity); next tackle the question of the death penalty, which sentimentalized Catholics in many parts of the world don't care about (so it's a "safe" change) as they have been conditioned by liberal indoctrination; then proceed to the non-doctrinal but transformational issues of celibacy and ordination of deaconesses; and, above all, continue to stack the college of cardinals so that "Francis II" can be elected in a few years and Francis's mandate that the changes be irreversible be fulfilled. In the meantime, many twist language and logic to pretend nothing is really happening. What a monumental and existential tragedy has been visited upon the Church of Christ; now for me the only pertinent question is why would a good, provident God allow it. Purging of the Church of her heretical microbes? I see mainly the intensification of the infection and the abandonment of the Faithful Remnant to their own devices, even as the few remaining orthodox prelates go to conferences, say very guarded things in order to avoid the dreaded "schism," and wring their hands as the faith of millions is polluted and their souls imperiled---thus, a Church without true pastors. Can this possible be the Mind and Will of the Redeemer, the Good Shepherd; does this situation contribute in any way to the supposed sole mission of the Church, which is the salvation of souls? These are indeed mysteries of iniquity---but, alas, to realize so is no consolation. We need another St. Athanasius or St. Hillary, but we search in vain for them.

Lurker #59 said...

@ Marko and others using the same thought, "the Church now teaches..."

This point should not be conceded. The Church, in fact, does not now teach but rather Pope Francis teaches or attempts to teach depending on how charity demands that we interpret this passage (either that, being the idea that the death penalty is not something that is open to the State is a heretical position, that Pope Francis intentionally isn't intending to teach such a position (thus such readings are misreadings) or that Pope Francis did so intend but was prevented by the Holy Sprite from doing so in any authoritative and binding sort of way.)

Likewise, it must be remembered that the Catechism is not an inerrant document -- it is not only that which "the Church teaches", but does contain a mixture of what the Church teaches, what the current Magisterium instructs, prudential opinions, and just opinions. It isn't scripture.

As Card Ratzinger pointed out in the work "Introduction to the CCC", just because something is in the CCC (or missing from the CCC for that matter) doesn't make it "what the Church teaches" (or doesn't teach) for the authority and truth of each statement rests only on the authority and truth of that statement, not on it's inclusion in the CCC (or exclusion) The CCC doesn't elevate or lower the authority of each statement. It is not a superdogma but rather a subordinate work.

Further, we can see that this is only Pope Francis' teaching, not the Church's, for Pope Francis only quotes himself and quotes a rather unauthorative address of his that he gave.

So we need not concede the point that "the Church now teaches."

Albinus said...

As others have pointed out as well, one doesn't have to use the phrase "intrinsece malum" to express the concept signified by "intrinsece malum". In my opinion, it is clear from the revised text and especially the Oct 11th 2017 address of Pope Francis which is referenced in the footnote of the revised text that Pope Francis does indeed hold that capital punishment is intrinsece malum. He plainly states in the Oct 11th address that it is "per se contrary to the Gospel". That is simply astounding to hear from the Vicar of Christ.

That the explanatory letter emphasizes that there is no contradiction is simply not the same as there actually being no contradiction. The contradiction is there, since the death penalty is ruled inadmissible on the grounds that it is incompatible with human dignity. Human dignity transcends particular contingent circumstances. Capital punishment necessarily / intrinsically involves the execution of a human person. Ergo, it is teaching that it is intrinsice malum, which is contrary to previous Church teaching.

Francis is claiming that he isn't contradicting previous Church teaching because he sees the previous Church approval of the death penalty simply as the Church's attempt to express the fundamental teaching that human life is to be defended. (See Oct. 11th address. That seems to be what he is saying.) In other words, in times past, when the Church didn't understand human dignity like it does now, the Church thought the death penalty was a proper way of defending the lives of innocent civilians. But now we know that the death penalty is per se wrong. It abases human dignity. It is thus never an appropriate means to an end. But the fundamental Church teaching that we must defend life is the same now as it was then. This fundamental teaching is the basis of continuity underlying the Church's previous mistaken approval of the death penalty and now its absolute condemnation.

This is the clear teaching of Pope Francis I think. I do not see any other way of reading the revised text together with the referenced Oct 11th speech. The revised text of the Catechism is a veritable earthquake in doctrine. It is difficult to overestimate the seriousness of this I think.

Martin McDermott, sj said...

Pope Francis has no business or authority to forbid the death penalty. Instead I would be delighted to see it applied to the priests, bishops, and cardinals who have abused children, seminarians, etc.---according to Mt 18:1. I say this out of respect for the real dignity of innocent victims.
Martin McDermott, S.J.

Andrew said...

As the days have passed, this change bothers me more and more. I initially blew it off as I do with everything else pope Francis does these days. But it does seem to falsify Catholic belief about magisterial teaching. The principle of non-contradiction of eternal truths is a bedrock belief for the catholic intellectual system to hold together. The letter to the bishops arguing this is a development of past teaching is utterly unconvincing, and something of a self-parody. The act undermines the whole belief structure of the Catholic Church. If PF can contradict the Bible and the rest of the Catholic tradition, then nothing is sacred, or can be relied on in the church.