Death Penalty Open Thread

The Pope has just cavalierly reversed twenty centuries of Church teaching on the death penalty.  I am appalled but not at all surprised.  Much, much more on this after I get back from vacation.


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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. “The Pope has just cavalierly reversed twenty centuries of Church teaching on the death penalty. I am appalled but not at all surprised. ..” Me also.

    Why now?
    – Is it a diversion away from Catholic reporting on the McCarrick case?
    – Is it a warm up, (a pope casually negating 21 centuries of past popes), to an attempt to reverse of Humanae Vitae?

  2. This clown is making it easier to build a heresy case against him, but the damage will last generations and will continue to splinter the Church.

  3. Yes the death penalty is just too harsh for a heinous criminal but apparently the death squads and squalor in Venezuela are something that just needs more time and dialogue with a Marxist government. This Pope does not have clue about justice. Maybe he should learn from Thomas Aquinas’ position on the death penalty.. And maybe he should resign!

  4. I see the gates of hell raging..alas, they will not conquer. Regardless of who is charging in with flaming battling ram…they will only stumble and fall. The Church will prevail.

    Hold fast.

  5. “– Is it a diversion away from Catholic reporting on the McCarrick case?“

    The timing of this does stink like an Oud House in a heatwave.

  6. This (not ex cathedra, correct?) pronunciation does not pertain to really-evil people that use plastic straws. Am I right?

  7. “For another thing, if the Pope is saying that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral, then he would be effectively saying – whether consciously or unconsciously – that previous popes, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and even divinely inspired Scripture are in error. If this is what he is saying, then he would be attempting to “make known some new doctrine,” which the First Vatican Council expressly forbids a pope from doing. He would, contrary to the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, be “proclaim[ing] his own ideas” rather than “bind[ing] himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word.” He would be joining that very small company of popes who have flirted with doctrinal error. And he would be undermining the credibility of the entire Magisterium of the Church, including his own credibility. For if the Church has been that wrong for that long about something that serious, why should we trust anything else she teaches? And if all previous popes have been so badly mistaken about something so important, why should we think Pope Francis is right?” -Ed Feser

  8. I pretty much agree with Nate. If the Holy Father is simply saying that the death penalty is always immoral then his teaching simply cannot be squared with traditional Catholic teaching. If he is saying that it is always wrong today because contemporary conditions have made it no longer necessary then he is expressing a prudential assessment that Catholic teaching assigns to the faithful generally, not to any pope.

  9. To assert that capital punishment is morally acceptable only if necessary to protect innocents is to assert a moral teaching, and it is certainly the Holy Father’s responsibility to teach moral rules. To assert that capital punishment is never morally acceptable even if necessary to protect innocents is to assert a moral rule that is logically incompatible with traditional Catholic teaching and therefore unavoidably disturbing. To assert that capital punishment is never morally acceptable because contemporary conditions render such punishment unnecessary to protect innocents is to assert a moral rule that is entirely compatible with traditional Catholic teaching, but also explicitly grounded in a prudential assessment that Catholic teaching rightly assigns to the faithful generally. My prison guard brother-in-law is in a better position to make such an assessment than any pope, and to acknowledge this in no way impeaches the office of the papacy.

  10. As a result of Bergoglio, more innocents, especially children and women, will be raped and murdered by sociopaths—who DO fear the death penalty—more hardened gangsters will execute with impunity—what do they have to fear from the State?—and more plea bargains for multiple killers, which often are predicated on the death penalty alternative and ‘fessing up where and who they killed — will be null and void.

    False pope, false church.

  11. “False pope, false church.”

    Call the Pope false..fine, agreed, but this Church is anything but false.
    St. Peter said to Jesus; “Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?”

    Buck up folks. We will weather this storm. Damage control?
    Yes. It’s coming. Be patient.

  12. I spoke with a friend who has a licentiate of sacred theology L.S.T. and he explained that the word “inadmissable” is a fudge word that carries no doctrinal weight in this context. The Holy Father is exercising his prudential judgment by way of the Catechism.

    Here’s the quote:

    “On first glance, there’s nothing significant here… the key word in the new draft is “inadmissible”… it doesn’t say illicit or intrinsically evil, which would be a change in teaching.

    Well, the Vatican fudged… they are trying to make clear that they see no PRUDENTIAL REASON to employ capital punishment.”

  13. I can forgive my murderer. I cannot forgive your murderer without becoming an accessory after the fact and an enabler in any subsequent homicide. As a priest, Pope Francis can forgive his murderer and my murderer, in the Sacrament of Penance and only if the penitent is truly repentant. A blanket absolution or general absolution, this change in the teaching of the catechism of the Catholic Church is a general absolution without repentance for murderers. Pope Francis cannot forgive the temporal punishment due to the sin of homicide in the first degree, killing in stealth. Pope Francis is going to become an accessory after the fact, giving aid and comfort to a murderer in his commission of homicide in the first degree. Pope Francis will also be an enabler of any subsequent murders, the murderer commits. The murderer must not be allowed to enjoy his crime or jeopardize any other person.
    The executioner acts through power of attorney of the condemned murderer, who as a citizen of the state brings himself to JUSTICE.
    Ignoring the dignity of the murdered victim is hardly the truth.
    The Pope is infallible when he teaches “ex cathedra” from the Chair of Peter in concert with all the bishops. The Pope cannot impose his private opinion on sovereign persons’ conscience. Does Pope Francis believe in heaven and in hell?

  14. This is disgusting. 61,000,000 American unborn babies have been murdered with the approval of a major organization which gets its electoral power to keep abortion legal from at least half of self-identified Catholics who endorse that organization with their names and actions (votes), disregarding what they say they believe and pray for when reciting the Lord’s Prayer in every Mass. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

    Is it God’s will that Catholics give the pro-abortion party the electoral power to keep abortion legal? I guess so based on the bishops’ silence in every Mass. They have never ended a Mass asking for “a prayer for the conversion of pro-abortion organizations.” Nor do they treat joining an organization like the pro-abortion, pro-same sex “marriage, pro teaching trans transgenderism to children in public school kindergartens, Democrat Party, like they do joining an organization that supports and pro-motes prejudice based on one’s race or religion like the Nazi Party or the KKK. Joining those organizations are a mortal sin against the 5th Commandment because that makes people feel bad who are victims of that prejudice. But joining an organization like the apostate Democrat Party that denies the right to life of unborn babies – well, I guess that isn’t as wrong as making their neighbors feel bad.

    Catholics gave Barack Obama 54% of their vote in 2008, and 50% in 2012. They gave Hillary Clinton 48% or their vote in 2016 to 45% to Trump. Thank God He didn’t allow the Catholics to win the last election, for if they had, that would have been the end of our constitution and our constitutional rights to freedom of religion. Hillary even said in one of the Presidential debates that faith organizations will have to conform to government laws. I guess the Bishops missed that.

    When I was growing up during the time of the “Cold War,” every Mass ended with a prayer “For the conversion of Russia.” Why haven’t the Bishops in the U.S. asked for “the conversion of all pro-abortion organizations?” Is it they feared what their sheep may do, rather than what God will do? Those sheep and their shepherds will not be happy if Jesus returns tomorrow. And it won’t be because they didn’t come out against Capital Punishment sooner.

    Question. What has the Pope and the U.S. Bishops done for the salvation of the victims of Capital Offenders? Many of such people never knew they would be dead in the next second or two, such as the murdered woman coming out of work in Chicago, going to her car, and was shot 8 times by an ex-boy friend who decided to go through with murdering her when he checked and learned Illinois ended Capital Punishment a couple weeks earlier, with the help of the Illinois Conference of Catholic Bishops. He didn’t even try to escape. It sounds nice that you want the capital offender to have an opportunity to confess and repent and have an opportunity to go to heaven when they die; but what about their victims? What has the Pope and the U.S. Bishops Conferences done about the victims who were murdered without the opportunity to make a perfect contrition; what has the Pope and Bishops done for the murdered victims? I’m not aware of anything. Were they on their own? How nice that the Church wants the murderers to have time to possibly convert and confess to have the opportunity to go to heaven.

    By the way, what evidence has Pope Francis and the U.S. Bishop have that proves that Capital Offenders will never be able to harm anyone outside of the prison walls again because of our high tech modern prisons? What about people in countries who don’t have high tech prisons?

  15. The history of the church reflects two distinctly different things: there were about 1900 years of Catholic teaching , from Popes, Catechisms, St Augustine, Aquinas, etc, etc that said the state could use the death penalty as a proportional response to murder of the innocent ; along with deterrence and reordering of society ( and really, if you read the writings, keeping the bad guy from escaping and doing it again was a minor reason at best!) Only after Pope JP 2 did the wave start. Pope Benedict said that abortion and cap pun were different in terms of lay person adherence to the teaching. I can support the death penalty … I can’t advocate for abortion rights…. as a Catholic. And I have to ask—- what makes the current Pope so correct and the ones for the first 1900 years of Church teaching so erroneous?? Francis goofed… but what else is new??

  16. Dan Carter, Apparently he (assuming he thinks so, so deeply) believes objective (including the Bible) truths are susceptible to revision and his predecessors were bad men. So much for “papal infallibility.”

    I want my $20 (Peter’s Pence Collection) back.

    Herein PF spends his “moral capital” to swat at a relative gnat (CP), while ignoring the 500-pound gorilla (abortion) tells me more about PF than Church teaching.

    Does PF even believe that evil exists?

  17. I suspect that the real issue here is not at all about capital punishment, but whether or not all Catholic Doctrine can be destroyed by the implications of merely “illuminating” it–much like “pastoral care” becomes the convenient “illumination” allowing sacrilege regarding the distribution of Holy Communion to those not of the faith, or in grave sin.
    Remember Pius VI warned us that “ambiguity” will be used to allow for error within the Church.

  18. No master criminal, mafia don, or priest predator was condemned forever anyway due to pardons granted by Jorge Almighty to counteract and nullify the judgments of God Guy McClung Texas

  19. “Therein PF spends his “moral capital” to swat at a relative gnat (CP), while ignoring the 500-pound gorilla (abortion) tells me more about PF than Church teaching.”
    Paul Ehrlich author of Population Bomb has convinced Pope Francis that abortion is a preemptive strike against overpopulation, the elimination of the legally and morally innocent sovereign persons who are the standard of God’s perfect Justice for the state on earth. The murder of innocent victims reduces the population,too. Ought not the death penalty for homicide in the first degree reduce the population too?
    Pope Francis is contradicting himself.
    The devil talks out of his mouth and his assz and the devil believes his own lies.

  20. You cannot leave a child alone with the last three Popes for instruction on the death penalty. St. JPII called it “ cruel and unnecessary” to the world media in St. Louis in 1999. All three called for abolition which means all three dissented from ccc 2267 which itself was faulty in changing deterrence to mean…deterring only the murderer you caught. That saved them from doing deterrence research which took SCOTUS 4 years of study comparisons.
    Thus three Popes avoided the science, hard work side of it…by changing deterrence to mean deterring the one murderer you caught. This Pope still has not addressed deterring future murderers as the rest of the world defines deterrence. He is still resting in deterring only the murderer you caught.
    Non death penalty post Catholic Brazil and Mexico have c. 86,000 murders per year combined…China with thrice their combined population has 11,000 murders per year. By UN figures death penalty dominant Asia is the safest large region on earth from criminal murder with hundreds of millions of poor people unlike mildly affluent Europe. Post Catholic Northern Latin America, non death penalty, is the most murderous large region on earth. US Virgin Islands is the most murderous small region. Caribbean islands in general have tiny police forces due to budget. It’s rare to see a patrolling car.
    This new inadmissable thing will prevent conversions unnecessarily and may increase conversions to those Protestant churches that vote better for the death penalty and vote better against abortion than Catholic voters. This inadmissable declaration means China is actually correct in silencing Catholicism on this one issue. Aquinas and Pius XII in Heaven will applaud such instances. St. JPII has been shown the murder victims he will cause going forward….which will decrease his seconary reward in heaven. “ Just as star differeth from star in glory, so shall it be at the resurrection.”

  21. “St. JPII called it “ cruel and unnecessary” to the world media in St. Louis in 1999.” At the very same time Pope JP II was calling for the commutation of a death row inmate, which was granted by the governor of Missouri, a prison inmate escaped, killing a man and his 5 year old son for the man’s truck. I believe this happened in Arkansas.
    Deterrence is a necessary part of the death penalty. Your insight into separating the one victim from all future victims changes our culture and the culture of life.
    Thank you Bill Bannon for the numbers.

  22. As a Catholic living in Europe, most Catholics are opposed to the death penalty and it’s about time the Pope has spoken out against it. The death penalty in the opinion of is “State Murder”

  23. James Charles -Catholic doctrine is never based on popularity polls. Most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence, but they are wrong.

  24. James Charles,
    Europe has no large post slavery population….and mild affluence as pervasive….making murder unlikely with or without the death penalty.
    The USA and Latin America do have post slavery populations…and other poor. Blacks are 13% of the USA population and do 50% of the murders.
    …largely of each other. There are lovely blacks. I knew natives of Barbados who had no moral resemblance to usa ghetto blacks of the criminal type within the ghetto…one of whom I fought on the street four years ago. And usa blacks in the ghetto can be wonderful but statwise some others can also be lethal for trivial robberies. Your plumber in the usa might rob you of far more money than a ghetto fool will kill you for.
    Europe is a special protected case even though they caused slavery via Spain and Portugal initially…though that protection is changing with migration in some parts. Knifings in Lndon might be the beginning of that change.

  25. If you’re a Catholic governor who thinks the state has the right to end human life, you need to be comfortable saying you’re disregarding orthodox church teaching,” ….“There isn’t any loophole for you to wiggle through now.”

    So, no more abortion?

  26. making murder unlikely with or without the death penalty.

    For now. Wait until the new imports get going.

    As to “inadmissible,” that is a curious choice. “Inadmissible” in the legal world does not mean untrue or wrong, simply that, because of some procedural rule that which is inadmissible may not be considered (e.g., hearsay or an unauthenticated document). The truth of the inadmissible evidence is not at issue (at least not directly). I guess, in the most charitable gloss, he is saying CP is not acceptable based upon current conditions. But as others point out, that is a prudential application, one that he is not particularly well equipped to make from the confines of Vatican City.

  27. He and his predecessors have placed diverse prudential judgements in the ccc as doctrine…without doing any worldwide review of prisons from Brazil to Phillipines to Honduras to Guatemala to everywhere. They simply asserted that prisons can protect society perfectly now and it is a careless lie. That isn’t the saddest part. The saddest part is that no one with a Catholic salary dare say it. We are a tight conformism based on keeping lower paying jobs in the Church. There should be a hundred Bishops or Cardinal’s speaking up for the need for execution in Brazil and Mexico. A thousand should be saying…” wait….prisons don’t protect from phone calls ordering hits on the street from prison”. Nothing. Silence. Why would young people stay with a religion wherein they see no healthy manly protest of papal bad thinking? Every Jason Statham and “Jason Bourne” movie tells them that a man stands up against the world.
    We have no paid by Church high positioned person who will stand up
    to bad papal thinking or usurpation of laity right to prudential judgement about prisons as sufficient or far from sufficient.

  28. Bill Bannon,

    Where have you been?

    Here’s the difference between Europe, Argentina, etc. and America. Most Americans are free (let that sink in) and are descended from brave people that removed themselves (or were transported for revolutionary activities, e.g., Ireland and Scotland) from European serfdom. The people of rump Europe are descended from serfs who did not have the gumption to emigrate from their dependency and destitution. Plus, too many “good” ones were killed off in two, 20th century world wars.

    I recommend a recent book on Lexington and Concord by George C. Daughan. One of his themes is that Americans were united in violent opposition to being economically and politically crushed (Intolerable Acts, etc. meant to ban self-government and pay huge fines and restitution for the Tea Party) and treated the same as peasants (letters from Ben Franklin et al) observed in England and Ireland. As in 1775, Europeans are controlled by a small, self-interested oligarchy of elites and technocrats. In 2018, the power emanates out of Berlin and Brussels. FYI today’s elites (including PF) are as ineffectual and wrongheaded as were George III and Lord North, plus they hate free men.

  29. Europeans are controlled by a small, self-interested oligarchy of elites and technocrats.

    Wait, and we’re not? Then what’s all the hubabaloo about Zuckerberg, Jobs, Bezos, the Koch’s, etc.? We can’t even control our own borders despite overwhelming ordinary American support for it. Our elites and technocrats are against, ergo, no wall.

    Sad thing is Bergoglio has appointed the majority of cardinal electors, and even of the one’s he did not appoint, a majority voted for him. I appreciate Bishop Gracida’s call for the cardinals to set this straight, but who of this bunch is going to call such a conclave? The best of them can’t even get a dubia answered. Not looking good for the home team.

  30. Capital Offenders will never be able to harm anyone outside of the prison walls

    Not to mention those inside prison walls, or does their inherent dignity not count?

  31. If this is in fact the new “teaching” –

    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”,

    then there is no way getting around heresy by claiming it is a prudential application. Bergoglio is saying that the past teaching did not respect the dignity of the person – in other words, it was wrong, not in application, but in its reasoning for allowing CP at all.

  32. A person who murders another person forfeits their right to life. That being said, only 3% of capital offenders are given the death penalty in the U.S.

    Now Pope Francis and U.S. Bishops, and you who want to end capital punishment, where’s your evidence that the public can be kept from any further harm by such criminals who are in prisons?

  33. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see anyone post links to the actual change on CCC 2267 and the statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Letter to the Bishops regarding the new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 02.08.2018

    New revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty – Rescriptum “ex Audentia SS.mi”, 02.08.2018

    Personally I don’t see how any statement on Capital Punishment can fail to address Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:1-7.

    Quicumque effuderit humanum sanguinem,
    per hominem fundetur sanguis illius;
    ad imaginem quippe Dei
    factus est homo.

    And who sheds the blood of men
    through man shall his blood be poured;
    to the image obviously of God
    is made man.

    Omnis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit. Non est enim potestas nisi a Deo; quae autem sunt, a Deo ordinatae sunt.
    Itaque, qui resistit potestati, Dei ordinationi resistit; qui autem resistunt ipsi, sibi damnationem acquirent.
    Nam principes non sunt timori bono operi sed malo. Vis autem non timere potestatem? Bonum fac, et habebis laudem ex illa;
    Dei enim ministra est tibi in bonum. Si autem malum feceris, time; non enim sine causa gladium portat; Dei enim ministra est, vindex in iram ei, qui malum agit.
    Ideo necesse est subditos esse, non solum propter iram sed et propter conscientiam.
    Ideo enim et tributa praestatis; ministri enim Dei sunt in hoc ipsum instantes.
    Reddite omnibus debita: cui tributum tributum, cui vectigal vectigal, cui timorem timorem, cui honorem honorem.

    Let every soul be subordinate to the higher powers. For power is not except from God; which however are, from God they are ordained.
    And thus, who resists power, resists the ordinance of God; who however resist Him, to themselves the y acquire damnation.
    For princes are not for fear to good work but evil. However do you not wish to fear power? Do good, and you will have praise out of that;
    For he is the minister of God to you in good. If however you will do evil, fear, for not without cause he carries the sword;
    For he is the minister of God, the defender in wrath for him, who conducts evil.
    Therefore it is necessary to be subordinate, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.
    For therefore also you supply tribute; for they are the ministers of God pursuing into this itself.
    Return debts to all: to whom tribute tribute, to whom tax tax, to whom fear fear, to whom honor horror.

  34. Come in Pope Francis. This can’t be good for the prison system and the tax payer who has to foot the bill housing and pampering these monsters. If a person is depraved, there is no other alternative but the death penalty. They should all send the Vatican the bill. This is just so badly thought out and appeals to the bleeding heart simpleton.

    Just a thought….In a slightly weird bit of reasoning, if the death penalty never existed then Our Lord could not have been put to death and fulfilled The Fathers wishes to save mankind.

  35. “Just a thought….In a slightly weird bit of reasoning, if the death penalty never existed then Our Lord could not have been put to death and fulfilled The Fathers wishes to save mankind.”
    My thoughts exactly

  36. “Pope Francis needs to forego the Swiss Guard for deterrence if the Pope removes our deterrence in the death penalty.”

    You’re right there Mary. He needs to lead by example. I’m starting to believe that Clergy in general have a very comfortable life and therefore have no grasp of reality. They live in the theory of what they teach. And this Pope is no exception. There are good things about him but grasping the reality, the practical and the struggles of the everyday person is not something PF or any clergyman truly understands.

  37. By the way, while not relevant to the topic of this post, look how quickly everyone has forgotten about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s decades-long history of sodomite perversion. It’s just dropped as though it never happened. Jorge Bergoglio isn’t stupid or dull-witted. In fact, he’s very, very clever because now instead of pressuring the Church to do something about sodomy and pedophilia in the Episcopate – something liberals and conservatives can surely agree on – we’re now fighting each other again, this time over the death penalty. He’s as clever as a snake.

  38. LQC- I don’t think Pope Francis can do anything about the sodomites and the perversion within the Vatican.

    Excuse me whilst I diverge off topic- If I compare it to the drought we are experiencing on the East Coast of Australia at the moment- it is now beyond disastrous levels for farmers. And it is only in the last two weeks that it has become a national headline and there are all sorts of campaigns to raise money for drought relief for farmers, banks are exempting the farmers from their financial obligations, government is scrummaging- but these families may lose farms which have been in the family for 6 generations and experienced drought in their history.

    Basically, like the above mentioned drought problem, anything which is done now to fix the perverse situation within the Vatican is too little, too late. Any action is just a token, just like the useless drought relief campaigns. It went unnoticed and left unattended for too long and now the culprits are running the Vatican. This I’m sure.

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