PopeWatch: Death Penalty

“Consistency with Scripture and longstanding Catholic tradition is important for the grounding of many current teachings of the Catholic Church; for example, those regarding abortion, contraception, the permanence of marriage and the ineligibility of women for priestly ordination. If the tradition on capital punishment had been reversed, serious questions would be raised regarding other doctrines.”

Avery Cardinal Dulles, 2004


Showing the contempt for prior Church teaching that has been the hallmark of this kidney stone of a pontificate, Pope Francis has stated that the death penalty is contrary to the Gospel:


Pope Francis has issued his strongest statement yet against the death penalty, calling it “contrary to the Gospel.” He said he would like the Catechism of the Catholic Church to change according to a “new understanding of Christian truth,” saying that only a “partial vision can think of ‘the deposit of faith’ as something static.”

The Pope made his comments in an October 11 speech to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II. 

“The death penalty is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity,” said Pope Francis.

“It is, of itself, contrary to the Gospel, because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred,” he added. “In the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor.”

The Catholic Church, following the Bible and the fathers and doctors of the Church, including St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as Pope Pius XII, has always viewed capital punishment as a legitimate form of protection of the public from immediate danger and as a legitimate punishment for serious crimes. 

Pope Francis has gone beyond the position held by Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who, while opposing capital punishment, never held that it was, in itself, intrinsically evil. 

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his classic defense of capital punishment in the Summa Theologica, argued that “if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good.” 

Pope Pius XII defended in 1955 the authority of the State to punish crimes, even with the death penalty. He argued that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture because “the coercive power of legitimate human authority” is based on “the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine.” 

Both the Old and New Testaments indicate that the death penalty can be legitimate. For instance, Genesis 9:6 states: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” Or again, St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans teaches that the state “does not bear the sword in vain [but] is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty is morally permissible. 


Go here to read the rest.  According to this Pope, the vast majority of Popes, Church Councils, and Saints were acting contrary to the Gospel by supporting Church teaching that the death penalty was a morally licit punishment.  This is a flat reversal of prior Church teaching.  The damage that this Pope is doing to how Catholics have always perceived their Church and the role of the Pope in the Church, cannot be overstated.

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  1. I’ve come up with a great cover for PF’s “new & improved” catechism, perfect timing since it’s the 25th anniversary of the CCC that St. Pope JPII helped to assemble. In this revised edition, a beautiful depiction of (soon to be) St. Martin Luther could be the main focal point.

    A great symbol of todays new Catholic Church, via Emperor Francis… oops, Pope Francis.

    Our Lady of Fatima, Queen of Heaven and Earth and destroyer of all heresies…pray for us!

  2. It’s a dodge they deploy to execrate and bully those that disagree with their secular liberalism.

    In the US each year, 1,000,000 million unborn persons are murdered; and (what?) 33 murderers are executed, after decades of appeals and stays. If you can conflate the two, I cannot take you seriously.

    Coincidentally, it’s Friday the Thirteenth and the one-hundredth anniversary of the Fatima Sun Miracle.

    Opposing the death penalty is liberal propaganda and does not mean one is “pro-life.”

    Until the recent revisions, opposition to the death penalty was prudential judgment.

  3. T Shaw said; “In the US each year, 1,000,000 million unborn persons are murdered; and (what?) 33 murderers are executed, after decades of appeals and stays. If you can conflate the two, I cannot take you seriously.”


    This blindness the Left suffer is an ailment in soul. They can’t fathom the difference. It’s as if the unborn are non-entities. This blindness is effecting the Earths axis… please let me explain. The global crisis that is commonly known as climate change is directly associated with the millions of innocent slaughtered.
    Hyperbole? Sure..call it what you will, but the children of the Earth have crossed a line, and the example to come will be the destruction of a Nation that has received too many blessings to count from Almighty God.

    Prepare people!

    This year our goal of 20,000 cities praying in the Fatima Rosary Rallies has been met and currently exceeds the goal by 1,570. 21,570 cities joining in across the globe.. praying for America. Making public reparations for public sins, National Sins.

    God help us stay the arm of Justice.

    Join us. Please. Tomorrow from noon to one pm.

    Thank you.

  4. You know what T.Shaw? I would be happy to make a compromise: no death penalty for no abortion. And for every exception to the latter they want, then there should be exceptions to the former. (i.e. health of mother? ok fair, so execution of consistent and persistent threats should be allowed)

    I’m curious how the vote would come out if that attempt was made.

  5. Very sad. A materialistic world view that views death as the ultimate evil. And if the Deposit of the Faith is not static, why is the papacy even necessary, given that its main purpose is expressed by St. Paul, when he said, “tradidi quod et accipi,” I have handed down what I received. That’s it in a nutshell, the Pope’s main function is simply to take what he receives, guard it, and hand it off to the next guy. If Pope Frank fumbles it, someone else has to pick it up, and quick.

  6. Maureen Mullarkey had a crisp description of this man’s general disposition. I wish I could locate it.

    What gets you about the Pope (and most clergymen, really) is how utterly conventional his thinking actually is. He has about the same views (attitudes) as any other bourgeois employed outside the commercial sector. (And, increasingly, in the commercial sector as well). He just uses a different idiom in giving voice to those attitudes. It’s as if years in school and formation affected only his diction. I got used to this type over many decades back home. I wouldn’t expect this in the Pope.

    One aspect of this bourgeois attitude is their liking of rough trade. You can see this here. It’s status-lowering among college teachers to take an interest in the welfare of unborn children, but not to take an interest in convicts each of whom had a personal trial at which they were convicted of heinous crimes. It’s status-enhancing to write articles to diminish the reputation of benign countries (the United States and Israel especially) and status-diminishing to slice up retrograde and abusive countries (e.g. Cuba). I bet the Pope hasn’t had an original thought in 30 years.

  7. I’m curious how the vote would come out if that attempt was made.

    Abortion’s an issue they care about; it’s defending their way of life and attitude toward the world. There will be no concessions.

  8. As a priest, the Pope is ordained to absolve sin. As a secular person, the Pope is called to forgive sin that is trespass, even as all laity are instructed to forgive sin, that is trespass. As evidence of contrition and rehabilitation, the murderer must expire with grief over his commission of homicide in the first degree.
    The pope, the priests and bishops absolve sin. The murderer must seek the Sacrament f Penance for the absolution of sin. Secular priests, bishops, the pope and the laity can forgive sins. The sins forgiven by the laity are not absolved and remain on the murderer’s soul unless the murderer reaches out to the Church for absolution.
    The murderer has denied his victim time to make his peace with God, has scandalized his victim’s immortal soul through homicide and has denied his victim the unalienable civil right to Life.
    The victim forgives his murderer. The murderer is not absolved. I can forgive the murderer for violating his victim’s civil rights, even denying his victim time to make his peace with God. I cannot absolve the murderer of his sin.
    I can forgive my murderer. I cannot forgive the victim’s murderer without becoming an accessory after the fact and placing my hand against an innocent man. I am the state as opposed to being the church and in the church I still cannot absolve the murderer of his sin. The murderer must be brought to Justice. As a citizen of the state, I forgive the murderer. I must bring the murderer to Justice to ratify the civil rights of the murder victim, to protest my innocence in the homicide, and for the criminal’s sake to induce contrition.
    I must bring the murderer to Justice, the murderer’s Justice, abandoned, forfeit and discarded through his crime of murder in the first degree. As a citizen of the state, the murderer is owed Justice.
    The death penalty, capital punishment for murder in the first degree is imposed through power of attorney of the condemned murderer. The condemned murderer meets Justice in himself. The murderer must not be allowed to meditate on the victim’s murder with evil glee, reliving his domination over the life of an innocent person. This evil of enjoying his crime must not be allowed to confound the murderer’s soul and compound the crime of murder against another person.
    All persons suffered jeopardy of life when the murderer willed to commit murder. All persons suffer double jeopardy of life while a capital one murderer lives. The warden, the guards, the doctors, the nurses and contractors inside the prison as well as other prisoners not guilty of the death penalty all suffer double jeopardy of life as long as a capital one murderer lives.
    To exonerate a capital one murderer of the crime and death penalty denies the victim Justice, his civil right to Life and the acknowledgement of his eternal life in the hereafter. The victim is not destroyed, annihilated, nor can he no longer exist. The victim thirsts for Justice in the hereafter. To remove the death penalty for homicide in the first degree obliterates the dignity of the victim, Justice for all mankind and the only hope the murderer might have for redemption.

  9. According to Father Mich Pacwa on EWTN, Martin Luther believed and taught that the Sacred Species not acknowledged by the communicant ceased to be the Sacred Species. This removed any condemnation for receiving Jesus in the state of mortal sin. This also dispersed any hope, that receiving Jesus would make us better, as good could only come through our own efforts. Despair

  10. I have said before that this pontificate is more the product of the left wing of the the hierarchy overall than the cause of it. Nowhere is that more evident than with the death penalty. Without going nearly as far as Francis does, his immediate predecessors, St. JPII in particular, unwittingly set the table for this.

    In the minds of most people (including an overwhelming majority of well-intentioned orthodox Catholics) who do not understand Catholic moral principles, there is absolutely no daylight between what St. JPII said twenty years and what Francis is saying now.

    Until we see the scandal of this pontificate as part of a much larger problem, its toxicity will spread regardless who is elected to succeed him.

  11. Pope Francis is the wackiest Pope/ Papal intellect in modern times…but. His two predecessors however are in part to blame since they allowed for rare use of the death penalty in their catechism and then sought worldwide abolition verbally in addresses which abolition would make rare use impossible.
    So they began a confused-Pope precedent which Francis multiples by ten. The death penalty saves lives wherever there are millions of poor people. China has 11,000 murders a year and Brazil, non death penalty, has 50,000 murders a year. And get this: China has 7 times the population of Brazil.
    The death penalty saves lives said the US Supreme Court in 1976 after four years of comparing pro and con deterrence studies. Three Popes found a way around doing such heavy research. Not one of them has ever stated that it saves or doesn’t save lives.
    They changed the subject entirely to…how is this loving like Christ. Well…Christ being in the Trinity inspired Romans 13:4…” if you do evil fear, for not without reason does it ( the state ) carry the sword for it is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who does evil.” The Trinity inspired that within a defective empire that had life sentences in the mines which were less escapable than many modern prisons.
    Vatican II in Dei Verbum stated that the teaching Church was ” not above the word of God but serves it” DV2/10….
    and ” passes on what is handed to them”. That did not happen at all in this area. Cardinal Newman stated that real developments in the Church are not sudden and abrupt. By that standard, this death penalty fiasco will be overruled later in time. But how many more like Francis are in the pipeline prior to that is frightening to contemplate.

  12. “In the minds of most people (including an overwhelming majority of well-intentioned orthodox Catholics) who do not understand Catholic moral principles, there is absolutely no daylight between what St. JPII said twenty years and what Francis is saying now.”

    Agree completely. Was at a recent conference with very faithful Catholics. One deacon accused me of being like those who support abortion because I didn’t follow the bishops on abolition of the death penalty. As Greg says, they don’t know (and haven’t been taught) foundational principles.

    They don’t realize that now everything is open to change in accord with the spirit of the times.

  13. The state cannot regulate the free will of the murderer. There is no way to safeguard the public from incarcerated capital one murderers. For some reason Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and now Francis have abandoned the laity and the laity’s “human dignity” to favor the “human dignity” of the murderer. Equal Justice.

  14. ‘They don’t realize that now everything is open to change in accord with the spirit of the times.’
    The death penalty was banned in New Jersey. The state also passed a law that compelled the former employer of the murderer to rehire him when he was released from prison. I worked with a capital one murderer. Other employees, myself included were imprisoned by the cold blooded fear he enjoyed visiting on us. God have mercy.

  15. Rather than the Church focusing on the capital offender, why isn’t She focusing on the murdered victim? After all the victem may not have known they were going to be murdered on that day or moment, and had no time to either make a “perfect” contrition or accept Jesus as Lord if they hadn’t already done so. Seems like the Church is saying the victims have to accept what has happen to them, but the murderer is still around and can be given mercy so they can have a chance to seek forgiveness and regain their salvation. If the later is the primary objective, then there is nothing better to get a person to seek forgiveness and repent than knowing the exact date and time of their death.

  16. Rather than the Church focusing on the capital offender, why isn’t She focusing on the murdered victim?

    Suggest Francis is a very common type, nowadays: kind to the cruel and cruel to the kind. Easier for these types. They can usually insulate themselves from the consquences.

  17. “Rather than the Church focusing on the capital offender, why isn’t She focusing on the murdered victim?”
    My question as well. Unless Pope Francis believes that the murdered person ceases to exist upon being murdered. That belief, like that of atheism, cannot allow for Last Will and Testament and the civil rights of the victim or for the state in bringing the murderer to Justice once the victim is annihilated.

  18. Mary….
    Another piece of this mystery is that physical execution is poetically related to hell and Francis can only stomach
    heaven/mercy. Hell is something…many of the trending clergy think that they can get around by saying even a Catholic can hope for an empty hell….von Balthsar, Fr. Karl Rahner, and now I see Bishop Barron on youtube. They are incorrect if Christ was correct in Luke 13:24…” many will seek to enter on that day and they will not be able to”. I Peter 4:18 says…” if the just man will scarcely be saved, where will the impious and the sinner appear.”
    Now God can save a sinner in the last second of his life…OT: ” it is easy in an instant for the Lord to make a poor man rich” Sirach 11:21. But because Christ in Luke 13:24 said many will not be able to enter heaven….we know that God does not do that in every case.
    Many criminals die in the act of trying to kill law enforcement all throughout history….improbable that God chooses in those millions of cases to save them one and all. Again Luke 13:24, 1 Peter 4:18 declare the empty hell crowd…incorrect. But the erroneous empty hell theme is related to no death penalty theme. Sirach 42:14…” the severity of a man is better than a woman’s indulgence.” The two last Popes became pacifistic as they aged greatly…and perhaps…lost testosterone….Benedict with his personal fragrance made by a perfume maker to the rich. Francis was probably always pacifist because he has a bad temper and some people with bad temper go to the other extreme in their ideology to convince themselves they have a nice temper. I argued in private with two different liberal priests and in both cases their private temper was jurassic…huge.

  19. So this is a wacky site for right wingers, bigots, supremacists–not Catholics. Not the ones I see everyday among the Jesuits and the Sisters of Notre Dame I call friends.

  20. “So this is a wacky site for right wingers, bigots, supremacists–not Catholics. Not the ones I see everyday among the Jesuits and the Sisters of Notre Dame I call friends.”

    Why thank you Chris for your Christian condemnation of people you have never met and your attempted excommunication of those who differ with you from the Church. Modern day Jesuits have obviously taught you well, especially the part of demonizing those who have the temerity to disagree with you.

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