PopeWatch: Error

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Ed Feser, PopeWatch’s go to man on the death penalty and the teachings of the Church has an article at First Things looking at the attempt of Pope Francis to do a 180 on the teaching of the Church in this area:

If capital punishment is wrong in principle, then the Church has for two millennia consistently taught grave moral error and badly misinterpreted scripture. And if the Church has been so wrong for so long about something so serious, then there is no teaching that might not be reversed, with the reversal justified by the stipulation that it be called a “development” rather than a contradiction. A reversal on capital punishment is the thin end of a wedge that, if pushed through, could sunder Catholic doctrine from its past—and thus give the lie to the claim that the Church has preserved the Deposit of Faith whole and undefiled.

Not only does this reversal undermine the credibility of every previous pope, it undermines the credibility of Pope Francis himself. For if Pope St. Innocent I, Pope Innocent III, Pope St. Pius V, Pope St. Pius X, Pope Pius XII, Pope St. John Paul II, and many other popes could all get things so badly wrong, why should we believe that Pope Francis has somehow finally gotten things right?

One does not need to support capital punishment to worry that Pope Francis may have gone too far. Cardinal Avery Dulles, who was personally opposed to the practical use of capital punishment, still insisted that “the reversal of a doctrine as well established as the legitimacy of capital punishment would raise serious problems regarding the credibility of the magisterium.” Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is likewise opposed to applying the death penalty in practice, has nevertheless acknowledged:

The death penalty is not intrinsically evil. Both Scripture and long Christian tradition acknowledge the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances. The Church cannot repudiate that without repudiating her own identity.

If Pope Francis really is claiming that capital punishment is intrinsically evil, then either scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and all previous popes were wrong—or Pope Francis is. There is no third alternative. Nor is there any doubt about who would be wrong in that case. The Church has always acknowledged that popes can make doctrinal errors when not speaking ex cathedra—Pope Honorius I and Pope John XXII being the best-known examples of popes who actually did so. The Church also explicitly teaches that the faithful may, and sometimes should, openly and respectfully criticize popes when they do teach error. The 1990 CDF document Donum Veritatis sets out norms governing the legitimate criticism of magisterial documents that exhibit “deficiencies.” It would seem that Catholic theologians are now in a situation that calls for application of these norms.

Go here to read the rest.  Twenty centuries of Church history or the current Pope.  Choose, and perhaps choose more wisely than the Conclave obviously did in 2013.


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  1. Is this the same “humble” man of God who drives in a tiny unassuming automobile?

    Humility seems distant from Pope Balderdash.

    Maybe a retirement party then a guest appearance on The Bachelor would soothe his ego. At the very least it would help Holy Church to recover from the Francis hangover.

  2. The more people of renown intellect speak out against that Argentinian Marxist Peronist, the better. I don’t particularly like the idea of having to execute a human being, and I damn well know I deserve death for my sins (hence Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for all of us under the sentence of death), but Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:1-7 cannot be overturned, especially by phoney mercy clothed as an old man’s prideful sentimentality. Please, Lord Jesus, either make this man repent (and may we all repent) or end this Pontificate in mercy for your Faithful! Thank you!

  3. When the wife goes into her crafts stores, I listen to radio. Yesterday, Denis Prager had an hour on the new DP “Amendment to Objective Truth” – soup to nuts, as it were.

    I nominate this man to be “St. Edward the Feser.”

  4. 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. Ignoring the dignity of the condemned murder and his power of attorney, enacted by the executioner, to bring himself to Justice denies his human dignity. The only dignified action of the condemned murderer is to expire in grief over his commission of homicide in the first degree.
    The absence of any sense about the dignity of the human sovereign person in The Vicar of Christ is deplorable. (as the lack of any sense about the dignity of the human sovereign person in a Supreme Court Justice, the personification of the perfect Justice of almighty God is deplorable.)

  5. As with many things, the devil is in the details. Seems the key of all this is if capital punishment is now claimed to be “intrinsically evil” or not.

    If not, we run the risk of reaching exaggerated conclusions that are unsupported in canon law. If yes…Houston; we have a problem!

    This piece from a Conon Lawyer explains it pretty well I think. It leans toward the “if not” scenario. In other words a prudential judgment change, not a doctrinal change

  6. The very words; “Development” “illumination” “Pastoral care” “accompaniment” now sound so much like Bill Clinton’s quest for the meaning of “is.”
    JPII instructs us to call black, black, white, white, and sin, sin…but we now become smothered in ambiguity. (again, please read Pius VI’s auctorem fidei)

  7. ” ,,, If Pope Francis really is claiming that capital punishment is intrinsically evil, then either scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and all previous popes were wrong—or Pope Francis is. There is no third alternative. …”

    Plain and simple.
    These politically motivated church leaders are enjoying doing their best to add more venom to ‘dialogue’ and discouragement to the reasonable. The souls of victims, aborted infants, and those euthanized far outnumber them due to their abandonment of teaching God’s Word and the Magisterium.

    Matthew 12:50 – For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, sister, and mother.

    There is something Written about callous laughter, which I’ll locate given the time. Anyway, I saw pictures of so called disco mass at the church of St. Paul’s tomb and was reminded of the use of St. Peter’s Basilica by Porsche for a party. Remember the seed tray given to the pope by the last president.
    They laughed.

  8. For the past 35 years I have often had recourse to “weasel words” on behalf of clients. People may take comfort or not in the use of the nebulous term “inadmissible” but it does not alter the reality that the Pope has executed a 180 on the death penalty. I could imagine a Francis clone Pope in the none too distant future stating that requiring marriage to be restricted to heterosexual couples is now “inadmissible”. I know the word game too well to take the cold comfort that it offers.

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