More Merciful than God?
Fatima Perspectives #1260
As this pontificate continues to reveal itself as an imposition of the personal opinions of Francis regardless of the contrary teaching of all his predecessors, including John Paul II (who stood in line with Tradition, and against Francis, in rejecting the possibility of Holy Communion for the divorced and “remarried”), we read of Pope Francis’ December 17th address to the International Commission against the Death Penalty. As accurately summarized by LifeSiteNews, the address amounts to the proclamation that “Former popes ignored mercy in using [the] ‘inhuman’ death penalty.”
In his address, provided in English translation by LifeSite, Francis makes it clear that it is his personal opinion that motivated his astonishing directive that the Catechism of John Paul II be changed to condemn capital punishment in every case — after 2,000 years of Church teaching that it is morally licit for murder and other crimes of extreme gravity. To quote Francis:
- “I have shared some ideas on this subject in my letter to the International Criminal Law Association and the Latin American Association of Criminal Law and Criminology, May 30, 2014.
- “I have delved into them [his ideas] in my address to the five major world associations dedicated to the study of criminal law, criminology, victimology and penitentiary issues, on October 23, 2014.
- “The certainty that every life is sacred and that human dignity must be guarded without exception has led me, since the beginning of my ministry, to work at different levels for the universal abolition of the death penalty.
- “This has recently been reflected in the new wording of n. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church…”
Francis goes on to say that his “new wording” of John Paul II’s Catechism “now expresses the progress of the doctrine of the last Pontiffs as well as the change in the conscience of the Christian people, which rejects a penalty that seriously injures human dignity …” But if “the last pontiffs” had made “progress” in doctrine such that what the Church has always approved as morally permissible is now absolutely impermissible — an impossible reversal of a moral truth — then why did John Paul’s Catechism need “new wording”? Not even John Paul II went that far, holding in his Catechism only that cases calling for capital punishment should be “rare, if not practically nonexistent” — an implied factual judgment about application of the law by civil authorities, not a declaration that capital punishment is per se immoral, which is what Francis, and he alone among all the Popes, has given us.
As far as “the last pontiffs” are concerned — meaning only John Paul II, in fact — there is Pope Pius XII, who repeated the constant teaching of the Church in this regard: “Even when it is a question of someone condemned to death, the state does not dispose of an individual’s right to life. It is then the task of public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life, in expiation of his fault, after he has already deprived himself of the right to life by his crime.” (AAS, 1952, pp. 779 et. seq.)
Of course Francis knows that every Pope before him, not excluding even John Paul II, allowed for imposition of the death penalty in the appropriate case as determined by civil authority. And he knows as well that capital punishment was imposed even in the papal states. Confronted with the inescapable reality of bimillenial Church teaching and practice that stand in his way, however, Pope Francis simply throws all his predecessors, including Pius XII, overboard:
“In past centuries, when the instruments available to us today for the protection of society were lacking and the present level of development of human rights had not yet been reached, recourse to the death penalty was sometimes presented as a logical and just consequence. Even in the Pontifical State this inhuman form of punishment has been resorted to, ignoring the primacy of mercy over justice. This is why the new wording of the Catechism implies also assuming our responsibility for the past and recognizing that the acceptance of this form of punishment was the consequence of a contemporary mentality, more legalistic than Christian, which sacralized the value of laws lacking in humanity and mercy. The Church could not remain in a neutral position in the face of today’s demands to reaffirm personal dignity.”
So, the Popes who defended the moral licitness of capital punishment and in some cases even presided over its just imposition as head of the papal states were all inhuman!
In a truly laughable flip-flop, however, Francis declares in the very next sentence: “The reform of the text of the Catechism on the point dedicated to the death penalty does not imply any contradiction with the teaching of the past, since the Church has always defended the dignity of human life.” The Church has “always defended the dignity of human life” — except all those inhuman Popes! And except the Council of Trent, whose Catechism, defending the perennial doctrine of the Church, teaches precisely the opposite of Francis’ opinion, i.e., that the death penalty serves to defend human dignity against those who violate it by committing murder:
“The use of the civil sword, when wielded by the hand of justice, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the commandment is the preservation and sanctity of human life, and to the attainment of this end, the punishments inflicted by the civil magistrate, who is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend, giving security to life by repressing outrage and violence.”
But it is not only Francis’ predecessors who erroneously approved of an “inhuman” punishment. God Himself has had a few things to say on the matter. The Almighty seems to have been under the impression that human dignity actually requires capital punishment for the crime of murder: “Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God.” (Gen. 9:6) And God evidently had human dignity in mind when, in the 20th chapter of Leviticus, He dictated to Moses the death penalty for human sacrifice and other grave offenses against the divine and natural law.
Is Francis more merciful than God? Someone should ask him.
Showing just how far he is willing to go in attempting to impose his personal opinions on the Church and indeed the whole world, Francis further declares: “In the same way, the Magisterium of the Church understands that life imprisonment, which removes the possibility of moral and existential redemption, for the benefit of the condemned and for the community, is a hidden form of the death penalty.”
So now “the Magisterium” also forbids life imprisonment? Is this a joke? What’s next? Francis’ maximum sentencing guidelines for capital crimes?
Francis concludes by demanding that all the nations of the world abolish capital punishment, even specifying the laws they must pass immediately as legal minimums acceptable to him:
“The sovereign right of all countries to define their legal system cannot be exercised in contradiction with their obligations under international law, nor can it represent an obstacle to the universal recognition of human dignity….
“The suspension of executions and the reduction of capital offences, as well as the prohibition of this form of punishment for minors, pregnant women or persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, are minimum targets to which leaders around the world must commit themselves.”
But where is the demand that all nations “must” abolish legalized abortion: capital punishment for unborn children, which has claimed hundreds of millions of innocent lives? It is nowhere to be found in the innumerable pronouncements of Francis, which are uniformly consistent with the platforms of the political Left in Europe and America.
Either Francis is wrong or all his predecessors, following the Word of God, are wrong. The faithful know which is the case. And they also know a fake Magisterium when they see it.
By denigrating the teaching of all his predecessors and even the very Word of God, Francis has attacked the credibility of the Petrine office, undermining the integrity of the Faith itself. The only way to defend the Petrine office is to view Francis as the astonishing outlier he really is — yet another sign of an ecclesial crisis like no other the Church has witnessed, and surely a subject of the integral Third Secret of Fatima.