Pope Francis and Church Doctrine

The fake news media (FNM) lie, through omission and commission, all the time about anything that impacts their political agenda.  Hence, it's not surprising that they're distorting what Pope Francis said about the death penalty.

Pope Francis has not changed Church doctrine.  What he's said does not mean that the Church can change its stance on the morality of the active gay lifestyle or divorce and remarriage.

This is far from the first time that the FNM have distorted what Pope Francis really said.  We've all heard a lot about what Pope Francis has said about our responsibility to preserve the environment for future generations, but how many of you have heard that Pope Francis wrote the following?

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?

That's right: the pope has said that being "pro-choice" is incompatible with being green.

Similarly, during the election, the FNM told us the pope said Trump isn't a Christian.  However, when the actual transcript of what the pope said was made available, it was clear that Pope Francis had said no such thing.

To understand what Pope Francis actually said, it's necessary to know what the Church has always taught about the death penalty.  For 2,000 years, the Church has said society has the right to protect itself from criminals by executing those criminals.  That is, the death penalty, unlike abortion, is not intrinsically and always immoral.

Saint Pope John Paul II said we should reject the death penalty not because it's intrinsically immoral, which it isn't, but because in doing so, we make a radical stand against the Culture of Death.  In our world, leftists call for killing the unborn, the elderly, and the differently abled because they are a "burden" on society.  What more blatant rejection of that utilitarian philosophy that treats people as commodities is there than saying we won't kill even those who are monstrously evil?

Saint Pope John Paul II also said that given the ability of modern society to prevent criminals from killing again without executing them, through life sentences, etc., it's rare that society needs to execute someone.

It's important to note that that is what Catholics call a prudential judgment, not a statement of moral theology.  A prudential judgment is where people apply a moral principle to a real-world problem.  Saint Pope John Paul II said that in his personal opinion, modern society can protect itself, in most cases, without executing anyone.  That is assessing the state of the world, not defining what Christ taught about how we are to behave.

For example, Saint Pope John Paul II also taught that we need to have a preferential option for the poor, and the Church has always taught that we have an obligation to help the poor.  But it's a matter of prudential judgment whether the best way to help the poor is through a massive, inefficient, and costly federal bureaucracy or by reducing taxes so individuals can give more to efficient private charities with the federal government running a minimal safety net, as Ronald Reagan called it, to ensure that no one starves.

On prudential matters, the Church teaches that good people can have different opinions and not be going against the Church so long as they are trying to achieve the moral objective that the Church promulgates.

While Catholics are obliged to listen to and think about what the pope says on matters of prudential judgment, they are not required to agree with him.  Contrary to what many Americans think, while the popes can make infallible statements on matters of faith and morals, they do not do so with any regularity, and they are not infallible on matters of prudential judgment.

What Pope Francis has said about the death penalty is a matter of prudential judgment.  He declared in his revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption[.]

Note that this is a prudential judgment.  It's a statement about what works in the world, not about the relevant moral principle.

Even in the U.S., a prisoner incarcerated for life can be a threat to society.  The person may escape and kill again, or he may kill a guard or a fellow prisoner.  Even worse, he could be a gang leader who continues to order killings from his prison cell.

There is clearly room for discussion and investigation into just how safe life sentences are versus executions.  In the U.S., the pope could be right.  But just as clearly, when one looks at places like Somalia, Libya, and any number of other third-world countries with porous jails and corrupt judicial systems, it's not obvious that those societies can protect themselves without the death penalty.

It's obvious, then, that the pope hasn't changed the Church's doctrine that society has the right to execute criminals in order to defend the innocent.  Rather, he's made the prudential judgment that in today's world, protecting society no longer requires the death penalty.

He may be right, and he may be wrong, but he is not changing Church teaching because the Church's moral teaching is that society has a right to protect itself.  It's a matter of prudential judgment to apply that moral requirement to the real fallen world we live in.

When you see an article claiming that Pope Francis's position about the death penalty means that the Church's teachings on morality, such the morality of sex outside marriage between one man and one woman, can change, you now know why that's simply not true.

Pope Francis has not said the death penalty is intrinsically evil or that society doesn't have the right to protect itself from evil people, which are moral teachings of the Church.

Rather, he's said that in his prudential judgment, society does not need to execute people to protect itself.  Furthermore, if execution is not needed, then it's better to allow evil people to live so that they may repent and be saved.

This issue is just one more example of the fact that the FNM can't be trusted on any issue.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.

The fake news media (FNM) lie, through omission and commission, all the time about anything that impacts their political agenda.  Hence, it's not surprising that they're distorting what Pope Francis said about the death penalty.

Pope Francis has not changed Church doctrine.  What he's said does not mean that the Church can change its stance on the morality of the active gay lifestyle or divorce and remarriage.

This is far from the first time that the FNM have distorted what Pope Francis really said.  We've all heard a lot about what Pope Francis has said about our responsibility to preserve the environment for future generations, but how many of you have heard that Pope Francis wrote the following?

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?

That's right: the pope has said that being "pro-choice" is incompatible with being green.

Similarly, during the election, the FNM told us the pope said Trump isn't a Christian.  However, when the actual transcript of what the pope said was made available, it was clear that Pope Francis had said no such thing.

To understand what Pope Francis actually said, it's necessary to know what the Church has always taught about the death penalty.  For 2,000 years, the Church has said society has the right to protect itself from criminals by executing those criminals.  That is, the death penalty, unlike abortion, is not intrinsically and always immoral.

Saint Pope John Paul II said we should reject the death penalty not because it's intrinsically immoral, which it isn't, but because in doing so, we make a radical stand against the Culture of Death.  In our world, leftists call for killing the unborn, the elderly, and the differently abled because they are a "burden" on society.  What more blatant rejection of that utilitarian philosophy that treats people as commodities is there than saying we won't kill even those who are monstrously evil?

Saint Pope John Paul II also said that given the ability of modern society to prevent criminals from killing again without executing them, through life sentences, etc., it's rare that society needs to execute someone.

It's important to note that that is what Catholics call a prudential judgment, not a statement of moral theology.  A prudential judgment is where people apply a moral principle to a real-world problem.  Saint Pope John Paul II said that in his personal opinion, modern society can protect itself, in most cases, without executing anyone.  That is assessing the state of the world, not defining what Christ taught about how we are to behave.

For example, Saint Pope John Paul II also taught that we need to have a preferential option for the poor, and the Church has always taught that we have an obligation to help the poor.  But it's a matter of prudential judgment whether the best way to help the poor is through a massive, inefficient, and costly federal bureaucracy or by reducing taxes so individuals can give more to efficient private charities with the federal government running a minimal safety net, as Ronald Reagan called it, to ensure that no one starves.

On prudential matters, the Church teaches that good people can have different opinions and not be going against the Church so long as they are trying to achieve the moral objective that the Church promulgates.

While Catholics are obliged to listen to and think about what the pope says on matters of prudential judgment, they are not required to agree with him.  Contrary to what many Americans think, while the popes can make infallible statements on matters of faith and morals, they do not do so with any regularity, and they are not infallible on matters of prudential judgment.

What Pope Francis has said about the death penalty is a matter of prudential judgment.  He declared in his revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption[.]

Note that this is a prudential judgment.  It's a statement about what works in the world, not about the relevant moral principle.

Even in the U.S., a prisoner incarcerated for life can be a threat to society.  The person may escape and kill again, or he may kill a guard or a fellow prisoner.  Even worse, he could be a gang leader who continues to order killings from his prison cell.

There is clearly room for discussion and investigation into just how safe life sentences are versus executions.  In the U.S., the pope could be right.  But just as clearly, when one looks at places like Somalia, Libya, and any number of other third-world countries with porous jails and corrupt judicial systems, it's not obvious that those societies can protect themselves without the death penalty.

It's obvious, then, that the pope hasn't changed the Church's doctrine that society has the right to execute criminals in order to defend the innocent.  Rather, he's made the prudential judgment that in today's world, protecting society no longer requires the death penalty.

He may be right, and he may be wrong, but he is not changing Church teaching because the Church's moral teaching is that society has a right to protect itself.  It's a matter of prudential judgment to apply that moral requirement to the real fallen world we live in.

When you see an article claiming that Pope Francis's position about the death penalty means that the Church's teachings on morality, such the morality of sex outside marriage between one man and one woman, can change, you now know why that's simply not true.

Pope Francis has not said the death penalty is intrinsically evil or that society doesn't have the right to protect itself from evil people, which are moral teachings of the Church.

Rather, he's said that in his prudential judgment, society does not need to execute people to protect itself.  Furthermore, if execution is not needed, then it's better to allow evil people to live so that they may repent and be saved.

This issue is just one more example of the fact that the FNM can't be trusted on any issue.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.