Vatican changes teaching to oppose death penalty in all cases [Reuters]

Discussion in 'Anglican and Christian News' started by World Press, Aug 2, 2018.

  1. World Press

    World Press Active Member

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    World News | August 2, 2018 / 6:37 AM

    Vatican changes teaching to oppose death penalty in all cases


    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church formally changed its teaching on Thursday to declare the death penalty inadmissible whatever the circumstance, a move likely to be criticized in countries where capital punishment is legal.

    The 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church had for centuries allowed the death penalty in extreme cases, but the position began to change under Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.

    The Vatican said the change to its universal catechism, a summary of Church teaching, reflected Pope Francis’ total opposition to capital punishment.

    According to the new entry in the catechism: “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

    The Church was working “with determination” for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, the new teaching says.

    The new provision is likely to run into stiff opposition from conservative Catholics in the United States and other countries where capital punishment is legal and many believers support it.

    Last year, 53 countries issued death sentences and 23 of them executed at least 993 people, according to Amnesty International, with most executions in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

    In the United States, 23 people were executed, a slight increase from 2016 but a low number compared to historical trends, Amnesty said, adding that it was the only country in the Americas that carried out executions.

    Capital punishment is banned in most of Europe, with Belarus the only European country that carried out executions last year, Amnesty said. By the end of last year, 106 countries worldwide had banned the death penalty.

    Recourse to the death penalty, following a fair trial, had long been “an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good,” the new catechism says.


    Click here for the rest of the article:
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-...pose-death-penalty-in-all-cases-idUSKBN1KN1EQ
     
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  2. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Regardless of one's position regarding capital punishment, it puzzles me how the Roman Church can alter its views over time on certain issues. Something is either right or it's not. If capital punishment was acceptable for centuries by the Church, what has changed? It seems more a case of altering teaching to suit society's changing views. When the RCC change a position over time, (in this case that capital punishment is fine, then it is only fine in certain cases, to it's never acceptable), they are tacitly admitting that the Church can err. Of course we, as Anglicans, have never taught that a church is incapable of erring. As Article XX! teaches: "And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God."
     
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  3. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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  4. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Pardon the typos in my original posting. My eyes aren't what they used to be, and I wrote it after just waking up this morning. :)
     
  5. BibleHoarder

    BibleHoarder Active Member

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    This may be one of the biggest blows to the doctrine of papal infallibility since Vatican II. Although statements claiming that women's ordination would remain the same were declared fairly recently in the ex-cathedra fashion, this one, which is also clearly an ex-cathedra statement, flies in the face of previously established dogmas on faith and morals without ANY ambiguity in doing so, and as we know, according to how papal infallibility is defined in Vatican I, such statements are not supposed to be reformable. I am not here to debate how biblical or not the death penalty is, but just that it's another reason to show a major pitfall in Roman Catholic theology once again!
     
  6. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    When the First Vatican Council formally declared the dogma of papal infallibility in 1870, it was very carefully circumscribed. According to the council’s formula, a papal edict is regarded as incapable of error only if:
    • It pertains to faith and morals
    • It does not contradict scripture or divine revelation
    • It’s intended to be held by the whole Church
    As Benedict XVI put it in July 2005: “The pope is not an oracle; he is infallible [only] in very rare situations.” Benedict reinforced the point when he published his book “Jesus of Nazareth,” actually inviting people to disagree with him.

    ...

    In a sense, his personal dogma of fallibility fits with Francis’ overall style. For example, he refers to himself as “bishop of Rome” rather than “Supreme Pontiff,” and rides around in a Kia or a Ford rather than the traditional limo. It’s another chapter, in other words, in an ongoing “de-mythologizing” of the papacy.

    One could view such self-criticism either as strengthening or undercutting the pope’s message, depending on how you look at it, and both reactions probably will make the rounds.

    In any event, theologians, Church historians, and ordinary Catholics alike have spent much of the last century and a half complaining that the outside world has an inflated concept of what papal infallibility actually means.

    If nothing else, under Pope Francis it seems that restoring a healthy sense of fallibility to the mix has a fighting chance.

    https://cruxnow.com/church/2015/07/13/under-francis-theres-a-new-dogma-papal-fallibility/


    Capital punishment of course is a matter that has divided Christians - for ultimately it means that we have given up on a person and their capacity to have any meaningful position in our community. We pronounce judgement on the villian, and yet in a very real way we pronounce judgement on ourselves. Australia has not had the death penalty in 1967, and whilst every now and again when some shocking crime is committed people will call for it to be reintroduced, I think that most of us accept that we are a better society without it. It also seems apparent that even great legal systems can make mistakes, and the death penalty is one where in the case of a mistake there is little in the way of meaningful redress for the person who has been executed.
     
  7. Magistos

    Magistos Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    Managed to be the one to break the news to my RC Byzantine Rite wife and her response was "Oooh, the traddies are going to be PISSED."
     
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  8. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I am not an expert on the historic Anglican doctrine of capital punishment, and the whys and wherefores of the Church being in strong support for it...

    I would want to say that the primary understanding of punishment in the atheistic west is recuperative, whereas in the Christian understanding punishment is punitive, and justice is the enactment of punishment upon the perpetrator... THus we'd imprison someone not to fix them, but to punish them for their sins and crimes; when applied in a principled way, it would mean that capital crimes ought to be met with capital punishments
     
  9. BibleHoarder

    BibleHoarder Active Member

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    Honestly, if you narrow it down to that, that just means he is only right in the same sense as the bishops of Orthodoxy or the Archbishops of Canterbury. If the doctrines which were 'revealed' and added over time to the RCC's teachings are not biblical or historical, then they are not infallible statements period. But, as I said, if it really is strictly in this criteria, then this could be said for any biblical teaching, declared by anyone in fact.
     
  10. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Is there such a thing as an Anglican doctrine of capital punishment?

    Lambeth 1988
    Resolution 33

    Human Rights This Conference:
    1. Endorses the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and asks the provinces of the Anglican Communion to support all who are working for its implementation.

    2. Commends to all Churches the good practice of observing "One World Week" in proximity to United Nations Day, 24 October, as a means of highlighting human interdependence and the need to eliminate exploitation.

    3. Urges the Church to speak out against:
      (a) torture, used as a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, burning down of people's homes, granaries, and the confiscation of livestock and denial by governments of supplies of medical facilities and relief food by international organizations to people in areas of armed conflict;
      (b) all governments who practice capital punishment, and encourages them to find alternative ways of sentencing offenders so that the divine dignity of every human being is respected and yet justice is pursued;
      (c) the incarceration of prisoners of conscience, challenging governments to search for treatment and punishment of convicted persons in accordance with internationally accepted standards;
      (d) any denial of the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty by due, fair and impartial procedures of law.

    4. Commends the work of various international human rights organisations campaigning to support the freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and their work on behalf of human rights activists throughout the world who are persecuted for their defence of those fundamental freedoms.
    Thirty Nine Articles
    XXXVII. OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATES

    The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.
    Where we attribute to the King's Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabethour Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly
    • Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.
    • The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.
    • The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.
    • It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.
    When we read the Thirty Nine Articles, coming as they did in a turbulent age, in the wake of the execution of many for offences which might not meet the criteria of 'heinous and grievous' so in one sense whilst recognising the authority of the state to employ capital punishment, they do suggest some level of restraint in its application.

    The 1988 Resolution of the Lambeth Conference argues for alternatives to Capital punishment, not looking for a recuperative measure, nor indeed for punishment explicitly, but rather for justice. That clearly can not simply be justice for the offended, it seeks surely justice for all. The sacred principle that the 1988 resolution invokes is to uphold the divine dignity of every human being.

    I reiterate my earlier statement:
    It also seems apparent that even great legal systems can make mistakes, and the death penalty is one where in the case of a mistake there is little in the way of meaningful redress for the person who has been executed.​
     
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  11. Tuxedo America

    Tuxedo America Member

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    I don't know why this is such a big fuss to everyone (not just here- the subject has blown up on social media). Pope Francis didn't decry capital punishment as intrinsically evil (which would be problematic, since our Church has upheld it as a reasonable punishment at times). What his statement boils down to is that technology and science have evolved, and we now have possible means of rehabilitating (and simultaneously confining) people who would once be put to death without hesitation.

    There's no change in doctrine.
     
  12. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It's not the part you've quoted that's the problem... this is the part that is heretical:
    "The Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissable"

    No, no it doesn't
    And yes, in that statement is contained a change in church teaching, which according to Roman theology was supposed to have been impossible


    But it hasn't evolved to that at all
    Show me how technology and science have evolved in Zimbabwe to a point where they can rehabilitate and confine people?
     
  13. Tuxedo America

    Tuxedo America Member

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    Well, the Church now does teach, in light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible. That's not incorrect.

    And this is a development, not a total change. Our teaching on the death penalty as defined by the Catechism has been changed once before, in 1997 (the CCC was originally published in 1992). The original read as

    2267 If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

    The 1997 revision read:

    2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

    If, however, nonlethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent” (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56).


    The current one reads:

    2267 Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

    Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. 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.

    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” (Francis, Address, Oct. 11, 2017), and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

    As one who was, for some time before this proclamation, a supporter of the death penalty myself, I understand why Catholics and non-Catholics are so "upset". I admit to be baffled by the opposition leveled by non-Catholics, though, as if this is a teaching you are obligated to submit to. However, this is far from a "change of doctrine" as it is defined by those making the charge. Though Pope Francis and the CDF now seek to abolish the death penalty, they have not declared the penalty to be "intrinsically evil". This is why I said, if they had, then it would be problematic. That would suggest that the Church had taught in error at some time. Rather, there is a silent acknowledgement that the death penalty has had its place in times prior, but as it stands, most people can have relative certainty that those accused of the most heinous crimes can be properly contained. For this reason, the Church now stresses that we must not deprive the accused of their lives, so that they may have the chance to repent.

    Previous generations have understood penal sanctions (including the death penalty) to be a means of administering justice, but the Church now sees them to be principally for the protection 0f greater society, and for possibly rehabilitating the offender, which both take time. The Prefect for the CDF (Pope Francis hasn't issued his own document yet) seems to acknowledge that, just as with previous editions of the Catechism, the death penalty can still be used if it is the only practical way to defend the lives of human beings. We will see if this is the case. If so, that would apply to the second half of your comment.

    I would note, though, that if the Church had had any power at the time Paul was persecuting the Church, and it had gotten a hold of him, we very well could have been deprived of the Apostle to the Gentiles. We mustn't fool ourselves into believing that anyone is beyond God's forgiveness, or that we are justified in taking their lives if adequate means of detention exist.
     
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  14. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    So you're saying it's not a 'change' if we go back to 1997? But will it be a 'change' if we go back to 1887?
    :dunno:
     
  15. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    To me personally it is just a sad testimony of the Roman church retreating from the received teaching
    It is now one less ally we have in the face of the progressive atheistic juggernaut...

    Is it possible to declare something 'intrinsically evil' without using those words, intrinsically evil?
     
  16. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The Death Penalty has been used capriciously in many circumstances, and clearly there have been people executed who perhaps should not have been, yet it was accepted in its day.
    • Edward Plantagenet
    • Edmund Dudley
    • Richard Empson
    • Edmund de la Pole
    • Edward Stafford
    • John Fisher
    • Thomas More
    • George Boleyn
    • Henry Norris
    • Francis Weston
    • William Brereton
    • Mark Smeaton
    • Anne Boleyn
    • Robert Aske
    • Henry Pole
    • Arthur Pole
    • Thomas Cromwell
    • Margaret Pole
    • Thomas Culpeper
    • Francis Derehem
    • Kathryn Howard
    • Lady Rochford
    • Anne Askew
    • Henry Howard
    • And many others
    Anglicans have good reason to view those that employ Capital Punishment as administrations that are prepared to do the undoable. Whilst I understand the view expressed in the Thirty Nine Articles, I find the view expressed in Lambeth 1988 Resolution 33 sits more comfortably with my appreciation of God as the giver of life.
     
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  17. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I am not advocating for or against the death penalty. What troubles me is the statement from the RCC Catechism where it says, "Today, however, there is an increasing awareness..." What if, in the future, the Church decides that there is an "increasing awareness" that something else is not as we believe it to be? It sounds an awful lot like trimming sails to meet changing societal values. Either it was wrong or it wasn't.
     
  18. Tiffy

    Tiffy Member Anglican

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    I agree with this analysis. However 'necessary' the death penalty might have seemed to our forefathers in Christ's church, it has never been right for servant's of Christ to support or commit unjust acts. An unjust imprisonment can be redressed and mistakes admitted, (repentance is appropriate for authority as well as for individuals). There is no possibility of redress once a life has been taken unjustly. Repentance is meaningless and probably unacceptable to God in such circumstances, particularly if the injustice was deliberate.

    The Church is not capitulating to 'social fashion' when it expresses its support for the abolition of the death penalty. It merely expresses its approval of right conduct, in keeping with the principles of Justice taught and demonstrated by Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles.

    Matt.5:38-48. The Old testament principles of 'tit for tat', are refuted by Christ, his Apostles and disciples. No longer is the brutality espoused by Islamic or Israelite society, the way of The Church of Christ. Not this way any more.

    The author and finisher of our faith suffered the death penalty unjustly and it was administered therefore by sinners.

    Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. Heb.12:2-4.
     
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  19. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Actually here is the principle of Justice as taught by Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles:


    Genesis 9:6
    "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

    Matthew 26:52
    Then Jesus said unto him, "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

    Revelation 13:10
    "If anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he will go; if anyone is to die by the sword, by the sword he must be killed. Here is a call for the perseverance and faith of the saints."

    St. Paul Epistle to the Romans, ch. 13:
    "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

    Yes he was executed unjustly, but he not once opposed or rejected it! Are you more righteous than Jesus?

    In fact Our Lord sought his death, in order to redeem the world... Without his death and resurrection, no redemption would have been possible and so he sought his own execution eagerly. And as for everyone else, he counseled them in his Gospels and with his Apostles, that "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"!
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  20. Tiffy

    Tiffy Member Anglican

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    > As with all scripture, that which seems most important to us takes precedence in guiding our praxis. Scripture has a way of revealing the intent of men's hearts, cutting to the bone and revealing the marrow. Lk.6:45. Heb.4:12. What more can be said?
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018

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