Pope Francis Wishes To Change Teaching On Capital Punishment…

Speaking in Rome on October 11th, 2017 (55th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II), at a conference promoting the ‘New Evangelization’, Pope Francis made known his will for the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be revised so as to condemn capital punishment as absolutely immoral in principle. He declared the death penalty to be “in itself contrary to the Gospel” (“in sé stessa contraria al Vangelo”). Source

The Pope’s attack on traditional teaching is not going unchallenged, however;  below, extracts from a very interesting analysis from the Society of St Pius X, District of the U.S.A.  Read entire article here

Capital Punishment and Contemporary Catholicism

On April 20, 2017, Ledell Lee, convicted of the brutal murder of his neighbor, Mrs. Debra Reese, was executed in Arkansas, the state’s first execution since 2005. When asked what his wishes were for his last meal, Lee declined a meal but said he wished to receive Holy Communion before execution. He made no public statement before death, but his request to receive the Sacraments was indicative of a desire to die in a state of grace, at peace with God.

Before Lee’s execution, Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, and the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which describes its mission as “Ending the death penalty. Promoting restorative justice,” all wrote to the governor of Arkansas asking that Lee’s sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.

Opposition to the Death Penalty

These Catholic bishops and activists are not alone in their opposition to the death penalty. In June of 2016, Pope Francis sent a video message of support to the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty in which he said: 

“Nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice.”

What then does the Church teach about capital punishment? Is it permitted, and under what circumstances?

The Catechism of the Council of Trent tells us:

“Far from being guilty of breaking this commandment [Thou shall not kill], such an execution of justice is precisely an act of obedience to it. For the purpose of the law is to protect and foster human life. This purpose is fulfilled when the legitimate authority of the State is exercised by taking the guilty lives of those who have taken innocent lives”
(Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, 1566, Part III, 5, n. 4.).

This contrasts starkly with Pope Francis’s words, “The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty” (Message to the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty).

St. Thomas Aquinas gives two main reasons for the use of capital punishment. One is the common good:

Now every individual person is related to the entire society as a part to the whole. Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and healthful that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since ‘a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump’ (1 Cor. 5:6).”
(Summa Theologiae, II, II, q. 64, art. 2)

His other consideration is the good of the criminal.

“They…have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so obstinate that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from malice, it is possible to make a quite probable judgment that they would never come away from evil” 
(Summa contra gentiles, Book III, chapter 146).

The Good of the Criminal
 
On July 26, 2017, Ronald Phillips, convicted of the particularly horrible murder of a child, was executed in Ohio. The day of his execution, he reportedly spent several hours with a spiritual adviser and took time to read the Bible. Just before death, he made his first public expression of regret since his incarceration, asking forgiveness of his victim’s family. He had previously unsuccessfully sought clemency on grounds of his youth at the time (he was 19) and his difficult childhood.

While some claim that the death penalty puts an end to the possibility of the criminal repenting later on, St. Thomas does not admit this objection.

“The fact that the evil ones, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement.”

Both Phillips’s case and that of Ledell Lee illustrate St. Thomas’s point: imminent death brings home to the criminal the gravity of his crime and leads him to repentance. Samuel Johnson was the author of the oft-quoted aphorism to the effect that nothing concentrates the mind like a sentence of hanging. Of course, in Samuel Johnson’s day, executions were carried out rather more promptly than they are in the United States nowadays: a criminal can languish for decades on death row, and it is said that nearly a quarter of death row inmates die of natural causes while waiting for execution or appealing their sentences.

The Church has been careful to emphasize the need for due process and true justice. Innocent III said:

The secular power can without mortal sin carry out a sentence of death, provided it proceeds in imposing the penalty not from hatred but with judgment, not carelessly but with due solicitude.”

Whether due process is consistently available in the American criminal justice system is a matter of debate. By all accounts it is in desperate need of reform. One high-profile (and well-informed, thanks to his own sojourn in the United States’ jail system) commentator on this issue was newspaper publisher Conrad Black, who has among other issues emphasized the need to address the huge number of inmates in the prison system and the high rate of recidivism, partly due (in his opinion) to a culture in which convicts become dependent on the system. 

The Catholic Understanding of Death

[F]or the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next?…For the non-believer, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!”

Does the death penalty deprive the criminal of hope? Of hope for the things of this world, certainly. But there are many instances of dying criminals who have discovered grounds for hope: a certain thief once hoped, “Remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.”

In Conclusion…

From what the Catechism of the Council of Trent tells us, in combination with the teachings of many Popes and sainted theologians, it seems that while the necessity and suitability of capital punishment in a given situation remains a prudential decision for the public authorities, it is clear that traditional Catholic teachings permit the death penalty under certain conditions. One could argue that the rallying of modern Catholicism against capital punishment is at least in part due to the influence of what Scalia calls “the post-Freudian secularist,” inclined to diminish the moral responsibility of the criminal and seemingly blind to the possibility of expiation for sin and life after death.

The fifteenth-century French poet François Villon, a ne’er-do-well who frequently fell afoul of the law, composed his most famous work, The Ballad of the Hanged, in jail the night before he was to be executed. It is an entirely supernatural plea to Christ and Our Lady for mercy on his soul and to his fellowman for pity and prayers. His final stanza is remarkable for its humility and its hope:

Prince Jesus, who has command of all,                                
Do not let Hell gain lordship over us:
With it let us have no dealings.
Men, there is no mockery here;
Pray God that He will absolve us all.

Comments invited…

IS Pope Francis right to seek to “revise” Catholic teaching on the Death Penalty?

Little Charlie Gard: Victim of Rampant Disposable Culture – Cardinal Sgreccia

Little Charlie Gard’s Case in 10 Points, by Cardinal Sgreccia
Give Care Even When One Cannot Cure
July 5, 2017
ZENIT Staff Pope & Holy See

CHARLIE GARD
by Constance Roques with Anita Bourdin

Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, former President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, analyzed little Charlie Gard’s case and offered “10 critical points” for consideration in the Italian daily La Stampa, on Monday, July 3, 2017.

We recall that Charlie Gard was born on August 4, 2016 and suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which has affected his brain. He receives assistance to breathe, is hydrated and fed through a tube, but receives no other care.

Give Care Even when One Cannot Cure

Cardinal Sgreccia stressed first of all that “the non-curable character can never be confused with incurability” (1).

He explained: “A person affected by an ailment considered, in the present state of medicine, as incurable, is paradoxically the subject that, more than any other, has the right to request and obtain continuous assistance and care, attention and devotion: it is a cardinal principle of the ethics of care . . . The human face of medicine is manifested precisely in the clinical practice of ‘taking care’ of the life of the suffering and the sick.”
Human Dignity

Cardinal Sgreccia then affirmed the intrinsic dignity (2) of every human being and the rights that stem from it, regardless of his state of health: “The right to be continually the object, or better still, the subject of attention and care on the part of members of the family and others, lies in the dignity of a human person, including a new-born, sick and suffering, and never ceases to be possessed.”

Feeding and Hydration Are Not Therapies

He then recalled the duty to feed and hydrate (3): they are not aps of therapies but the minimum necessary to survive of every human being: “Artificial feeding-hydration through a nose-gastric tube in no case can be considered as a therapy . . . Water and food do not become medications by the sole fact that they are administered artificially; consequently, interrupting them is not like suspending a therapy, but it is to let someone die of hunger and thirst who simply cannot feed himself autonomously.

The Parents’ Decision

Cardinal Sgreccia pointed out that there must not be a caesura between the doctors’ gestures and the parents’ will (4): “The cardinal idea that founds the informed consensus is linked to the principle according to which the patient is never an anonymous individual . . . but a conscious and responsible subject . . . This implies the necessity that he be involved in the decisional processes that concern him, in a dialogic relation that avoids his finding himself in the situation of having to suffer passively the decisions and choices of others. The history of little Charlie proves on the contrary that, in the course of time, a dynamic has been created of substantial detachment between the decisions of the medical team and the will of the parents.”

An Integral Palliative Approach

Cardinal Sgreccia declared himself in favor (5) of an “integral palliative” approach: “It is possible that the experimental therapy does not give the medical results expected, but it is also true that Charlie’s sufferings call for an integral palliative and systematic approach that could hypothetically accompany the experimentation itself.”

To Keep the Pain under Control

Cardinal Sgreccia recommended (6) to keep the pain under control”: “ In our opinion, the principle of the best interest of the minor hardly entails, or better, hardly legitimizes a passive form of euthanasia as that which was decided to practice on little Charlie. We believe that his best interest lies in the direction of assuring him the most dignified existence possible, through an opportune antalgic strategy, which enables to keep the pain under control should it prove to be impossible to follow the route to access the experimental protocol already underway in the United States. It is exactly what Charlie’s parents have not ceased to request up to today.”

The Opinion of the European Court 

The Cardinal believes (7) that the European Court did not respect these criteria: ‘The European Court of Human Rights has glided in an unbelievable way on all the aspects of content listed up to here and it also seems that it went beyond, assuming a purely procedural position, in the name of the principle of the margin of appreciation … It considered that it should not enter the subject of the issue of the suspension of artificial feeding-hydration-respiration in the name of that sovereign autonomy of the Member States, which authorizes them to regulate at their discretion the themes of the ethically most complicated aspects, such as the case of the practicability or not of passive euthanasia on a new-born.”

A “Rampant Disposable Culture”

Cardinal Sgreccia lamented the “rampant disposable culture”: “Hidden behind each aspect of this story, although never mentioned, is the idea of the efficacy in the management of health resources that pushes to make use of them in a manner that cannot but generate a rampant disposable culture.”

The False Paradigm of the “Quality of Life”

He questioned (9) the “paradigm” of the so-called “quality of life”: “More disquieting yet is the lightness with which the paradigm of quality of life is accepted, namely, that cultural model that inclines to recognize the non-dignity of certain human existences, completely identified and confused with the pathology of which they are bearers or with the sufferings with which they are accompanied.”

Euthanasia Demanded 

Finally, Cardinal Sgreccia lamented (10) a drift toward a trivialized euthanasia: “In the transparency of schizophrenic positions implied by these new cultural paradigms, one can perceive the ambivalence of those that, in demanding the freedom of total and indiscriminate access to euthanasia – basing it on the exclusive predominance of individual autonomy — deny at the same time this decisional autonomy in other cases, as the one of which we speak, where it is considered that only the doctors have the legitimacy to decide, without any involvement of the parents.”

Readiness of the Vatican’s Hospital

We recall likewise that on Monday, July 3, the President of the Bambino Gesu (Infant Jesus) pediatric hospital, a dependency of the Vatican, Mrs Mariella Enoc, said she was ready to receive Charlie Gard in Rome if his parents so wished and if his state permitted it.

In a press release on Monday, July 3, 2017, she quoted in Italian Pope Francis’ Tweet, posted on his account @Pontifex_it on June 30: “Defend human life, especially when it is wounded by sickness, is a commitment of love that God entrusts to every man.”

“The Holy Father’s words, in reference to little Charlie, summarize well the mission of the Bambino Gesu hospital. That is why I asked the Health Director to verify with London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, where the new-born is hospitalized, and if the health conditions exist for Charlie’s eventual transfer to our hospital. We know that the case is desperate and that, apparently, effective therapies do not exist.”

Pope Francis’ Closeness

Mrs Enoc expressed her closeness to the parents, saying: “We are close to the parents through prayer and if it is their wish, we are ready to receive their child at our hospital for the time that remains to him to live.”

Pope Francis addressed a message to Charlie Gard’s parents on Sunday evening, July 2, expressing his closeness, through his spokesman, Greg Burke: “The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the affair of little Charlie Gard and he expresses his closeness to his parents.” Pope Francis, he said, “prays for them and hopes that their desire to accompany and care for their child to the end is not disregarded.”

On June 27, the European Court of Human Rights rejected the request to take the child to the United States for experimental treatment and the British High Court pronounced itself in favor of halting the respiratory, hydration and feeding assistance.

Mrs Mariella Enoc, President of Rome’s Bambino Gesu hospital, who had expressed her readiness to receive the baby, if his transfer was possible and if his parents so wished, announced on Tuesday, July 4 that the transfer would not be possible for “legal” reasons: it is in any case the answer of the English hospital where Charlie is at present, reported Vatican Radio. Mrs Enoc said she was contacted by the baby’s mother to discuss his care.
In regard to surmounting the legal reasons, the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin assured : “If we can do so, we will,” reported the same source.
[Article Translated from French]  Source – Zenit

Comment:

The UK Government cites “legal grounds” for not permitting this baby to be taken to the Vatican Hospital – click here

Recall,  though, that the “legal grounds” for only permitting people of opposite genders to marry were overturned in a heartbeat, as was the law prohibiting the murder of unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs.  Laws can be changed when it suits politicians.  What, then, is going on here? Why are the doctors and politicians so keen to allow this baby to die, despite his parents’ desperate desire to keep him, care for him, raise him in a loving home? What is going on?