Bishop John Keenan of Paisley Welcomes Latest “Fertility Breakthrough”…

HUMAN eggs have been fully grown in a laboratory for the first time, in a breakthrough that could lead to improved fertility treatments.
Scientists have grown egg cells, which were removed from ovary tissue at their earliest stage of development, to the point at which they are ready to be fertilised.
The advance could safeguard the fertility of girls with cancer ahead of potentially harmful medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Immature eggs recovered from patients’ ovarian tissue could be matured in the lab and stored for later fertilisation…

The study, carried out in collaboration with the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, The Center for Human Reproduction in New York and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, was supported by the Medical Research Council. It was published in Molecular Human Reproduction.
Professor Evelyn Telfer, of the School of Biological Sciences, who led the research, said: “Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments.  Click here to read the entire report

On his Facebook page (screenshot above) Bishop John Keenan, Diocese of Paisley writes: “As far as I can see this is a potentially excellent breakthrough in fertility science. In principle, it is a great development if a woman’s eggs could be matured and made viable in vitro provided they could be re-implanted into her in readiness for fertilisation through the normal marital act. Obviously, this is quite different from IVF. 

Comment:

I have always presumed that ferility treatment meant treatment that made the woman fertile per se. These sorts of laboratory “test-tube” treatments do not appear to “cure” the woman’s infertility, merely find a way to by-pass it on a particular occasion. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll be pleased to be corrected. 

Otherwise, I’m afraid, I question why a Bishop would welcome such scientific means of achieving conception, instead of reminding us all that if we can’t get what we want, whether material goods or a baby, we must accept that, with holy resignation, as God’s will.  That was the attitude I heard from relatives who, sadly disappointed, were unable to have children. “Not to be” are words we seldom hear these days, with little to no encouragement from the average pulpit to accept this disappointment as, for His own inscrutable purposes, part of God’s plan for our salvation, His holy will.  Or perhaps you think that’s pie-in-the-sky theobabble? 

Catholic Social Teaching Supports Trump’s Challenges To the Media…


From
Crisis

It is not an overstatement to say that the time of the Trump presidency has been one of protracted struggle between the national administration and most of the media. To be sure, the press and the electronic media have faced off with presidential administrations for a long time. Actually, the press has had their political and ideological biases since the beginning of the Republic. After all, weren’t the Federalist Papers originally articles in newspapers that wanted to support the proposed U.S. Constitution and influence the crucial ratification debate in New York State? Don’t historians write about how “yellow journalism” helped lead to the Spanish-American War? Still, when one looks at the behavior of the media in recent decades, the argument can easily be made that as far as concerns political bias, lack of concern for fairness and objectivity, separating out reporting from commentary, a willingness to dig for the facts instead of just reporting what someone claims, journalistic professionalism, and even attention to whether something reported on actually even happened, we are at a historic low.

While Republicans have probably borne the brunt of harsh presidential media treatment since LBJ, the level of vituperativeness directed at Trump is perhaps unparalleled—even surpassing what Nixon, who was known for his long chilly relationship with the press, faced. Certainly, the media’s unremitting pounding of Trump, beginning even well before Inauguration Day, is unprecedented in these recent decades. Some might say that Trump has invited it, with many questions about his background before coming into office, the attention to the ongoing investigation of “collusion” with Russia during the campaign (although this may actually be an example of the “fake news” that the president criticizes), and Trump’s constant sniping at the media with his regular barrage of tweets. Still, it’s hard to make the case that the media has given any breathing room to Trump anywhere along the way.

Most people would probably say that a president is justified in calling out the media and challenging their misconduct. Other presidential administrations have done it, although probably not as regularly and publicly as this one—nor has the president himself usually been the point man, as is the case with Trump. Despite plenty of grounds to challenge the media, Trump was recently attacked in a manner that surely seemed “over the top” by two senators from his own party. Senator Jeff Flake, who has repeatedly tussled with Trump, first conceded that presidents can surely criticize the press but then equated Trump’s actions with Stalin and seemed to suggest that the media can almost unquestionably be relied upon to present the truth. Flake’s fellow Arizonan, Senator John McCain, who has also had a strained relationship with the president, wrote an op-ed arguing that Trump’s criticism of the press is having the dangerous effect of discrediting it and so was emboldening foreign despots to suppress journalists.

All the while, Trump has not threatened the press with anything like censorship, or prior restraint as in the Pentagon Papers case, or imposing a special tax on oppositional newspapers like Huey Long did, or imprisoning journalists as various judges have done for not revealing their sources. Neither senator had much to say about journalistic responsibility or about whether the media—and what we’re mostly talking about here is the mainstream or “big” media—has in fact been discrediting itself by its actions, the most egregious of which has been reporting on stories that have no factual basis (“fake news”).

One wonders if the senators have any sense about the need to confront adversaries, even when they royally deserve it. Their response to Trump was a particularly striking example of what the Republican “establishment” in Washington has been consistently criticized for: routinely conceding to the other side, a “go-along, get-along” attitude that results in the left advancing its agenda even when it loses elections.

The strikingly uncritical and almost apologetic attitude about the media of Senators Flake and McCain is not something that Catholics should countenance, whether or not they like Trump’s approach or manner—that is, if they think he doesn’t act in a way that is “presidential”—or even if they think he carries it too far. Untruthfulness and wrongdoing—and imperviousness to propounding untruth certainly qualifies as wrongdoing—need to be challenged. Let’s remember how Christ had little reluctance about confronting the errant Jewish authorities of his time and that admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. It’s especially necessary for top leadership to do it—both for the greater effect they can have and to inspire others to do the same in their own little arenas. Recall what St. Thomas Aquinas said about how those who rule set the norms for their people.

Moreover, when we talk about the media and calling it to responsibility, Catholics need to be particularly attentive to what the Church has said about this. In his social encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Pope St. John XXIII set out his famous listing of human rights and stressed that rights always have corresponding duties. So, while there is a right to express and communicate one’s opinions, to freedom of speech and publication—which certainly includes people acting in the context of the formal organs of communication, like the news media—the people on the receiving end have “the right to be informed truthfully about public events” (#12).

Vatican II’s Inter Mirifica (The Decree on the Means of Social Communication) stresses that while the media has rights it also has the duty to uphold the moral law, which certainly includes the obligation to report truthfully so that this right of people, the citizenry, to be truthfully informed is realized. It also asserts that civil authorities have a duty “to ensure … that public morality and social progress are not greatly endangered through misuse of these media” (#11-12). The Church here is not saying that government should or that it’s desirable for it to impose censorship, or even that it’s mostly government that should be the vehicle to promote this grave journalistic responsibility. She just says that government has or may have a role of some kind in this. That, of course, may involve nothing more than “setting the record straight” or challenging the media when it puts out false or biased information.

Recently, Pope Francis scored the media’s reporting of “fake news,” saying it always has bad effects, and emphasized the obligation of journalists to report the truth.
From a Catholic standpoint, then, while Trump’s confronting the media about ideological bias, reporting “fake news,” and the like may not be elegant and may even seem excessive sometimes, it is warranted as a means of prodding then to act rightly and be more responsible. As such, it certainly may help the cause of promoting the common good. While scrutiny and challenges of the media’s errant practices should come from many sources, to be sure, when the highest American public authority is willing to take it on it especially highlights the problems and may have the most effect. Again, as St. Thomas said, rulers or leaders shape the course of things. Further, the way Trump is doing it is entirely in line with American constitutional principles. Contrary to what Senators Flake and McCain may think, the First Amendment is in no way being trodden upon. [Stephen M. Krason: A Catholic Reaction to Trump and the Media]

Comments invited…  

Trump & Jerusalem: A Moral Move, A Politically Smart & Valuable Move…

Comment:

Well, do you agree that in publicly recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the U.S.A. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,  President Donald Trump has made a “moral move, a politically smart move and a politically valuable move” – or is he making things worse in the region?   After listening to the potted history on the video, doesn’t it seem odd that the media seem to be united in criticising Trump for this “moral, smart and valuable move”? Or, is it actually the case that no matter what he does, Trump will be criticised… A case of his not being able to do right for doing wrong?

Priest Sacked For Criticising Bullying And, Apparently, Prideful Pope Francis…

Somebody forgot to say that prayer!


NewsCatholic ChurchWed Nov 1, 2017 – 5:27 pm EST

U.S. bishops ask theologian to resign after letter criticizing Pope

November 1, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A former doctrine chief for the U.S. Bishops was asked to resign as their consultant after telling Pope Francis in a letter his papacy is marked by “chronic confusion,” and that the pope teaches with “a seemingly intentional lack of clarity.”

That lack of clarity “inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” the priest wrote.

Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy said as well the pope’s manner “seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine.”

And he told Francis that believers are scandalized – not just by his appointment of bishops who not only “hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them” – but also by the fact he seems “silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice.”   

As a result, Weinandy told Pope Francis, many among the faithful “are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd.”

Because of the letter, “the USCCB asked him to resign from his current position as consultant to the bishops, and he has submitted his resignation,” Catholic World Report (CWR) revealed.

“In making such a request, the USCCB, it would appear, reinforces Fr. Weinandy’s very point about fearfulness and lack of transparency” in the Church, CWR noted.

Weinandy, a current member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, also criticized Francis, along with some of the pope’s advisors, for calumny against those attempting to interpret Chapter 8 of his controversial exhortation Amoris Laetitia in accord with Church tradition, and also for the pope’s resentment of criticism – and the fear that has created within the episcopate.

He also told Francis his papacy has given “license and confidence” to those with “harmful theological and pastoral views,” inviting them to emerge from their previous cover of darkness.

In recognizing the darkness, Weinandy wrote, “the Church will humbly need to renew itself, and so continue to grow in holiness.”

Father Weinandy’s letter is dated July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the pope’s Jesuit order, CRUX reports, and made public Wednesday.

After receiving a response to the letter in mid-October from Holy See Deputy Secretary of State Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the reply dated September 7 and confirming Weinandy’s letter had made it to Pope Francis, Weinandy provided the text to Crux and other media outlets.

Weinandy was the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Executive Director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices from 2005 to 2013.

He had a hand in the 2011 USCCB review of Fordham theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s book Quest for the Living God, which condemned the book as “undermin[ing] the Gospel” and misrepresenting “authentic Catholic teaching on essential points.”

Pope Francis named Father Weinandy to the International Theological Commission in 2014. The Commission is the primary advisory body for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Francis also awarded Weinandy the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal in recognition of service to the Church in 2013.

Weinandy told CRUX he did not write his letter in any official capacity and that he alone is responsible for it. He did not want the letter associated with the USCCB or the American bishops, saying “its publication will be news to them.”

He was somewhat critical of the filial correction of Pope Francis issued in late September by a group of Catholic clergy and lay scholars.

The correction charges the pope with “the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia and by other words, deeds and omissions.”  Weinandy said he was not invited to sign the letter, had only heard rumors about it, and he wouldn’t have signed it if he’d been asked, stating, “I don’t think it was theologically helpful, or presented in an effective manner.”

Still, after telling the pope his July 31 letter to him was written “with love for the Church and sincere respect for your office,” and recognizing him as the Vicar of Christ, Weinandy first addressed the “chronic confusion” of the Francis pontificate, citing “the disputed Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.”

“The Church turns to you in a spirit of faith, with the hope that you will guide her in love,” Weinandy told the pontiff.

“Yet, Your Holiness, a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate,” he said. “The light of faith, hope, and love is not absent, but too often it is obscured by the ambiguity of your words and actions.”

“I need not share my own concerns about its content,” Father Weinandy said of the exhortation’s eighth chapter. “Others, not only theologians, but also cardinals and bishops, have already done that.

“The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching,” he said. “In Amoris Laetitia, your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching.”

“To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” he wrote. “The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it.”

Weinandy protested Pope Francis’s proclivity for insulting his critics, denouncing this as unbecoming for the pope.

“You seem to censor and even mock those who interpret Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in accord with Church tradition as Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism,” he said. “This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry.”

Weinandy also made note of the fact that Francis’s closest allies also partake in this behavior, and how this suggests that his teaching does withstand examination.

“Some of your advisors regrettably seem to engage in similar actions,” added Weinandy. “Such behavior gives the impression that your views cannot survive theological scrutiny, and so must be sustained by ad hominem arguments.”

Francis’s manner “seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine,” Weinandy said, writing to the pope, “Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life.”

“But it is precisely Christian doctrine,” he said, listing a number of the Church’s central beliefs, “that frees people from worldly ideologies and assures that they are actually preaching and teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel.”

He went on to state, “faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of some bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them.”

“What scandalizes believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice,” he continued. “This weakens the zeal of the many women and men who have championed authentic Catholic teaching over long periods of time, often at the risk of their own reputations and well-being.

“As a result,” Weinandy stated, “many of the faithful, who embody the sensus fidelium, are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd.”

He told the pope his actions and words too often seem intent on weakening the unity of Body of Christ.

The final concern Weinandy addressed was transparency, reminding the pope that he’d frequently encouraged people, in particular bishops at the two Synods on the Family from which Amoris Laetitita generated, to speak their mind without fear of what the pope may think.

“But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent?” Weinandy questioned. “Why is this?”

“Bishops are quick learners,” he stated, “and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it.”

“Many bishops are silent because they desire to be loyal to you,” Weinandy told the pope, “and so they do not express – at least publicly; privately is another matter – the concerns that your pontificate raises. Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse.”

He attributed the current climate of confusion and chaos in the Church ultimately to Christ’s desire to expose the lapse in faith within the Church at all levels.

“Why has Jesus let all of this happen?” Father Weinandy said he often asks. “The only answer that comes to mind is that Jesus wants to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.”

“Ironically,” he told the pope, “your pontificate has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness. In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew herself, and so continue to grow in holiness.  [Emphases added]


The full text of Father Weinandy’s letter to Pope Francis
July 31, 2017
Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Your Holiness,

I write this letter with love for the Church and sincere respect for your office. You are the Vicar of Christ on earth, the shepherd of his flock, the successor to St. Peter and so the rock upon which Christ will build his Church. All Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are to look to you with filial loyalty and obedience grounded in truth. The Church turns to you in a spirit of faith, with the hope that you will guide her in love.
Yet, Your Holiness, a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate. The light of faith, hope, and love is not absent, but too often it is obscured by the ambiguity of your words and actions. This fosters within the faithful a growing unease. It compromises their capacity for love, joy and peace. Allow me to offer a few brief examples.

First there is the disputed Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. I need not share my own concerns about its content. Others, not only theologians, but also cardinals and bishops, have already done that. The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching. In Amoris Laetitia, your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching. As you wisely note, pastors should accompany and encourage persons in irregular marriages; but ambiguity persists about what that “accompaniment” actually means. To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it. Moreover, only where there is truth can there be authentic love, for truth is the light that sets women and men free from the blindness of sin, a darkness that kills the life of the soul. Yet you seem to censor and even mock those who interpret Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in accord with Church tradition as Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism. This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry. Some of your advisors regrettably seem to engage in similar actions. Such behavior gives the impression that your views cannot survive theological scrutiny, and so must be sustained by ad hominum arguments.

Second, too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine. Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life. Your critics have been accused, in your own words, of making doctrine an ideology. But it is precisely Christian doctrine – including the fine distinctions made with regard to central beliefs like the Trinitarian nature of God; the nature and purpose of the Church; the Incarnation; the Redemption; and the sacraments – that frees people from worldly ideologies and assures that they are actually preaching and teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel. Those who devalue the doctrines of the Church separate themselves from Jesus, the author of truth. What they then possess, and can only possess, is an ideology – one that conforms to the world of sin and death.

Third, faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of some bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them. What scandalizes believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice. This weakens the zeal of the many women and men who have championed authentic Catholic teaching over long periods of time, often at the risk of their own reputations and well-being. As a result, many of the faithful, who embody the sensus fidelium, are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd.

Fourth, the Church is one body, the Mystical Body of Christ, and you are commissioned by the Lord himself to promote and strengthen her unity. But your actions and words too often seem intent on doing the opposite. Encouraging a form of “synodality” that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church can only lead to more theological and pastoral confusion. Such synodality is unwise and, in practice, works against collegial unity among bishops.

Holy Father, this brings me to my final concern. You have often spoken about the need for transparency within the Church. You have frequently encouraged, particularly during the two past synods, all persons, especially bishops, to speak their mind and not be fearful of what the pope may think. But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent? Why is this? Bishops are quick learners, and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it. Many bishops are silent because they desire to be loyal to you, and so they do not express – at least publicly; privately is another matter – the concerns that your pontificate raises. Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse.

I have often asked myself: “Why has Jesus let all of this happen?” The only answer that comes to mind is that Jesus wants to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops. Ironically, your pontificate has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness. In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew herself, and so continue to grow in holiness.

Holy Father, I pray for you constantly and will continue to do so. May the Holy Spirit lead you to the light of truth and the life of love so that you can dispel the darkness that now hides the beauty of Jesus’ Church.

Sincerely in Christ,
Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap.

Read above article at source here

Comments invited…

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?