The Catholic Church and the Death Penalty

() HareRay Flynn former Boston Mayor and Herald Columnist noted that the present pope came out against the death penalty. He wrote: “Francis called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, noting that “You shall not kill” was absolute and equally valid for the guilty as it is for the innocent.”

Flynn wrote about his interaction with Pope John Paul II when he was ambassador to the Vatican saying: “He was asked for an example of how capital punishment is justified. He responded, “I can’t think of one.” I understood exactly what he meant. All life is sacred. It has absolutely nothing to do about what is politically popular, but what is true.

Ray tells how he had no trouble with this saying: “I’ve always been comfortable in following my own father’s advice when needing to make a tough decision, “Ray, ask yourself, what would Jesus do?”  I guess that means that Jesus would also be against the death penalty.

But Jesus never said anything about the death penalty. Here and here some suggest that it never bothered Him because He allowed the death penalty to be imposed on Himself and spoke without disapproval about others being put to death.

The idea behind the prohibition of death penalty is the same as the idea behind abortion that all life is sacred and therefore all killings are wrong. What has always bothered me is that those who profess this are not consistent in their beliefs for they have no problem with some killings which often involve the killings of the innocent.

The Catholic Church goes back to St. Augustine and comes up with a “just war” theory that allows Catholics to kill others.  This is found in paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which sets out “strict conditions for legitimate defense.” It is fair to say that they have hardly ever been met yet the leaders in the Catholic Church raise nary a concern over it.

Just war theory or not the bottom line is someone is being killed. If life is sacred how is it that is allowed? I know lots of people can come up with reasons but the bottom line is that in some circumstances killing is all right but in others it is not. That hardly goes along with the idea that life is sacred.

Nor do the happenings that occurred during the Inquisition when people were burned at the stake or otherwise executed by the Church. Then there were the Crusades. Pope Urban II at Clermont told the troops:I speak to those who are present, I shall proclaim it to the absent, but it is Christ who commands. Moreover, if those who set out thither lose their lives on the journey, by land or sea, or in fighting against the heathen, their sins shall be remitted in that hour; this I grant through the power of God vested in me.” Not a far cry from what we are told about the extremist Muslims today.

Ben Salmon wrote to President Wilson during WWI: Regardless of nationality, all men are brothers. God is “our Father who art in heaven.” The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is unconditional and inexorable.” He refused to enlist. He was dragooned into the Army, court martialed and sentenced to death which was later changed to 25 years. Salmon a Catholic justified his position based on the Church’s teachings. He found little support among the leaders of the Church since its leaders were fully behind the war. Archbishop James Gibbons one of the leaders of the Church in America said “the war was a test of American Catholic loyalty.” To show their loyalty they would kill others if asked by the government.

In Animal Farm George Orwell noted how eventually the writing on the wall said: “All Animals are Equal, but some Animals are more equal than others.” I have to believe that what the Catholic Church is really saying is: “All Life is Sacred, but some Lives are more sacred than others.” 

13 thoughts on “The Catholic Church and the Death Penalty

  1. The Church is not monolithic. It has both a right-wing, and, a left-wing. In his first week in office, Francis called Father Gustavo Gutierrez in Peru. The reactionary wing of Catholicism is in full retreat. Opus Dei is in disgrace. Tom Monaghan is ignored. St Ignatius is triumphant.

    1. Khalid:

      You sound like a Jesuit. Perhaps you can also give some credit to Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta AKA Francis Xavier.

      1. Francis Xavier was an outstanding apostle, even for the Society of Jesus. He did missionary work throughout Asia, from India to Japan, where, in his last days, the peripatetic prelate converted the island of Kyushu.

        I also admire another Jesuit. His name was Alexander du Rhodes. He was the Jesuit Provincial in Hue during the early years of the seventeenth century. Under his supervision, the Fathers, and, Lay Brothers, phonetically rendered the Vietnamese language, which, previously, had depended on non-phonetic Chinese idio-graphic scrip. Using the French phonetic alphabet, and, a complex system of diacritics, the Jesuits managed to account for the six tones of tieng Viet in written text. Since tone can change the meaning of a word, this was an important development. The hybrid language was so successful it became known as qouc ngu, the “national language,” and, is the written language used in Viet Nam, today.

        In more contemporary times, I met the Berrigan brothers (SJ) in Chicago, during ’69. They were interesting guys. In ’99 I celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Bill Bixell’s (SJ) ordination out in Sheridan, Oregon. Bantam-weight Father Pat Mahoney, the Malakite, was also a remarkable fellow, and, good chum. We’d walk the track together at Rochester. Sometimes, he, and I, would take turns gently pushing old Joe Doves’ wheel chair around the track. Joe wouldn’t sit in the chair. He just used it as kind of a walker. Doves liked to watch the hand-ball competition, and, the action at the bocci courts. On a warm summer day, we’d end up at the picnic tables under the shade trees next to the bocci courts. One of the tables was manned by octogenarians from Chicago while the other was the turf of old guys who hailed from New York, and, Jersey. Funny, what one remembers at times.

  2. Hi Matt,
    I think the pope’s moral viewpoint is consistent. He opposes both abortion and the death penalty. I also think he’s doing a good job. In particular, he is slowly reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, a task that is said to have driven his predecessor to despair. He chose to retire, as we all know.

    Many (ISIS leaps to mind) have killed in the name of God. I think we should keep God out of it. This is the doctrine of individual responsibility. If you’re going to kill somebody, own up to it, don’t blame (or credit) God. Same goes for Satan. Don’t blame the Prince of Darkness. Blame yourself.

  3. As Matt constantly reminds us
    we are only as high as the blogger we read.

    The blogger can only take us to where their
    consciousness exists.

    In other Joe and Nemo factoids
    responding to Matt’s “death penalty”
    trojan horse..,..

    Back in the mid 70’s my landlord in Northamton Mass
    gave me a copy of Jane Roberts’ Seth Speaks.
    I had just landed a job as Director of a Halfway House
    for youthful drug offenders at Hampshire Correctional
    My landlord was a woman who emigrated from Germany
    after WW2. She was born into a Jewish banking family and
    had married a Luftwaffe pilot who was shot down over
    Spain/Guernica and captured during the late 1930’s.

    She repatriated him back to Germany
    for the start of WW2.
    He emigrated to the Dominican Republic
    after the war setting up a Zeiss/Leica import
    company for the western hemisphere.
    He also provided training for the Dictator
    Truijillo ‘s air force.

    As a young woman in Germany
    my landlord had extensive exposure to
    Alice Bailey,Rudolph Steiner, Rilke
    and Madame Blavatsky.
    She shared some of those teachings
    with me.

    Matt would have us believe that
    Jesus Christ would allow himself
    to be nailed to a cross as his choice
    of death.
    Christ being a man who could manifest
    objects,heal with his hands,read minds
    and levitate to name a partial list of his skills
    developed while traveling in India,Egypt
    and Pakistan.

    Here are a couple of reads about who
    the guy was on the crucifix.

    Seth on Jesus – Subtle Energies

    Here is a portion of what Seth had to say about Jesus: -Now: For your edification: Christ, the historical Christ, was not crucified. – You will have to give me time …
    Second Treatise of the Great Seth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The author appears to belong to a group of gnostics who maintain that Jesus Christ was not crucified on the cross. Instead the text says that Simon of Cyrene …
    Article: Jesus Christ Was Not Crucified Says The Gospel of Seth …

    Aug 25, 2006 – The Christian Gnostic (Knowledge) Gospel of Judas was made public recently and Judas was the hero not the betrayer. This was just the tip of the iceberg – The Christian Gnostic Gospels also tell us that Jesus was not crucified. … In the Gospel of Judas, Judas was the hero and most …

    Watch this movie on youtube

    The Crucifixion Ruse — First 22 minutes – YouTube

    Mar 28, 2012 · The Crucifixion Ruse — First 22 minutes … Farsight Planet 2014:

    Was Jesus a illegitimate son?

    google jesus pantheras roman centurion

    Elbows Wychulis says read the book written by former
    Mass prison guard Donald Cabana who became
    warden at Mississippi Prison Parchman farm
    where he executed a innocent man.

    US|Donald Cabana , Warden Who Loathed Death Penalty, Dies at 67

    Oct 13, 2013 – Mr. Cabana, who worked in corrections for more than 25 years, argued that … in it,” Mr. Cabana wrote in his 1998 memoir, “Death at Midnight: The Confession of … While preparing for the execution of Mr. Johnson, Mr. Cabana …

  4. During the Inquisition, a necessary and justified political exercise in the context of the age and it’s ethnic conflicts, the Church did not execute. Those of established guilt were rendered unto the state which disposed of these proven dangers to the good order of society as it deemed fit for state interests.

    Prior to the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 God urged on Christians by enjoining Constantine with the message In Hoc Signo Vinces. With that emblazoned upon their shields the Christian forces prevailed. That message was not an invitation to a tea party. It was an order to kill.

    “Thou shalt not kill” is from the Old Testament. No one reading the that book could come up with the idea that life is sacred – i. e., beyond the uses of man. That book is drenched with gore much of it commanded directly by God. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus tack an addendum on the Sixth Commandment that expands it. The Son is not in rebellion against the Father.

    Opposition to wars and executions can be pious beliefs not rooted in Scripture or Theology. So far, so good. But they also can be heresy. The fool jevvie Pope in Rome today comes close to dividing the Church by broadcasting ideas of personal discretion that can be misinterpreted as Truth. As such he is unfit for the role he has been called to. He is pernicious.

    As to Ray Flynn. He is a good man answering to his own conscience which is rooted in the context of his place and his time. He makes no claim to be a theologian of any great learning or unique inspiration. Ray misleads no one.

    Beyond the Nicene Creed the Church requires little to be believed. It does not address the issues of war or of the death penalty. Those are not sacred matters. They are some of the most profound we all must face. They are of the flesh, man’s earthly nature. They are of time and of place. Their uses are not immutable. Decide your your own course.

  5. An eye for an eye?…where does that come in? Thankfully, I have never had a child murdered at the hands of a beast, excuse me, I mean at the hands of a human being whose life is sacred…hmmm.

    1. Matt,

      Ol’ George also said……
      “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
      Was he talking about the Catholic Church’s Death Penalty stance?
      It applies.

      PS. Trying to resist my urge to bring up the pedophile priests, and the cover-up by the Archdiocese and the Vatican.

      Oh, I forgot……they settled. I guess the church’s hands are clean.

      The Vatican has been corrupt since the days of the Borgias.
      Worse than the Mafia.

      1. As a struggling catholic myself, i really despise the soul snatching of children by evil men in holy cloth. The cover-up is unreal, the shifting of devils in secrecy to ruin other lives with no remorse. I am not able to locate anywhere in the world, even the Vatican, where you can purchase a brand new soul, because the original one you were born with was stolen by a pedophile priest.

      2. Rather:

        I think Christ anticipated all of this — he did not create little gods but little men and women with all their frailties. True, the Church’s handling of the priest scandal is abhorrent –> I will never understand how such a thing could occur. Not so much a priest becoming a pedophile or predator or using his office to gain sexual advantages over others because priests are as frail as the rest of us. The condoning of their actions by those above the priests right up to the Vatican by keeping them in the ministry when they belonged in prison is what ost bothers me. Ray Flynn says he likes to thing “what would Jesus do?” We know that answer.

    2. Lex:

      The eye for an eye is the Old Testament. It is suggested that Jesus came to change that – He did say when someone strikes you in the cheek you should turn it and let him strike you in the other cheek. I agree there are beasts and just like we justify war because it is necessary to defend ourselves from those who attack us – (I’m not talking about our recent wars of choice) – but so I think we are justified in ridding our society of those who are little more than what you call beasts.

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