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Death Penalty
Question from Melanie on 8/16/2018:

Dear Judie, I have been reading your responses to the questions on the recent change to the Catechism, and I am a little puzzled. Please read this link: https://zenit.org/articles/pope-francis-decides-to- update-church-catechism-to-assert-church-teaching- against-use-of-death-penalty/

It appears to me that this is not simply a matter of the Pope's personal opinion; the change seems to be an act of the Magisterium, in which case we are obliged to accept and believe it. The link here provides the evidence of how this modification is in keeping with the teaching of the prior papacies, and a logical development of Church teaching. It is not a change in doctrine, but rather a development. This was the case for yesterday's Feast, for example. The Church did not always teach the Assumption, but when it defined it as a dogma, it was in continuity with all the Church had believed before.

Therefore, it seems to me there is really no room for debate on this; this is an exercise of the Ordinary Magisterium, and we can be sure the Holy Spirit prevents error in such a case.

The fact that the Catechism is being updated is the grounds for my reasoning above. The Catechism reflects official Church teaching, not merely papal opinion. I teach RCIA based on the Catechism. So, if the Catechism has been changed, I have to change now what I teach in RCIA. This is why I think this is an act of the Magisterium, and not just the Pope's private opinion. (Also, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published this - which is no small matter and also is the basis for my reasoning that this is an act of the Magisterium).

Further, the wording of the change in the CCC (inadmissible) does not contradict Scripture or Tradition. Inadmissible is not equivalent to intrinsically evil. It means 'not allowable,' and the reason stated is the growing awareness of the dignity of the person. It is an invitation to greater mercy towards a convict, to invite him to redemption rather than categorically writing him off as lost. A case in point is the murderer of St Maria Goretti. Justice would have demanded the death penalty for him; mercy gave him time to convert. Mercy is very much in line with Scripture and Tradition, as is the growing understanding of personal dignity.

If I am in error with any of this, please help me understand where I am in error. I send this not to debate, but because I am responsible for teaching the faith. Classes begin in a month, and I have to have very good reason to encourage my students to ignore and resist a decision that was not lightly made, and which I hesitate to dismiss as political. Perhaps here in the U.S., this is a political issue, but not globally, and Pope Francis, in making such a change, is looking at the global Church, not just the Church in the US.

Thanks and God Bless, Melanie

Answer by Judie Brown on 9/1/2018:

Dear Melanie

I have relied on the views of learned men of the Church who ask what I ask, if a teaching on the death penalty can be changed today, will the church allow women priests tomorrow? What we are dealing with here is junk theology and it does not stand.

The Church has not nor does she now defend the death penalty as intrinsically evil; she does define abortion that way.

Judie Brown

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