Sunday, November 10, 2019

Resistance Against the Pachamama Abomination

Pachamama depictions were burned as part of a rite of expiation.


(Rome) The Pachamama scandal, which Pope Francis not only tolerated in the context of the Amazon Synod, but actively supported, continues to draw more attention  - although largely hushed up by the secular media.  Three current examples: the courageous Catholic who disposed of the idols in the Tiber revealed himself;  Cardinal Gerhard Müller rejected the attempts to justify the showing of the Pachamama figures;  In Mexico, Pachamama replicas were publicly burned as part of a rite of expiation.

 An Austrian Pro-Lifer

 The Austrian life protector Alexander  Tschugguel (for all not in the know: pronounced Tschuggúal, in this Tyrolean family name, the ue Diphthong is pronounced ua) was identified as the main organizer of that action, on the 21st of October in Rome, the Pachamama representations  were removed from the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina and disposed of in the Tiber.  Tschugguel also organized the recent march for life in Vienna.  Kath.net conducted an interview with him, which had explained  "that it is something that clearly contradicts Catholic doctrine."  When he saw the rituals in the Vatican Gardens, he had the idea of ​​putting an end to the spectacle and making a journey to Rome.  For disposal in the Tiber the young activist said:

 "I wanted to make sure that these idols are no longer used in church and for church purposes.  So, symbolically, it seemed best to throw them into the Tiber.”


The Pro-Lifer Alexander Tschugguel

Pope Francis had not only tolerated the showing of the pagan goddess Pachamama, but supported it in the Vatican Gardens by his presence, and by his explicit presence in St. Peter's, and finally, just before the end of the synod, by his declaration to the synods.  He told the synod fathers of  the rescue of the figures  by the Carabinieri and apologized to "all" who felt insulted by the action.  The pope did not apologize for the erection of a pagan idol in St. Peter's Basilica and in the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina and for bishops bringing the statue into the Synod's Hall in procession.  There was no question of asking God for forgiveness anyway..

 Tschugguel rejects the criticism of his action.  She had addressed neither the Amazon Indians nor against the Pope:

 "It was all about making this visible violation of the first commandment impossible.  It is also successful!  At the closing ceremony of the Synod the statues were not there. "

 Only now does he confess to the action, because otherwise during the synod everything would have been focused on the persons involved and not on the signal and the message of the action.


 Pope Francis with Pachamama in the Vatican Gardens

 "We plan to stand up for these beliefs in the future, but we do not see it as our task to do activism.
Nevertheless, we wanted to give the action a face, because we do not want to hide.  It is important that people again understand the teaching of Christ our Lord.  Then they can face the problems of the world in a sovereign way.  When the Church changes the teaching in favor of the zeitgeist, the faithful lose their hold. "

 A German cardinal

 Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who criticized early on the passing of the pagan idol repeated his criticism in a sermon in Denver in the State of Colorado (USA).  There he attended a priestly meeting last week, where Cardinal Raymond Burke was also present.  The priest Brian Harrison wrote a memoir of the sermon published by LifeSiteNews.

 The former faith prefect of the Church found clear words on the recent events in Rome.  The first criticism was the Vatican's lukewarm reaction to the latest column by Eugenio Scalfari in the daily La Repubblica.  In it the Masonry atheist claimed that Pope Francis had confirmed to him that although Jesus had been a "great man", he had not been the Son of God.  The Vatican had denied it, but that happened in a weak way.  Cardinal Muller recalled the words of the Apostle Peter, the first Pope, who
said to Jesus:



 "You are Christ, the Son of the living God."


 Cardinal Müller had harsh words against the Pachamama spectacle

 Accordingly, a clearer reaction from the Vatican would have been needed to dispel any doubt.  It would have been necessary to repeat the confession of Peter, and not from the mouth of a media spokesman, but from the mouth of the successor of Peter himself.

Cardinal Müller found clear words against the Pachamama spectacle

The Cardinal also condemned the cult-like Pachamama rituals  that had "nothing to do with a true inculturation" with sharp words.   Rather, what happened in Rome was a return to pagan myths rather than a cleansing of Indio culture in the light of the message of Christ.  As Christianity slowly spread in Roman and Greek culture, according to Cardinal Müller, it was endeavoring "not to preserve or revive the worship of pagan deities of the ancient pantheon".  Nor did it try to mix it with the Catholic cult in any way.  Referring to the Encyclical Fides et Ratio of Pope John Paul II, the Cardinal said that Christianity had adopted the best elements of civilization, but only for the one purpose of better explaining and promoting the revelation of God in Christ.

 A Mexican canon

 In Mexico City, Pachamama images were burnt last Sunday in front of a central church in the presence of the rector Hugo Valdemar and an exorcism was prayed.  By offering atonement, God was asked to forgive for the sacrileges that were "committed in Rome" in the previous weeks, as stated in the report of a believer present which was published by InfoVaticana.

 A month ago, hardly anyone knew the idol Pachamama outside of some Indio groups and neo-Norse circles.  Through the organizers of the Catholic Amazon Synod, it became known worldwide.  Hugo Valdemar is a canon at the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mexico City.  He and the faithful gathered for the expiation thought that the Pachamama figures in the Vatican Gardens could make their first appearance in the presence of Pope Francis on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  The idols in Rome triggered a polemic, not least among Protestant free churches, who accuse Catholics of "idolatry" whose end is not yet foreseeable.


 Canon Hugo Valdemar

Not a few Catholics were irritated and annoyed by the attempt of synod organizers and the Vatican media to deny or disguise the pagan presence and idolatrous background of Pachamama activism.  In Latin America, you know exactly what you are talking about, because every day the Church is fighting against forms of idolatry and superstition.


 Pachamama Burn in Mexico City

 Canon Valdemar was 15 years under Cardinal Norberto Rivera spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City.  He is one of the most famous priests in Mexico.  Above all, he is an excellent connoisseur of the pre-Christian, pagan religions of Central America and knows about the great
efforts of the missionaries, especially the Franciscans, to eliminate idolatry without any ifs or buts.

 Last Sunday, the canon referred to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It is "like a great exorcism, which protects America from idolatry and prepares the way to meet Her Son Jesus Christ.” Many believers have called out to Heaven in recent days because of the confusion publicly and privately.

It is "unbearable" what happened with these "crazy things" in the month of October in Rome and was also experienced remotely by Catholics in America and Mexico, the report says:

 "We have the impression that we are experiencing a kind of collective obsession that drives people crazy and darkens their consciousness."

 The expiration through the burning of the pachamama figures was for the actions that took place during the Amazon Synod in Rome, but also for the Pachamama prayer of the Italian Episcopal Conference and the Pachamama songs in the Cathedral of Lima.  As for Mexico City, Pope Francis also installed a new archbishop in Lima to initiate a change of course for the local church.

 In Mexico City, three depictions of Pachamama were burned.  Canon Valdemar expressed the hope that the atonement and action might be a model for others.  God does not tolerate frivolous dealings with His things, let alone as regards idolatry that violates the First Commandment.

 Text: Giuseppe Nardi
 Image: InfoVaticana / Nuova Bussola Quotidiana / Youtube (Screenshots)

Trans: Tancred vekron99@hotmail.com
AMDG

 [1] Thanks to my colleague Martha Burger for the hint.

Cardinal Schönborn Hands in His Resignation

Cardinal reported at a press conference on personal conversation with Pope Francis on the sidelines of the Amazon Synod.

Edit: don’t expect this evil prelate to leave any time soon. He’s been bulletproof over undeniable evidence he’s covered up for sexual abuse. It’s our suggestion that prelates with sufficient leftist credentials are protected and can even be rehabilitated, unless their offenses are so egregious they can’t be covered up, as is the case with Ex-Cardinal McCarrick.

 Vienna (kath.net/KAP) Christoph Cardinal Schönborn personally handed Pope Francis his resignation during the Amazon Synod in Rome in October.  He emphasized this on Friday at a press conference in Vienna at the end of the autumn plenary assembly of the Bishops' Conference.  According to church law, diocesan bishops must offer their resignation to the pope at the age of 75.  In the case of Schönborn, this would be January 22, 2020. But he did not just want to write a letter, but also use the opportunity at the Synod to personally address this to Pope Francis.  Of course: "The decision is now made by the Pope."  And he thinks that's good too, "that the pope has the last word".

Schönborn confirmed media reports that there are three options.  The pope could immediately accept the resignation, or extend the term of office of the Viennese archbishop for some time, for example, two years, or: Pope Francis accepts the resignation "nunc pro tunc" (= "now for later"), extended at the same time but the term of office for a certain period.  Whenever this resignation will come, relatively soon, or in about two years, "it will come" and it is "an open game".  Naturally, the whole thing was also a "very emotional act" for him, said Schönborn, who has been bishop for 28 years.

 Also in his Freitag-Kolumen in the free newspaper "Heute" Schönborn thematized his near 75th birthday.  "My 75th is approaching, so as is the rule in the Church, I offer my resignation to the Pope, and it is up to him to decide when to retire."  Whenever that will be, he is grateful for both the service and the retirement, for "every year of aging is a gift".  Almost 50 years ago, in 1970, he became a priest.  "To have time for God and the people, that is the meaning of life for me, even after the seventies," said the cardinal.

 Trans: Tancred vekron99@hotmail.com
AMDG

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Imam Wonders Why Pope Doesn’t Preach Christ

Edit: found this from @The_Moccasin_ on Twitter. An Imam is shocked the Pope is telling people they shouldn’t preach Christianity.  Isn’t that his job?



Thanks to Dirk, this from Lifesite.  Bergoglio thinks Catholics who oppose his Synod are “racist”.

In the interview, the pope said, “There are circles and sectors that present themselves as ilustrados[enlightened] — they sequester the proclamation of the gospel through a distorted reasoning that divides the world between ‘civilization’ and ‘barbarism.'”
Pope Francis said, “The idea that the Lord has among his favorites many dark-complexioned people irritates them, it puts them in a bad mood. 
They consider a large part of the human family as a lower-class entity, incapable, according to their standards, of achieving decent levels in spiritual and intellectual life. On this basis, contempt can develop for people considered to be second-rate,” he said, adding that “all this also emerged during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.”

AMDG

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Alphabet Media Covering for Powerful Pedophilia Rings

Edit: maybe there are readers who remember the pedophile ring that was making use of a girls’s orphanage involving some 500 victims. Nothing ever became of it that we know, because Red Judges in the Austrian courts quashed it of course, and if the US media is too afraid to cover things which don’t involve Catholic priests, the Austrian media was almost absolutely silent, except for Keri’s.net and Andreas Unterberger.

Now, powerful pedophiles in the world’s elite are being protected by the media. Remember the self-righteousness of Boston Globe when they picked up a ten year old story they recycled from the New York Times? If it’s not about the Catholic Church, it’s not flying. They were even reluctant to report on one of their own, McCarrick, but that’s another story.

Where’s the Pope on this story? He’s worshipping Amazonian idols and progressive gods who mean to destroy the Catholic Faith, it seems.

Shelby Talcott, DCNF. DCNF NBC, ABC and CBS News have all now appeared to run cover for some of the world’s most powerful rape rings, allegedly killing stories and firing employees who tried to expose the outlets.

As three of America’s biggest networks, these outlets have each become embroiled in controversy in 2019 following multiple separate reports that they have played a part in covering up some of the world’s most powerful rape and pedophile rings. 

 The allegations range from killing entire stories outing disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, shutting down an interview detailing accusations against alleged child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and firing an employee who might have tried to hold an outlet responsible.

AMDG

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Thieves Ram Car Into Oloron Cathedral on Famous Camino Pilgrimage Route

Edit: even as the Bologna School villains are throwing your cultural heritage in the trash, .or fleecing it in various scams, some people value it.

By Brigit Katz SMITHSONIAN.COM NOVEMBER 5, 2019 The ancient town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie is nestled in the southwest corner of France, just north of Spain. One of the town’s prized landmarks is its 12th-century cathedral, which was once a key stopping point for pilgrims traveling to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela. (St. James the Greater, son of the biblical Salome, is believed to be buried at the religious site.)

 Around 2 a.m. Monday morning, Oloron-Sainte-Marie’s famed cathedral became the target of a brazen heist. As Naomi Rea reports for artnet News, three suspects battered their way through the cathedral’s old wooden door using a tree trunk strapped to the front of a car. Local residents awakened by the noise alerted the police, but authorities did not arrive in time to stop the thieves from making off with a horde of historic treasures.

According to Agence France-Pressestolen relics include gold chalices, crosses and ceremonial items, an 18th-century nativity scene, and priestly garments—including a 16th-century cape donated by King Francis I.

AMDG

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Polish Archbishop Declares Aberrosexual Activism is the New Communism


.- The Archbishop of Krakow has compared the LGBT rights movement in Poland to communism. Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski made the comparison in a pastoral letter to the archdiocese released on Sept. 28, as he announced a new initiative to encourage people to pray for Poland. 

In the letter, Jędraszewski said that the LGBT rights movement is “the next great threat to our freedom,” and “of a totalitarian nature.” He said that the movement, like that of communism, stems from a “radical rejection of God.”

“As a consequence of this rejection, a new vision of man is being proclaimed in which he becomes a caricature of himself,” said the archbishop. 

AMDG

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Pope in the catacombs today

Pope to celebrate Mass in Roman catacombs on All Souls Day


Pope Francis is set to visit the Catacombs of Priscilla, in Rome, on Saturday, to mark the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed with the celebration of Holy Mass.


By Devin Watkins
Large numbers of early Christian martyrs were buried in the Catacombs of Priscilla, which was known as the regina catacumbarum – the “queen of the catacombs”.
At the Angelus on Friday, Pope Francis announced plans to celebrate Mass in this ancient Roman cemetery on Saturday, the feast of All Souls.
“In these days in which there unfortunately circulate negative cultural messages regarding death and the dead, I invite you not to neglect, if possible, a visit and a prayer in a cemetery.”
He called it “an act of faith.”

The Catacombs of Priscilla

The Catacomb of Priscilla, sits on the Via Salaria, with its entrance in the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla. It is mentioned in all of the most ancient documents on Christian topography and liturgy in Rome; because of the great number of martyrs buried within it, it was called “regina catacumbarum” – “the queen of the catacombs.”
Originally dug out from the second to fifth centuries, it began as a series of underground burial chambers, of which the most important are the “arenarium” or sand-quarry; the cryptoporticus, (an underground area to get away from the summer heat), and the hypogeum with the tombs of the Acilius Glabrio family. The noblewoman Priscilla, who granted the Church use of the property, was a member of this family; her commemoration is noted on January 16th in the Roman Martyrology, which speaks of her as a benefactor of the Christian community in Rome. This cemetery was lost like all the others after the entrances were blocked to protect it from thievery; however, it was also one of the first to be rediscovered, in the sixteenth-century. A large portion of the funerary inscriptions, sarcophagi, stones and bodies (presumed to be those of martyrs) were subsequently taken away; nevertheless, the catacomb does preserve some particularly beautiful and important paintings, the most significant of which are included on the regular visit.

The Galleries of the Cemetery

Dug into the tuff, a soft volcanic rock used to make bricks and lime, the galleries have a total length of about thirteen kilometres, at various depths. The first level, which is the most ancient, winds along in a series of galleries; the walls are full of “loculi”, the most common kind of tomb. The bodies were laid within them, directly on the dirt, wrapped in a shroud, sprinkled with lime to restrain the normal process of decay, and closed in with pieces of marble, or tiles. Inscriptions were written in Greek or Latin on the tombs, or small objects placed near them to help identify graves with no inscription. Only on this level, where the martyrs were buried, do we find the small rooms known as “cubicula” (“bed chambers”), which were the tombs of wealthier families or of the martyrs themselves. Likewise, we find here the “arcosolia”, another type of tomb for the upper classes, often decorated with paintings of religious subjects. Most of the stories depicted are Biblical, from both the Old and New Testaments, an expression of faith in the salvation and final resurrection obtained for us by Jesus Christ. The stone inscriptions on the tombs are often marked with symbols whose meaning was known to the Christians, but not to the pagans. The best known of these is the fish, the Greek word for which, ICHTHYS, was read as an acronym for the corresponding Greek words that mean “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.”

The Cubiculum of the Veiled Woman

This room is named for the picture in the semi-circle on the back wall, in which a young woman, wearing a rich purple garment and a veil on her head, lifts up her arms in prayer. On either side of her are two scenes unlike any others among all of the paintings in the various catacombs, probably episodes of her life. In the middle, the Good Shepherd is painted in the Garden of Paradise, amid peacocks and doves. Before this scene, in the arch above the door, the prophet Jonah is shown emerging from the mouth of a sea-monster, a clear expression of faith in the Resurrection. The semi-circle on the left depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac, while on the right are shown the Three Children in the fiery furnace in Babylon; both of these episodes are expressions of faith in God’s salvation, understood by the first Christians as prophecies of the salvation brought by the coming of Christ. These pictures, which are in a remarkably good state of preservation, date back to the second half of the third century.

The Greek Chapel

When this area was found, it was full of dirt that had come down through the light shaft in the ceiling; it is named for the two Greek inscriptions, painted in the right niche, which were the first things seen by its discoverers.
Richly decorated with paintings and stuccos in the Pompeian style, it is formed of three niches for sarcophagi and a long seat for funeral banquets, called “refrigeria” or “agapae”, which were held at the tombs in honor of the dead. The painting in the central arch at the back, on a red background, shows just such a banquet, but with a clear reference to the banquet of the Holy Eucharist, which also was sometimes celebrated by the Christians near venerated tombs. Seven persons are seated at the table, the first of which is breaking the bread as he stretches out his hands; at the sides of the table are seven baskets, a reference to the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, when Jesus also promised the bread of eternal life.
Several episodes of the Old Testament are also shown: Noah on the ark; Moses making water run from the rock, a prophecy of the saving waters of baptism; the sacrifice of Isaac; and three stories of miraculous deliverance from the book of Daniel (Daniel among the lions; the three children in the furnace; Susanna accused of adultery by the elderly judges in Babylon, and saved by Daniel). Episodes of the New Testament are also depicted, such as the resurrection of Lazarus, and the healing of a paralytic; the former demonstrates Christ’s power over death, the latter His power over sin. The adoration of the Magi is also represented, a very common image in the Christian cemeteries of ancient Rome, symbolizing the universality of salvation, since the Three Kings were the first pagans to adore Christ.     

The Niche with the oldest image in existence of the Virgin Mary           

The image of the Good Shepherd in stucco, (much of which has unfortunately fallen off,) is found on the upper part of a niche which was later expanded into a gallery, most likely because of the presence of a venerated tomb. He is standing among some trees which are stucco on the bottom, but fresco on the top, where we see leaves and red fruits painted in vivid color. On either side of the trees there were two more images, but the one on the left has completely fallen away. On the right is preserved an image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus on her knee; a prophet stands next to her, holding a scroll in his left hand, and pointing to a star with his right. This seems to refer to the prophecy of Balaam, “A star shall rise out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel” (Numbers 24, 15-17). The presence of the prophet indicates that the Child is the Messiah awaited for many ages.

The Benedictines

Taking the name of Priscilla from the place where it began, the congregation was founded by a devout priest from Bologna, Giulio Belvederi, who was also an archeologist. He was brought to Rome by Pope Pius XI to build not only the new seat of the Pontifical Institute for Christian Archaeology, but also the houses over the entrances to catacombs, which were then being opened up to the general public. This project was undertaken to bring modern Christians closer to these important witnesses to the early faith, and inspire in them a renewal of both love and hope.
To his spiritual daughters, Monsignor Belvederi gave as their community rule that of St. Benedict, which he regarded for its simplicity as the rule closest to the spirit of the Gospel and the way of life of the Apostles. The motto of the Benedictine Order, “Pray and work”, describes the joyful life of a true religious community, a life focused on the praise of God in the celebration of the Mass and Divine Office, and work done in a spirit of humility in the service of the Church.              
The Benedictines arrange for groups to visit the Catacombs, taking care to explain its history and archaeology, but above all its religious value, as a holy place sanctified by the heroic witness of the early Christians, and at times by the shedding of their blood. Their faith is expressed here in these simple pictures, whose value lies not so much in their artistic qualities, as in the beliefs expressed and taught by them.

The Universal Salvific Will, and EENS

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS FRANCIS FOR WORLD MISSION DAY 2019 

 Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the month of October 2019, I have asked that the whole Church revive her missionary awareness and commitment as we commemorate the centenary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV (30 November, 1919). Its farsighted and prophetic vision of the apostolate has made me realize once again the importance of renewing the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.

The title of the present Message is the same as that of October’s Missionary Month: Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World. Celebrating this month will help us first to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ, a faith graciously bestowed on us in baptism. Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church. Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practise proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 1 Tim 2:4; Lumen Gentium, 48).

The Church is on mission in the world. Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God’s own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of the divine life that we share. Charity, of which we have a foretaste in the sacraments and in fraternal love, impels us to go forth to the ends of the earth (cf. Mic 5:4; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:18). A Church that presses forward to the farthest frontiers requires a constant and ongoing missionary conversion. How many saints, how many men and women of faith, witness to the fact that this unlimited openness, this going forth in mercy, is indeed possible and realistic, for it is driven by love and its deepest meaning as gift, sacrifice and gratuitousness (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-21)! The man who preaches God must be a man of God (cf. Maximum Illud).

This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love. Even if parents can betray their love by lies, hatred and infidelity, God never takes back his gift of life. From eternity he has destined each of his children to share in his divine and eternal life (cf. Eph 1:3-6).

This life is bestowed on us in baptism, which grants us the gift of rebirth in God’s own image and likeness, and makes us members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. In this sense, baptism is truly necessary for salvation for it ensures that we are always and everywhere sons and daughters in the house of the Father, and never orphans, strangers or slaves. What in the Christian is a sacramental reality – whose fulfillment is found in the Eucharist – remains the vocation and destiny of every man and woman in search of conversion and salvation. For baptism fulfils the promise of the gift of God that makes everyone a son or daughter in the Son. We are children of our natural parents, but in baptism we receive the origin of all fatherhood and true motherhood: no one can have God for a Father who does not have the Church for a mother (cf. Saint Cyprian, De Cath. Eccl., 6).

Our mission, then, is rooted in the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the Church. The mandate given by the Risen Jesus at Easter is inherent in Baptism: as the Father has sent me, so I send you, filled with the Holy Spirit, for the reconciliation of the world (cf. Jn 20:19-23; Mt 28:16-20). This mission is part of our identity as Christians; it makes us responsible for enabling all men and women to realize their vocation to be adoptive children of the Father, to recognize their personal dignity and to appreciate the intrinsic worth of every human life, from conception until natural death. Today’s rampant secularism, when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human fraternity, which finds expression in reciprocal respect for the life of each person. Without the God of Jesus Christ, every difference is reduced to a baneful threat, making impossible any real fraternal acceptance and fruitful unity within the human race.

The universality of the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ led Benedict XV to call for an end to all forms of nationalism and ethnocentrism, or the merging of the preaching of the Gospel with the economic and military interests of the colonial powers. In his Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, the Pope noted that the Church’s universal mission requires setting aside exclusivist ideas of membership in one’s own country and ethnic group. The opening of the culture and the community to the salvific newness of Jesus Christ requires leaving behind every kind of undue ethnic and ecclesial introversion. Today too, the Church needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the sacraments of Jesus Christ and his holy Church. By proclaiming God’s word, bearing witness to the Gospel and celebrating the life of the Spirit, they summon to conversion, baptize and offer Christian salvation, with respect for the freedom of each person and in dialogue with the cultures and religions of the peoples to whom they are sent. The missio ad gentes, which is always necessary for the Church, thus contributes in a fundamental way to the process of ongoing conversion in all Christians. Faith in the Easter event of Jesus; the ecclesial mission received in baptism; the geographic and cultural detachment from oneself and one’s own home; the need for salvation from sin and liberation from personal and social evil: all these demand the mission that reaches to the very ends of the earth. The providential coincidence of this centenary year with the celebration of the Special Synod on the Churches in the Amazon allows me to emphaze how the mission entrusted to us by Jesus with the gift of his Spirit is also timely and necessary for those lands and their peoples. A renewed Pentecost opens wide the doors of the Church, in order that no culture remain closed in on itself and no people cut off from the universal communion of the faith. No one ought to remain closed in self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and religious affiliation. The Easter event of Jesus breaks through the narrow limits of worlds, religions and cultures, calling them to grow in Here I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of the meeting of Latin American Bishops at Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007. I would like to repeat these words and make them my own: “Yet what did the acceptance of the Christian faith mean for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean? For them, it meant knowing and welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realizing it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing. It also meant that they received, in the waters of Baptism, the divine life that made them children of God by adoption; moreover, they received the Holy Spirit who came to make their cultures fruitful, purifying them and developing the numerous seeds that the incarnate Word had planted in them, thereby guiding them along the paths of the Gospel… The Word of God, in becoming flesh in Jesus Christ, also became history and culture. The utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbian religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church, would not be a step forward: indeed, it would be a step back. In reality, it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past” (Address at the Inaugural Session, 13 May 2007: Insegnamenti III, 1 [2007], 855-856).

We entrust the Church’s mission to Mary our Mother. In union with her Son, from the moment of the Incarnation the Blessed Virgin set out on her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross: the mission of cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith.

I would like to conclude with a brief word about the Pontifical Mission Societies, already proposed in Maximum Illud as a missionary resource.

The Pontifical Mission Societies serve the Church’s universality as a global network of support for the Pope in his missionary commitment by prayer, the soul of mission, and charitable offerings from Christians < throughout the world. Their donations assist the Pope in the evangelization efforts of particular Churches (the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith), in the formation of local clergy (the Pontifical Society of Saint Peter the Apostle), in raising missionary awareness in children (Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood) and in encouraging the missionary dimension of Christian faith (Pontifical Missionary Union). In renewing my support for these Societies, I trust that the extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019 will contribute to the renewal of their missionary service to my ministry.

To men and women missionaries, and to all those who, by virtue of their baptism, share in any way in the mission of the Church, I send my heartfelt blessing. From the Vatican, 9 June 2019, Solemnity of Pentecost

FRANCIS

Catholicism and Capital Punishment

Catholicism and Capital Punishment

  • AVERY CARDINAL DULLES

After providing a survey of the complex question of capital punishment Cardinal Dulles writes that: "The Pope and the bishops, using their prudential judgment, have concluded that in contemporary society, at least in countries like our own, the death penalty ought not to be invoked, because, on balance, it does more harm than good."
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dulles Among the major nations of the Western world, the United States is singular in still having the death penalty. After a five-year moratorium, from 1972 to 1977, capital punishment was reinstated in the United States courts. Objections to the practice have come from many quarters, including the American Catholic bishops, who have rather consistently opposed the death penalty. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1980 published a predominantly negative statement on capital punishment, approved by a majority vote of those present though not by the required two-thirds majority of the entire conference.{1} Pope John Paul II has at various times expressed his opposition to the practice, as have other Catholic leaders in Europe.
Some Catholics, going beyond the bishops and the Pope, maintain that the death penalty, like abortion and euthanasia, is a violation of the right to life and an unauthorized usurpation by human beings of God's sole lordship over life and death. Did not the Declaration of Independence, they ask, describe the right to life as "unalienable"?
While sociological and legal questions inevitably impinge upon any such reflection, I am here addressing the subject as a theologian. At this level the question has to be answered primarily in terms of revelation, as it comes to us through Scripture and tradition, interpreted with the guidance of the ecclesiastical magisterium.
In the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution by stoning, burning, decapitation, or strangulation. Included in the list are idolatry, magic, blasphemy, violation of the sabbath, murder, adultery, bestiality, pederasty, and incest. The death penalty was considered especially fitting as a punishment for murder since in his covenant with Noah God had laid down the principle, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image" (Genesis 9:6). In many cases God is portrayed as deservedly punishing culprits with death, as happened to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16). In other cases individuals such as Daniel and Mordecai are God's agents in bringing a just death upon guilty persons.
In the New Testament the right of the State to put criminals to death seems to be taken for granted. Jesus himself refrains from using violence. He rebukes his disciples for wishing to call down fire from heaven to punish the Samaritans for their lack of hospitality (Luke 9:55). Later he admonishes Peter to put his sword in the scabbard rather than resist arrest (Matthew 26:52). At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment. In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, "He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die" (Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10, referring to Exodus 2l:17; cf. Leviticus 20:9). When Pilate calls attention to his authority to crucify him, Jesus points out that Pilate's power comes to him from above that is to say, from God (John 19:11). Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds (Luke 23:41).
The early Christians evidently had nothing against the death penalty. They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action (Acts 5:1-11). The Letter to the Hebrews makes an argument from the fact that "a man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses" (10:28). Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans, with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority "does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty.
Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners. To answer the objection that the first commandment forbids killing, St. Augustine writes in The City of God:
The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" to wage war at God's bidding, or for the representatives of the State's authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.
In the Middle Ages a number of canonists teach that ecclesiastical courts should refrain from the death penalty and that civil courts should impose it only for major crimes. But leading canonists and theologians assert the right of civil courts to pronounce the death penalty for very grave offenses such as murder and treason. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus invoke the authority of Scripture and patristic tradition, and give arguments from reason.
Giving magisterial authority to the death penalty, Pope Innocent III required disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church to accept the proposition: "The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation." In the high Middle Ages and early modern times the Holy See authorized the Inquisition to turn over heretics to the secular arm for execution. In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses. The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment.
In modern times Doctors of the Church such as Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori held that certain criminals should be punished by death. Venerable authorities such as Francisco de Vitoria, Thomas More, and Francisco Suárez agreed. John Henry Newman, in a letter to a friend, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century the consensus of Catholic theologians in favor of capital punishment in extreme cases remained solid, as may be seen from approved textbooks and encyclopedia articles of the day. The Vatican City State from 1929 until 1969 had a penal code that included the death penalty for anyone who might attempt to assassinate the pope. Pope Pius XII, in an important allocution to medical experts, declared that it was reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life in expiation of their crimes.
Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death.
Yet, as we have seen, a rising chorus of voices in the Catholic community has raised objections to capital punishment. Some take the absolutist position that because the right to life is sacred and inviolable, the death penalty is always wrong. The respected Italian Franciscan Gino Concetti, writing in L'Osservatore Romano in 1977, made the following powerful statement:
In light of the word of God, and thus of faith, life all human life is sacred and untouchable. No matter how heinous the crimes . . . [the criminal] does not lose his fundamental right to life, for it is primordial, inviolable, and inalienable, and thus comes under the power of no one whatsoever.
If this right and its attributes are so ab solute, it is because of the image which, at creation, God impressed on human nature itself. No force, no violence, no passion can erase or destroy it. By virtue of this divine image, man is a person endowed with dignity and rights.
To warrant this radical revision one might almost say reversal of the Catholic tradition, Father Concetti and others explain that the Church from biblical times until our own day has failed to perceive the true significance of the image of God in man, which implies that even the terrestrial life of each individual person is sacred and inviolable. In past centuries, it is alleged, Jews and Christians failed to think through the consequences of this revealed doctrine. They were caught up in a barbaric culture of violence and in an absolutist theory of political power, both handed down from the ancient world. But in our day, a new recognition of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human person has dawned. Those who recognize the signs of the times will move beyond the outmoded doctrines that the State has a divinely delegated power to kill and that criminals forfeit their fundamental human rights. The teaching on capital punishment must today undergo a dramatic development corresponding to these new insights.
This abolitionist position has a tempting simplicity. But it is not really new. It has been held by sectarian Christians at least since the Middle Ages. Many pacifist groups, such as the Waldensians, the Quakers, the Hutterites, and the Mennonites, have shared this point of view. But, like pacifism itself, this absolutist interpretation of the right to life found no echo at the time among Catholic theologians, who accepted the death penalty as consonant with Scripture, tradition, and the natural law.
The mounting opposition to the death penalty in Europe since the Enlightenment has gone hand in hand with a decline of faith in eternal life. In the nineteenth century the most consistent supporters of capital punishment were the Christian churches, and its most consistent opponents were groups hostile to the churches. When death came to be understood as the ultimate evil rather than as a stage on the way to eternal life, utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham found it easy to dismiss capital punishment as "useless annihilation."
Many governments in Europe and elsewhere have eliminated the death penalty in the twentieth century, often against the protests of religious believers. While this change may be viewed as moral progress, it is probably due, in part, to the evaporation of the sense of sin, guilt, and retributive justice, all of which are essential to biblical religion and Catholic faith. The abolition of the death penalty in formerly Christian countries may owe more to secular humanism than to deeper penetration into the gospel.
Arguments from the progress of ethical consciousness have been used to promote a number of alleged human rights that the Catholic Church consistently rejects in the name of Scripture and tradition. The magisterium appeals to these authorities as grounds for repudiating divorce, abortion, homosexual relations, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. If the Church feels herself bound by Scripture and tradition in these other areas, it seems inconsistent for Catholics to proclaim a "moral revolution" on the issue of capital punishment.
The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority statement on capital punishment, conceded that "Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the State has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime." Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, in his famous speech on the "Consistent Ethic of Life" at Fordham in 1983, stated his concurrence with the "classical position" that the State has the right to inflict capital punishment.
Although Cardinal Bernardin advocated what he called a "consistent ethic of life," he made it clear that capital punishment should not be equated with the crimes of abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. Pope John Paul II spoke for the whole Catholic tradition when he proclaimed in Evangelium Vitae (1995) that "the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral." But he wisely included in that statement the word "innocent." He has never said that every criminal has a right to live nor has he denied that the State has the right in some cases to execute the guilty.
Catholic authorities justify the right of the State to inflict capital punishment on the ground that the State does not act on its own authority but as the agent of God, who is supreme lord of life and death. In so holding they can properly appeal to Scripture. Paul holds that the ruler is God's minister in executing God's wrath against the evildoer (Romans 13:4). Peter admonishes Christians to be subject to emperors and governors, who have been sent by God to punish those who do wrong (1 Peter 2:13). Jesus, as already noted, apparently recognized that Pilate's authority over his life came from God (John 19:11).
Pius XII, in a further clarification of the standard argument, holds that when the State, acting by its ministerial power, uses the death penalty, it does not exercise dominion over human life but only recognizes that the criminal, by a kind of moral suicide, has deprived himself of the right to life. In the Pope's words,
Even when there is question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual's right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already dispossessed himself of his right to life.
In light of all this it seems safe to conclude that the death penalty is not in itself a violation of the right to life. The real issue for Catholics is to determine the circumstances under which that penalty ought to be applied. It is appropriate, I contend, when it is necessary to achieve the purposes of punishment and when it does not have disproportionate evil effects. I say "necessary" because I am of the opinion that killing should be avoided if the purposes of punishment can be obtained by bloodless means.
The purposes of criminal punishment are rather unanimously delineated in the Catholic tradition. Punishment is held to have a variety of ends that may conveniently be reduced to the following four: rehabilitation, defense against the criminal, deterrence, and retribution.
Granted that punishment has these four aims, we may now inquire whether the death penalty is the apt or necessary means to attain them.

Rehabilitation

Capital punishment does not reintegrate the criminal into society; rather, it cuts off any possible rehabilitation. The sentence of death, however, can and sometimes does move the condemned person to repentance and conversion. There is a large body of Christian literature on the value of prayers and pastoral ministry for convicts on death row or on the scaffold. In cases where the criminal seems incapable of being reintegrated into human society, the death penalty may be a way of achieving the criminal's reconciliation with God.

Defense against the criminal

Capital punishment is obviously an effective way of preventing the wrongdoer from committing future crimes and protecting society from him. Whether execution is necessary is another question. One could no doubt imagine an extreme case in which the very fact that a criminal is alive constituted a threat that he might be released or escape and do further harm. But, as John Paul II remarks in Evangelium Vitae, modern improvements in the penal system have made it extremely rare for execution to be the only effective means of defending society against the criminal.

Detterence

Executions, especially where they are painful, humiliating, and public, may create a sense of horror that would prevent others from being tempted to commit similar crimes. But the Fathers of the Church censured spectacles of violence such as those conducted at the Roman Colosseum. Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World explicitly disapproved of mutilation and torture as offensive to human dignity. In our day death is usually administered in private by relatively painless means, such as injections of drugs, and to that extent it may be less effective as a deterrent. Sociological evidence on the deterrent effect of the death penalty as currently practiced is ambiguous, conflicting, and far from probative.

Retribution

In principle, guilt calls for punishment. The graver the offense, the more severe the punishment ought to be. In Holy Scripture, as we have seen, death is regarded as the appropriate punishment for serious transgressions. Thomas Aquinas held that sin calls for the deprivation of some good, such as, in serious cases, the good of temporal or even eternal life. By consenting to the punishment of death, the wrongdoer is placed in a position to expiate his evil deeds and escape punishment in the next life. After noting this, St. Thomas adds that even if the malefactor is not repentant, he is benefited by being prevented from committing more sins. Retribution by the State has its limits because the State, unlike God, enjoys neither omniscience nor omnipotence. According to Christian faith, God "will render to every man according to his works" at the final judgment (Romans 2:6; cf. Matthew 16:27). Retribution by the State can only be a symbolic anticipation of God's perfect justice.
For the symbolism to be authentic, the society must believe in the existence of a transcendent order of justice, which the State has an obligation to protect. This has been true in the past, but in our day the State is generally viewed simply as an instrument of the will of the governed. In this modern perspective, the death penalty expresses not the divine judgment on objective evil but rather the collective anger of the group. The retributive goal of punishment is misconstrued as a self-assertive act of vengeance.
The death penalty, we may conclude, has different values in relation to each of the four ends of punishment. It does not rehabilitate the criminal but may be an occasion for bringing about salutary repentance. It is an effective but rarely, if ever, a necessary means of defending society against the criminal. Whether it serves to deter others from similar crimes is a disputed question, difficult to settle. Its retributive value is impaired by lack of clarity about the role of the State. In general, then, capital punishment has some limited value but its necessity is open to doubt.
There is more to be said. Thoughtful writers have contended that the death penalty, besides being unnecessary and often futile, can also be positively harmful. Four serious objections are commonly mentioned in the literature.
There is, first of all, a possibility that the convict may be innocent. John Stuart Mill, in his well-known defense of capital punishment, considers this to be the most serious objection. In responding, he cautions that the death penalty should not be imposed except in cases where the accused is tried by a trustworthy court and found guilty beyond all shadow of doubt.
It is common knowledge that even when trials are conducted, biased or kangaroo courts can often render unjust convictions. Even in the United States, where serious efforts are made to achieve just verdicts, errors occur, although many of them are corrected by appellate courts. Poorly educated and penniless defendants often lack the means to procure competent legal counsel; witnesses can be suborned or can make honest mistakes about the facts of the case or the identities of persons; evidence can be fabricated or suppressed; and juries can be prejudiced or incompetent. Some "death row" convicts have been exonerated by newly available DNA evidence. Columbia Law School has recently published a powerful report on the percentage of reversible errors in capital sentences from 1973 to 1995. Since it is altogether likely that some innocent persons have been executed, this first objection is a serious one.
Another objection observes that the death penalty often has the effect of whetting an inordinate appetite for revenge rather than satisfying an authentic zeal for justice. By giving in to a perverse spirit of vindictiveness or a morbid attraction to the gruesome, the courts contribute to the degradation of the culture, replicating the worst features of the Roman Empire in its period of decline.
Furthermore, critics say, capital punishment cheapens the value of life. By giving the impression that human beings sometimes have the right to kill, it fosters a casual attitude toward evils such as abortion, suicide, and euthanasia. This was a major point in Cardinal Bernardin's speeches and articles on what he called a "consistent ethic of life." Although this argument may have some validity, its force should not be exaggerated. Many people who are strongly pro-life on issues such as abortion support the death penalty, insisting that there is no inconsistency, since the innocent and the guilty do not have the same rights.
Finally, some hold that the death penalty is incompatible with the teaching of Jesus on forgiveness. This argument is complex at best, since the quoted sayings of Jesus have reference to forgiveness on the part of individual persons who have suffered injury. It is indeed praiseworthy for victims of crime to forgive their debtors, but such personal pardon does not absolve offenders from their obligations in justice. John Paul II points out that "reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness."
The relationship of the State to the criminal is not the same as that of a victim to an assailant. Governors and judges are responsible for maintaining a just public order. Their primary obligation is toward justice, but under certain conditions they may exercise clemency. In a careful discussion of this matter Pius XII concluded that the State ought not to issue pardons except when it is morally certain that the ends of punishment have been achieved. Under these conditions, requirements of public policy may warrant a partial or full remission of punishment. If clemency were granted to all convicts, the nation's prisons would be instantly emptied, but society would not be well served.
In practice, then, a delicate balance between justice and mercy must be maintained. The State's primary responsibility is for justice, although it may at times temper justice with mercy. The Church rather represents the mercy of God. Showing forth the divine forgiveness that comes from Jesus Christ, the Church is deliberately indulgent toward offenders, but it too must on occasion impose penalties. The Code of Canon Law contains an entire book devoted to crime and punishment. It would be clearly inappropriate for the Church, as a spiritual society, to execute criminals, but the State is a different type of society. It cannot be expected to act as a Church. In a predominantly Christian society, however, the State should be encouraged to lean toward mercy provided that it does not thereby violate the demands of justice.
It is sometimes asked whether a judge or executioner can impose or carry out the death penalty with love. It seems to me quite obvious that such officeholders can carry out their duty without hatred for the criminal, but rather with love, respect, and compassion. In enforcing the law, they may take comfort in believing that death is not the final evil; they may pray and hope that the convict will attain eternal life with God.
The four objections are therefore of different weight. The first of them, dealing with miscarriages of justice, is relatively strong; the second and third, dealing with vindictiveness and with the consistent ethic of life, have some probable force. The fourth objection, dealing with forgiveness, is relatively weak. But taken together, the four may suffice to tip the scale against the use of the death penalty.
The Catholic magisterium in recent years has become increasingly vocal in opposing the practice of capital punishment. Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae declared that "as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system," cases in which the execution of the offender would be absolutely necessary "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." Again at St. Louis in January 1999 the Pope appealed for a consensus to end the death penalty on the ground that it was "both cruel and unnecessary." The bishops of many countries have spoken to the same effect.
The United States bishops, for their part, had already declared in their majority statement of 1980 that "in the conditions of contemporary American society, the legitimate purposes of punishment do not justify the imposition of the death penalty." Since that time they have repeatedly intervened to ask for clemency in particular cases. Like the Pope, the bishops do not rule out capital punishment altogether, but they say that it is not justifiable as practiced in the United States today.
In coming to this prudential conclusion, the magisterium is not changing the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine remains what it has been: that the State, in principle, has the right to impose the death penalty on persons convicted of very serious crimes. But the classical tradition held that the State should not exercise this right when the evil effects outweigh the good effects. Thus the principle still leaves open the question whether and when the death penalty ought to be applied. The Pope and the bishops, using their prudential judgment, have concluded that in contemporary society, at least in countries like our own, the death penalty ought not to be invoked, because, on balance, it does more harm than good. I personally support this position.
In a brief compass I have touched on numerous and complex problems. To indicate what I have tried to establish, I should like to propose, as a final summary, ten theses that encapsulate the Church's doctrine, as I understand it.
  1. The purpose of punishment in secular courts is fourfold: the rehabilitation of the criminal, the protection of society from the criminal, the deterrence of other potential criminals, and retributive justice.
  2. Just retribution, which seeks to establish the right order of things, should not be confused with vindictiveness, which is reprehensible.
  3. Punishment may and should be administered with respect and love for the person punished.
  4. The person who does evil may deserve death. According to the biblical accounts, God sometimes administers the penalty himself and sometimes directs others to do so.
  5. Individuals and private groups may not take it upon themselves to inflict death as a penalty.
  6. The State has the right, in principle, to inflict capital punishment in cases where there is no doubt about the gravity of the offense and the guilt of the accused.
  7. The death penalty should not be imposed if the purposes of punishment can be equally well or better achieved by bloodless means, such as imprisonment.
  8. The sentence of death may be improper if it has serious negative effects on society, such as miscarriages of justice, the increase of vindictiveness, or disrespect for the value of innocent human life.
  9. Persons who specially represent the Church, such as clergy and religious, in view of their specific vocation, should abstain from pronouncing or executing the sentence of death.
  10. Catholics, in seeking to form their judgment as to whether the death penalty is to be supported as a general policy, or in a given situation, should be attentive to the guidance of the pope and the bishops. Current Catholic teaching should be understood, as I have sought to understand it, in continuity with Scripture and tradition.

Endnotes:

  1. The statement was adopted by a vote of 145 to 31, with 41 bishops abstaining, the highest number of abstentions ever recorded. In addition, a number of bishops were absent from the meeting or did not officially abstain. Thus the statement did not receive the two-thirds majority of the entire membership then required for approval of official statements. But no bishop rose to make the point of order.

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