Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Appeal to the Cardinals over the Death Penalty

Update: there is a fuller list of signatories on the LifeSite story here.

Press Release: see the appeal letter on First Things

An unprecedented appeal to the College of Cardinals

In an unprecedented move, 45 Catholic academics and clergy have signed an Appeal to the Cardinals of the Catholic Church, urging the cardinals to tell Pope Francis that he must teach the authentic Catholic doctrine concerning capital punishment. The appeal follows an addition to the Church’s Catechism announced by Pope Francis on August 2nd. The new paragraph, which is confusingly worded, has been taken by many inside and outside the Church to say that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral, and must never be used. Such a teaching would run contrary to many passages in the Bible, and to the teaching of the Church down the centuries.

Catholics hold that while a pope has the right to clarify matters of faith and morals, he has no right to introduce new doctrines, or to contradict what the Church has always believed. They likewise hold that a pope must not seek to impose his private opinions on the faithful. The petition, which has been signed by professors of philosophy, theology, law, and history from Catholic institutions across the world, and by priests from several countries, calls on the cardinals to advise the pope that he must withdraw the offending paragraph, and that he must not ‘adulterate the word of God’. It also advises the cardinals that they have a serious obligation to warn the pope in this way, in order not to fail in their own duty toward God and the Church.

The petition does not insist that capital punishment must always be used in practice for the worst crimes, since this is a matter which Catholic may freely debate. It insists on the legitimacy of the death penalty in principle.

According to the Church’s own law, competent Catholics “have the right and even at times the duty to manifest […] their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 212). St Thomas Aquinas, considered a model for Catholic theologians, likewise held that: “If the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly.”

The petition has been sent to the cardinals, because they are traditionally considered to be the pope’s own counsellors. There are currently 224 cardinals in the world.

For further information, contact Dr Joseph Shaw:

Secular media reports that the Pope has 'changed doctrine': ReutersBBC

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