Just as I wrote a couple of days ago, the Catholic(?) Internet and blogosphere has lit up with indignation and outrage at Pope Francis for changing Church teaching to say that capital punishment is always inadmissible. All of this self righteous indignation really blows my mind. These are people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ - the Creator who came to earth to save each and every human being, no matter how sinful, from eternal damnation and who did so by paying the highest price possible in the entirety of the universe, which price was His Precious Blood. These so-called followers of Jesus Christ are overcome with outrage against Pope Francis because he doesn't want to kill people, but instead wants to give them every chance at repentance and salvation.
I honestly don't understand how a person can call him or herself a Christian and at the same time, want to kill people. Ah, you say, we are talking about wicked violent people who pose a threat to society. They are a threat to each and every one of us and don't deserve to live! And yet, these would be the very people that Our Lord would most want to reach. As Our Lord told us, He did not come to save the righteous but sinners. Undeterred by this clear statement from Jesus Christ, the trad/conservative blogosphere wants the right to put people to death.
Yes, as has been explained by the Vatican, there was a time when it was necessary to defend society against those who meant it harm. But we live in a very different age now. We have very powerful governments with strict control over us. In some ways that is good and in some ways not. But certainly governments are much more in control of those who transgress their laws. We don't need to kill people to protect the rest of society. Any state killing now is little more than an act of vengence.
Now we can actually concentrate on helping people turn their lives around if they so wish. This is the great vision of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II.
The underlying argument in all of those who oppose Pope Francis is that of mercy versus judgment. People hate Pope Francis because he dared to say that it is not up to him to judge gay people. Pope Francis says that we must show mercy and compassion to the divorced and remarried. He has even reached out to others outside the Catholic Church. This heretic pope actually washed the feet of Muslims and other non believers, including women!
And now Pope Francis is showing mercy to the most hated group in society - convicted murderers, and by doing so, in the opinion of his enemies, he has put all of us at risk by allowing these heinous people to live. And he has gone against the traditional teaching of the Church, thus invalidating everything he says.
To further get around this teaching by Pope Francis, these so-called Catholics are now saying that we are not necessarily bound by the teachings of the Catholic Catechism! Father John Zuhlsdorf, whom I maintain is dangerous to the faithful, has actually written the following in response to Pope Francis:
So, if you say “I reject the content of the CCC” you reject the Catholic Faith in its entirely: it is comprehensive. If you say that you reject a doctrine in the CCC which is at the very core of the Catholic Faith, such as the Trinity or the Incarnation or the Resurrection, you reject the Catholic Faith: you cannot believe as a Catholic if you reject the Trinity. If you reject some highly controverted teaching that involves moral contingencies, such as the just war teaching of the Church or such as capital punishment, you do not reject the whole of the Catholic Faith, for the Faith doesn’t depend on those murky issues.Zuhlsdorf also hints in this outrageous post that one of the reasons for making this change at this time is to push Cardinal McCarrick out of the headlines, despite the fact that Pope Francis has been vocal in his opposition to the death penalty for his entire pontificate. And of course we will also ignore the fact that Pope Francis announced this change in 2017 and only now made it official. Zuhlsdorf has the unmitigated gall of accusing Pope Francis of being political and not caring at all about extending the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ when it is actually he, Zuhlsdorf, who seems to care nothing for others. I truly fear for the soul of John Zuhlsdorf.
Another reason given for rejecting Pope Francis is that this teaching is not ex cathedra. Well, if we are going to get technical, these have only been two times in the entire history of the Catholic Church when Popes have spoken ex cathedra, and that was the pronouncement of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary. So yes, technically, Pope Francis has not spoken ex cathedra. But if you go by the technical definition of ex cathedra, no Pope in Church history has ever spoken ex cathedra in regard to the death penalty or any other issue.
But Pope Francis has definitely spoken with the full authority of the Papal office. This was not said in an interview or a sermon or any other "informal" setting. This was done officially and the change has been made to the official teaching of the Church. We as Catholics are obligated to accept this teaching or we are in opposition to the Church.
If we can reject this teaching, then others who have rejected Humane Vitae are free to reject Church teaching on artificial contraception. And the list can go on and on. Rejecting this teaching on capital punishment opens the door to those who reject Church teaching on contraception, abortion, women priests, etc.
Canon law makes it clear that all of these magesterial teachings are binding on the faithful.
Canon 747, paragraph 2 says:
It belongs to the Church always and everywhere to announce moral principles, even about the social order, and to render judgment concerning any human affairs insofar as the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls requires it.
Canon 750, paragraph 2 says;
Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.Canon 751:
Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.
According to the above definition, those who oppose Pope Francis are heretics and in schism. This is clear and unambiguous and no small matter.
Those who oppose Pope Francis need to do some deep, introspective thinking and ask themselves, why do I believe it is right and good to kill another human being? Is this really the reason Jesus died, so that we can make prudential judgments about whether someone else lives or dies?
I truly believe that the Internet is one of the most spiritually dangerous places on earth for Christians. The Internet is Satan's playground. It is Satan's recruitment office. It is, in far too many ways, a straight path to hell. We can expect this from secular forces. But much of what calls itself Catholic is actually far more dangerous, because as St. Paul warned us, they appear as angels of light, but are really ravenous wolves seeking to devour the sheep, and seem to be succeeding in an alarming numbers.
Read Scripture. Read the saints. Listen to the Church. Spend time in adoration. The Internet has no authority whatsoever. Do not base your faith on what you read on the Internet.
And don't forget to pray, pray, pray.