The Pen

Catholic Church Changes Its Dogma on Death Penalty

It’s impossible for an infallible church to repent – Roger Nicolle, critiquing Vatican II

The Roman Catholic Church claims that the Pope is infallible when speaking within his official office, or ex cathedra. The Papacy did not always teach this, as the doctrine was first established as authoritative at Vatican I in 1869 (two bishops dissented to that ruling, oddly enough). It is there that the teaching of papal infallibility became official doctrine, although Popes toyed with the idea back and forth since at least the counter-Reformation. Of course, Popes have always disagreed with one another, at some points digging up other Popes and putting them on trial before desecrating their corpse. Nonetheless, the Roman Catholic Church continues to teach that Roman Catholic doctrine doesn’t change, in spite of the fact that the only real constant reliability in Catholic history is that its doctrine is always changing (which shouldn’t happen in infallible churches). In fact, it’s hard to know historically which Pope was infallible when multiple Popes were all anathematizing each other at the same time. The news today that the Pope of Rome has issued a contradictory statement to previous church teaching on capital punishment further demonstrates the ever-evolving nature of Roman Catholic dogma.

A statement released by the Vatican’s press office today said that Pope Francis approves of the new changes to number 2267 of the Roman Catholic Catechism. This occurred during a May meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church  now says that the death penalty is no longer admissible under any circumstances. This has not always been the case (contrary to public perception). However, the Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis approved changes to the compendium of Catholic teaching that were given under Pope John Paul II. The new teaching says:

The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church now says on the death penalty, adding that the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

However, under Pope John Paul II in 1992, it reads:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If Pope Francis were in a cage fight with Pope John Paul II, who would win? Like, if this were the Thunderdome and “two men enter, one man leave,” who’s leaving? With both being inerrant in their rulings on doctrine, it would be anybody’s bet.

Our bet is Protestantism.