ARCC Life  

ARCC Board
President's Messages
Online News
ARCC News 2012 ARCC News 2013 ARCC News 2014 ARCC News 2015 ARCC News 2016 ARCC News 2017
25 January 2017 Changing the Conversation (170509) Celebrating More Than 50 Years (170509) Conscience-Based Moral Judgments (170509) Dignitaries Humanae (170509) False Views on Jesus' Views on Divorce (170509) Mission and Human Rights (170509) Jesus and the Ordination of Women (170516) 29 May 2017 How much of Church Doctrine do we really believe? (170602) Trump Pulls Out of Paris Agreement (170602) 05 June 2017 Thoughts on Religious Vocations: An Open Letter to Pope Francis (170605) I can't get the institutional church out of my system (170618) 25 June 2017 Just War? Enough Already (170703) What would Teilhard say? Evolve or be annihilated (170710) Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (170719) Religion's Wax Nose (170726) American Civil Religion (170731) A Heresy of the Times (170807) Cardinal Calls for Global Church (170818) The Price of Being a Prophet (170821) The Implosion of the Roman Catholic Church (170902) Reflection on Racism in America (170913) Who am I? Where am I going? (170918) One Priest's Hopes for the Mass Translation (170925) The Edge of the Inside (171002) Selective Christianity (171016) Theology at the Cutting Edge: Healing the Political and Social Divide in America (171016) Resisting Islamophobia Is The Catholic Thing To Do. (171023) It Started With a Letter to the Archbishop (171030) Why Do We Still Tolerate Mass Stipends? (171106) Their Cross to Bear: Catholic Women Told to Forgive (171113) Papal loyalists become dissidents (171120) Echoes of Theocracy (171127) Will Pope Francis Remove the 'Warning'? (171204) Gumbleton on Nuclear Deterrence (171211) The Scandal of the 2011 Missal (171218)
ARCC News 2018
Prophets of a Future Not Our Own (20180101) 2018: Time to Become Ultra-Human? (20180118) Time for a Bonfire of Their Vanities? (20180122) Until All Are Welcome My House, My Rules: 3 Women "Rejected" (20180208) Policing the Communion Line (20180205) A Time to Judge (20180212) Mary McAleese Being Banned is Embarrassing (20180219) Correct, Don't Complicate Excommunication (20180226) Catholic Tradition, Labour, and Organizing Workers (20180305) Misogyny in the Vatican (20180312) The Unofficial Saint of the Internet (20180318) Francis Invites Change, But We Are the Change (20180325) Rediscovering the Role of Mary Magdalene as Apostle of the Apostles (20180401) Synodality and its Perils (20180409) Get rid of the clergy - But keep Holy Orders (20180415) Renewing the Program of Priestly Formation (20180429) Male and Female, in the image and likeness of God (20180506) Wedding Bans: Why Do Parishes Turn Young Couples Away? (20180513) Christian Humanism, the Path to the Divine (20180520) Mary - Prophet and Priest (20180527) A Wake-Up Call to Liberal Theologians (20160603) Canonization is right for Oscar Romero (20180610) Could the Church take a risk? (20180618) AJC expresses "Profound Concern" over beatification (20180624) The Bible's #MeToo Problem (20180701) 'Humanae Vitae' and the census fidelium (20180715) The Catholic Church wasn't always so against contraception (20180722) 50 years later, scientist's findings on birth control... (20180729) #MeToo, Your Excellency The Catholic Church needs a way to deal with bad bishops (20180812) The Catholic Church is tempted by power and obsessed with sex (20180819) Real change against abuse... (20180826) Pope Francis is facing a crisis of justice (20180829) Catholics Are Facing a Very Real Emergency (20180902) Truth and its violent consequences (20180909) The Third Millennial Catholic Reformation (20180917) Reality in an Historical-Critical Perspective (20180923) Both Prudential & Indisputable (20180930) Catholic Crossroads and Catholic Conflict (20181007) Schism or Evolution? (20181015) Theology: Stones or Bread? (20181028) White Christian America (20181102) Stone Throwing. Or Not. (20181104) Young People, Hope for the Church(es) (20181112) Who Represents the Laity? (20181118) Open Letter to the US Catholic Bishops: It's Over (20181125) From Collegiality to Synodality (20181203) The Birth of the Messiah (20181217) A Non-traditional Blessing for 2019 (20181231)
ARCC News 2019 Changing Power Relationships


Both Prudential & Indisputable (20180930)

Both Prudential & Indisputable


Contemporary Catholic Belief and Action

Both Prudential & Indisputable

Why Francis Termed the Death Penalty 'Inadmissible'
On August 1, 2018, the Vatican announced a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church that strengthened moral opposition to the death penalty at the order of Pope Francis. In his announcement of the change, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, maintained that it "expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium."
And indeed, the change was not extreme. The old version of the Catechism had already expressed great skepticism about the use of lethal punishment. It simply left open a loophole for cases where "this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." The new version appears to close that loophole. The relevant paragraph now proclaims that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person."
But what does it mean to say the death penalty is inadmissible? That is not a technical term of Catholic moral theology. How does the prohibition relate to the established framework of the Catholic moral tradition? In my view, there are three options.
First, the prohibition against capital punishment could be an absolute moral norm, binding in all times and places. In this case, those who taught that capital punishment was either morally good or morally tolerable were in fact mistaken-in much the same way that those who taught that slavery was tolerable were mistaken. Here the continuity would lie in the growing sensitivity to the Gospel's commitment to human dignity.
Second, prohibition against capital punishment could be a culturally dependent moral norm-absolutely binding, but only on those who live in particular times and cultures. Consider the case of usury. For centuries, the church considered the lending of money at interest to be an intrinsic evil. But the church increasingly recognized that an absolute prohibition was justified only in a pre-capitalist economy, not in a capitalist one. The difference between the first and second option does not matter much in practice, since we cannot choose which era we live in. But it is theoretically important, since it means that those who held a different view of usury or capital punishment in the past were not wrong to do so. They were just born in different times.
Finally, the prohibition might be a magisterial application of the cardinal virtue of prudence, which is (morally infused) right reason about things to be done or avoided in the here and now. Although some categories of actions are not intrinsically evil (that is, wrong by reason of the agent's object in acting), they can still be understood as indisputably wrong given the indisputable facts and circumstances. An example here would be a total prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons.
So which of these three categories is the best way to understand the new prohibition of capital punishment as inadmissible? While there are arguments for each of them, I think the case for the third option is strongest for three reasons.
First, I think it is significant that the revision did not use the phrase "intrinsic evil," a label more appropriate for wrongful acts in the first and second categories. Second, Ladaria Ferrer presented the judgment as designed "to better reflect" recent developments in church teaching. The key development here was the articulation of the prohibition under John Paul II, which emphasized that the situations in which the death penalty is morally acceptable "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." That type of reasoning belongs in the third category: it is an authoritative judgment of prudential reasoning, applying moral norms to specific factual situations.
But many conservative Catholics in the United States-the only Western country to practice capital punishment-sorely misused John Paul II's framework. They falsely claimed that intrinsically evil acts like abortion were always worse than actions that were wrong for other reasons. Moreover, they treated prudential judgment in a crudely relativistic way. They insisted that opposition to intrinsically evil acts was compulsory-but when it came to prudential judgments, it was chacun á son goût. Despite their sensitivity to the dignity of the unborn, they seemed blind to the dignity of the wretched, messy, and less pure members of the human family.
The Catechism is a teaching tool. Pope Francis's program as a moral teacher is, I take it, first to reassert the inherent dignity of every human being-even the inmate on death row-and second to reclaim the vigor, breadth, and moral depth of prudential judgment. But since the language of prudential judgment has been distorted, Francis needed to find a new way to convey his message. The word "inadmissible" is a good choice for the job. While it is an oddity in English, it is a rich word in Italian. According to the Italian Dictionary il Sabatini Coletti, inammissibile refers to something that cannot be approved (accettato), or justified (giustificato), something lacking with respect to its assumptions (presupposti). So even if capital punishment isn't an intrinsicevil, it cannot be approved or justified. It is an affront to the sovereignty of God and to the dignity of all persons.
Cathleen Kaveny teaches law and theology at Boston College
Quick Links... 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.