Last week, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had changed the Catholic catechism. After 2,000 years of teaching that a moral use of capital punishment for murder is consistent with Catholic teaching, the pope announced that the catechism, the church fathers, and St. Thomas Aquinas, among the other great Catholic theologians, were all wrong.
And God and the Bible? They’re wrong, too.
Pope Francis, the product of Latin American liberation theology – along with many other Catholic religious and lay leaders – is remaking Catholicism in the image of leftism, just as mainstream Protestant leaders have been rendering much of mainstream Protestantism a branch of leftism, and non-Orthodox Jewish clergy and lay leaders have been rendering most non-Orthodox synagogues and lay institutions left-wing organizations.
The notion that it is immoral to execute any murderer – no matter how heinous the murder, no matter how many innocents he has murdered, no matter how incontrovertible the proof of guilt – is an expression of emotion, not of reason or natural law or biblical theology.
Regarding the latter, the biblical commandment to put premeditated murderers to death is unique. First, it is fundamental to biblical morality. The injunction of putting murderers to death is the only law found in each one of the five books of Moses.
Second, while all other sins involving the death penalty were only applicable to Jews, the Bible makes it clear that capital punishment for murder is applicable to all of humanity. It is the first law God gives Noah after the flood, after commanding him to be fruitful and multiply. Putting murderers to death is therefore the first moral law God gives the world.
Why this draconian penalty for murder? Because the penalty is a statement about the seriousness of a crime, and the God of the Bible deems the wrongful, deliberate taking of a human life the pinnacle of injustice. Allowing all murderers to keep their own lives diminishes the evil of murder and thereby cheapens the worth of the human being.
In God’s words, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). It is precisely to preserve the unique worth of the human being that the Bible mandates putting murderers to death.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote that “today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been.” Unacceptable? To whom? It is acceptable to about half of American Catholics and about half of the American people.
The death penalty, Francis wrote, “entails cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.” These are all subjective opinions. I suspect most people do not think the death penalty as punishment for premeditated murder is necessarily cruel, inhumane, or degrading. And why, incidentally, isn’t life imprisonment cruel, inhumane, and degrading?
The Pope also writes that no matter how serious the crime, “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”
Most of us think it is the murderer, by committing murder, who has attacked his dignity and inviolability, not the society that puts him to death. We also think it is the dignity of the murder victim that is attacked by rewarding the murderer with room and board, TV, books, exercise rooms, and visits from family members and girlfriends.