Capital Punishment & Peter, II

Bowing to the times and liberal secular opinion, the Holy Father, as reported by the Catholic Herald, has followed the lead of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in calling for the abolition of capital punishment, which we noted in the first blog post on this at

The naivety and apparent lack of knowledge of the unrepentant evil done by so many of the criminals sentenced to death, shown by the Holy Fathers in supporting this great change in the ancient tradition of the Church is confounding, right up there with the denial of equality of women by stopping them from becoming priests.

An excerpt from the Catholic Herald article.

Pope Francis called for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a “penal populism” that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.

“It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor,” the Pope said on Thursday during a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.

“All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment,” he said. “Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.”

The Pope noted that the Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, cited by Pope Francis in his talk, “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,” but modern advances in protecting society from dangerous criminals mean that “cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

The Pope said that, although a number of countries have formally abolished capital punishment, “the death penalty, illegally and to a varying extent, is applied all over the planet,” because “extrajudicial executions” are often disguised as “clashes with offenders or presented as the undesired consequences of the reasonable, necessary and proportionate use of force to apply the law.”

Retrieved October 24, 2014 from

The Church & Women

A superb article by Phyllis Zagano in the National Catholic Reporter.

An excerpt.

The hilarious online Religion Dispatches’ post of official synod on the family photos showed not a woman or child in sight. They called it, “You’ve got male.”

Such is still the case in Rome, and if truth be told, throughout the church and the world that echoes its attitudes.

While widespread academic writing by women causes the men in black to pay a little more attention to women’s intellectual achievements, the plain fact is that Rome ignores women. Vatican hard-liners and their international coterie of minions control the conversation as carefully as professional public relations men. That is, if the words come from a woman who might be slightly off their message, she is ignored or silenced or shunned.

That translates to no invitations, publications or appointments. The long, black tentacles of Roman power invade every area of women’s lives.

Of course, women’s inroads into academic circles, in secular institutions and increasingly in Catholic institutions are what percolate and spread around all those books, articles, conference papers and speeches by women.

Of course, the thick black wall seems to have a few openings now that the cappa magnas have been drawn back to expose some discussion, even dissent, in the ranks. That is healthy and hopeful internally. But what about around the world?

The simple fact of the matter is until headquarters’ attitude toward women demonstrates a decisive shift, the rest of the world will continue to question — and ignore — any Christian suggestion that women are made in the image and likeness of God.

It’s not about women in the Roman Curia. It’s not about women’s ordination. It is about women’s dignity.

Retrieved October 23, 2014 from

Public Health Ideology & Crime

For some time now the public health profession has been ideologically driven, as noted in this article by Heather Macdonald in City Journal.

The recent attempt to make crime out to be a public health issue stems from that ideological focus.

The disastrous impact of this will eventually become obvious, but in the meantime, many will suffer as predatory criminals are excused for their crimes due to social justice concerns and released from prison to continue their criminality.

An excerpt from the City Journal article.

The public-health establishment has unanimously opposed a travel and visa moratorium from Ebola-plagued West African countries to protect the U.S. population. To evaluate whether this opposition rests on purely scientific grounds, it helps to understand the political character of the public-health field. For the last several decades, the profession has been awash in social-justice ideology. Many of its members view racism, sexism, and economic inequality, rather than individual behavior, as the primary drivers of differential health outcomes in the U.S. According to mainstream public-health thinking, publicizing the behavioral choices behind bad health—promiscuous sex, drug use, overeating, or lack of exercise—blames the victim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Communities Program, for example, focuses on “unfair health differences closely linked with social, economic or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people.” CDC’s Healthy People 2020 project recognizes that “health inequities are tied to economics, exclusion, and discrimination that prevent groups from accessing resources to live healthy lives,” according to Harvard public-health professor Nancy Krieger. Krieger is herself a magnet for federal funding, which she uses to spread the message about America’s unjust treatment of women, minorities, and the poor. To study the genetic components of health is tantamount to “scientific racism,” in Krieger’s view, since doing so overlooks the “impact of discrimination” on health. And of course the idea of any genetic racial differences is anathema to Krieger and her left-wing colleagues.

Local public-health programs are just as committed to “social justice.” The National Association of County and City Health Officials promoted a seven-part PBS documentary, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick?, to trigger community dialogues about health equity. NACCHO’s Health Equity and Social Justice initiatives seek to “advance the capacity of local health departments to tackle the root causes of health inequities.”

During the height of the AIDS epidemic, the public-health profession abjured any focus on abstinence as a means of stopping the spread of the disease. This silence was contrary to decades of public-health response to venereal disease, which stressed individual responsibility, as well as contact tracing, to prevent further infections.

The American Journal of Public Health recently published a study coauthored by Columbia University professor and longtime police critic Jeffrey Fagan arguing that young black men who have been stopped and questioned by the New York Police Department suffer from stress and anxiety. The more times an individual gets stopped, Fagan claims, the more stress he may feel. The study did not consider whether individuals who have been stopped numerous times by the police may be anxious because they are gang members operating in a world where retaliatory shootings are common. Nor did it compare the stress of stop subjects with the stress once experienced by law-abiding residents of high-crime neighborhoods before the NYPD brought violent crime down 80 percent.

Retrieved October 21, 2014 from

Capital Punishment & Peter

In a recent talk, reported by the Vatican News Service, the Holy Father contradicted the Catechism by “reaffirming the absolute condemnation of the death penalty”, though the Catechism says different:

The relevant sections:

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67

2267 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, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” Retrieved October 23, 2014 from

We published a book showing the ancient and continuing support of the Church for capital punishment: Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support, available from Amazon at

An excerpt from the story by Vatican News Service:

Vatican City, 23 October 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received delegates from the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP), addressing them with a speech focusing on the issues in their subject area that have recourse to the Church in her mission of evangelization and the promotion of the human person.

The Pope began by recalling the need for legal and political methods that are not characterized by the mythological “scapegoat” logic, that is, of an individual unjustly accused of the misfortunes that befall a community and then chosen to be sacrificed. It is also necessary to refute the belief that legal sanctions carry benefit, which requires the implementation of inclusive economic and social policies. He reiterated the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is rejected by Christians. In this context he also talked about the so-called extrajudicial executions, that is, the deliberated killing of individuals by some states or their agents that are presented as the unintended consequence of the reasonable, necessary, and proportionate use of force to implement the law. He emphasized that the death penalty is used in totalitarian regimes as “an instrument of suppression of political dissent or of persecution of religious or cultural minorities”.

He then spoke of the conditions of prisoners, including prisoners who have not been convicted and those convicted without a trial, stating that pretrial detention, when used improperly, is another modern form of unlawful punishment that is hidden behind legality. He also referred to the deplorable prison condition in much of the world, sometimes due to lack of infrastructure while other instances are the result of “the arbitrary exercise of ruthless power over detainees”. Pope Francis also spoke about torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, stating that, in the world today, torture is used not only as a means to achieve a particular purpose, such as a confession or an accusation—practices that are characteristic of a doctrine of national security—but also adds to the evil of detention. Criminal code itself bears responsibility for having allowed, in certain cases, the legitimacy of torture under certain conditions, opening the way for further abuse.

Retrieved October 23, 2014 from

Homosexuality, the Synod & the Church

In reading the section of the mid-term report from the Synod which caused some turmoil, I found nothing in it that conflicts with Church teaching as expressed in the Catechism; but it took a reading of the primary documents to reach that conclusion, as the spins put out by left and right confused the issue.

Welcoming and seeing value in sinners, and we are all sinners, is what Christ calls us to do, clearly, again and again in the Gospels.

First from the Catechism:

Chastity and homosexuality

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Retrieved October 21, 2014 from

Now, from the Mid-Term Report:

Welcoming homosexual persons

Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

Retrieved October 21, 2014 from

Synod III: The Church, the Holy Father & Us

We are one together and Peter, at the close of the recent Synod of Bishops, in his speech posted by Vatican Radio, reminds us of that, so eloquently, so truthfully, in addressing the disputes and controversies emanating from the Synod.

An excerpt.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

Retrieved October 21, 2014 from

The Synod II: Roman Soap Opera

After following the bishop’s synod for several days, this description from John Allen, described it in a column from a few days ago, seems appropriate.

An excerpt.

ROME – Every day, the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, a summit of 260 bishops and other participants convened by Pope Francis, seems more and more like a daytime soap opera. Today brought more surprising turns on multiple fronts.

For one thing, the bishops made the unprecedented decision to release internal reports of small group discussions about a working document released Monday that became a sensation due to its positive language about same-sex unions, couples who live together outside of marriage, and others in “irregular” situations.

The reports photograph a vigorous debate within a divided synod, with one camp seemingly embracing a more positive vision of situations that fall outside the boundaries of official Catholic doctrine, and another clearly alarmed about going soft.

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, one of the leaders of the moderate camp, today compared the situation in the synod in which a mother says “watch out, be careful,” and the father says “no, that’s fine, go ahead.”

In part, the decision to release the reports was probably a response to accusations that a policy of not providing individual speeches bishops had given earlier in the synod was intended to suppress conservatives who don’t support the line believed to be favored by Pope Francis.

Retrieved October 20, 2014 from    

The Synod

The event in Rome is generating a lot of press, but here’s a refreshing view, from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

Some old Scottish jurisprude (and I’ve forgotten which) said, “We do not break the law. We break ourselves upon the law.”

He was perhaps echoing Our Lord, as recorded in Saint Matthew (21:44): “And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken.”

The verses surrounding this are of considerable current interest, too, but to save space I will assume that gentle reader owns a Bible.

We are working today, improbable as this may sound, on the notion that law is merely something legislated. This is the only sort of law that can be considered secure – and then only temporarily – under what a certain pope emeritus called the Dictatorship of Relativism: “The dictatorship of relativism is confronting the world. It does not recognize anything as absolute, and leaves as the ultimate measure only the measure of each one and his desires.”

Our current pope, incidentally, was not slow to repeat this observation, after he was elevated to the Throne of Peter, only last year.

Our venerable Church does not recognize this Dictatorship. She never has, and so long as she is herself, she never will. What was true yesterday remains true today; what is true today will remain true tomorrow.

Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, before the conclave that elected him pope:

How many doctrinal winds we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many styles of thought. . . .The thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves, tossed from one end to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism.

For many years before, though not yet a Roman Catholic myself, I was under the impression from reading him that this Ratzinger was the finest living Christian mind. Later, I realized that the qualifier was unnecessary. (Even as an Anglican, I subscribed to Communio.)

“Today,” said the man about to be elected Pope Benedict XVI, “having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism.”

It is a label that could be applied to every one of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as it often is today to everything else that came “before Vatican II.” As worthier pundits have observed, Jesus Christ is also among the things that came before Vatican II.

Retrieved October 17, 2014 from

The Church & the Absolute

So many of the greatest Catholic Saints, Popes and writers have noted the clarity and strength of the Church when she stands by her absolute positions; but many today feel that went by the wayside during Vatican II and since then, chaos.

A good point is how Communism was not addressed during Vatican II because of a deal made between Russia and the Vatican, which allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to attend Vatican II, about which I wrote in my book, Catholicism, Communism, & Criminal Reformation:

An excerpt.

And one wonders how much this approach opened the door for Pope John Paul II to play one of the leading roles in vanquishing the Soviet empire a few decades later, and to the emerging potential coming together of the Russian Orthodox with Rome.

On the other hand, this may well be the making a bad situation a little better by acknowledging the reality on the ground; the bad situation being the failure of Peter and the bishops to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of the Holy Mother of God, and the acknowledgement that the Church was not able to defeat Communism during its formative stage through the intersession of the Holy Mother; the best policy now might be to dialogue with them, seeking men and women of good will with whom conversion might be possible; and that might very well be a wise strategy.

The decision to engage rather than condemn Communism might prove to be a wise decision or it might prove to be, as the current pope and the two previously have done by calling for the abolition of capital punishment, indicate a lack of understanding of evil.

While this may seem fanciful for men—the Vicars of Christ on earth—whose life is focused on helping sinners, but an examination of the life of priests can reveal little opportunity to fully appreciate the hardness and clarity of evil intent, of an evil life lived consciously.

Though the three Holy Fathers—one who dealt with the Communists, one with Nazis and one with a military dictatorship—have seen evil, one would think their knowledge would be deep but here is where the within and the without of the human soul crucially determines soul knowledge and why many traditions advocate salvation coming through self-degradation; but not sought as Rimbaud and Rasputin, but having happened in life, like Pope Saint Callistus, the former criminal who became pope, perhaps one of the greatest popes. (pp. 163-164)

This issue was also addressed in an article from Catholic World Report at


Knocking the Dust from Our Feet

The great scriptural teaching regarding evangelization has come to a fork in the road, as this great article in The Catholic Thing explains.

An excerpt.

Catholicism is being isolated and increasingly persecuted because of the nagging suspicion that it can actually give reasons for anything it holds. Even though much of the philosophy of the age is relativism, it cannot afford to deal with reason lest it admit what it denies. Thus Catholicism’s calm efforts to state this reasonableness are greeted with shouting, ridicule, avoidance of facts, mis-representation, and hatred. Scripture, to be sure, told us, when invited into a home that refuses to listen, to dust our shoes and move on. But there are increasingly fewer places to where we can move. This fact too seems more and more to focus the attention of the world on the truth issue. This is probably exactly where it needs to be focused.

But it is a world, as I said, that does not much want to listen. In Wodehouse’s The Mating Season, I read the following passage: “Well, there were these two deaf chaps in the train, don’t you know, and it stopped at Wembley, and one of them looked out of the window and said ‘This is Wembley’, and the other said ‘I thought it was Thursday’, and the first chap said ‘Yes, so am I.’” From this rather bemused sketch, we recognize that we often listen but we do not hear what is actually said.

On reading such a passage, I sometimes am tempted to think that a stint in a good English pub would solve most of the world’s problems. But where most of the problems seem to occur, such thirst-quenching institutions are generally not allowed. They are considered to be against both reason and religion. That was probably the counter-point of Belloc’s “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine/There’s always laughter and good red wine./At least I’ve always found it so,/Benedicamus Domino.”

To proffer something good about Catholicism in recent decades has been considered, if not impolite, certainly “triumphalistic.” Yet I wonder if it is not time to face the fact that we are now pretty much left alone with reason and hence revelation addressed to it. We are to state our “reasons” with gentleness and respect, as Peter admonished us. But surely Paul was right. The sophists, usually paid with money, think that they can state any lie or untruth about what we hold as if that is their natural “right.”

No longer is there much dialogue or debate, only yelling and lies. “Proud pretensions” do raise themselves “against the knowledge of God.” In the end, we prefer not merely to “seem to be wise.”

Retrieved October 14, 2014 from





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