Friday, September 30, 2016

Rome's moral weathercock

Prof. Robert George, perhaps the leading conservative Catholic public intellectual in America, candidly admits that the One True Church has done an about-face on some fundamental issues in moral theology:

In fact, the Church can and has changed its teaching on the death penalty, and it can and does (now) teach that it is intrinsically wrong (not merely prudentially inadvisable). Both John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism reject killing as a penalty, i.e., as a punishment, i.e., for retributive reasons. Rightly or wrongly (I think rightly, but the teaching is not infallibly proposed—Professor Feser is right about that—nor was the teaching it replaces infallibly proposed) the Church now teaches that the only reason for which you can kill someone who has committed a heinous crime is for self-defense and the defense of innocent third parties. You can’t kill him as a punishment, even if he’s Hitler or Osama bin Laden, once you’ve got him effectively and permanently disabled from committing further heinous crimes. There is no other way to read Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism. The interesting debate, I think, is about the status of the earlier teaching and what kind of assent, if any, it demanded of faithful Catholics. The same is true of the earlier teaching—plainly contradicted by the teaching of (I think) all the 20th century popes who opined on the issue—that among the valid justifications for the use of military force are retributive justifications. The Church used to teach that going to war to punish aggressor nations can be justified. It now teaches that going to war to punish aggressor nations cannot be justified (though going to war to counter their aggression can be justified).

When Rome gives moral directions, stay alert for U-turns. 


  1. Per capital punishment, how else can an offender be permanently disabled from committing heinous crimes by any other way than unremitting solitary confinement a itself a forbidden punishemnt due to reasons of cruelty (so say libs)? It's not like such offenders murdering or maiming (somertimes both simultameously) prison staff or other inmates is entirely unknown.

    Per war, Hitler's pretext for invading the Sudetenland was alleged/fabricated Czech aggression against the local Volkdeutsch, so preventing aggresion can be a rather self-serving reason/excuse. Besides, what about double intention? Just as women with certain gynecologic ailments can use OCP's as treatment, "stopping aggression," "freeing the oppressed," etc, needn't conflict with seizing territory and economic resources.

    Rome needn't construct u-turns amid so many bypass roads.

  2. "When Rome gives moral directions, stay alert for U-turns."

    As with other Churches. For example, contraception used to be forbidden by all Christian churches.

    1. Which goes to show that once you throw off the yoke of Rome you can begin to correct for traditional errors.