Thursday, August 02, 2018

Ross Douthat on the death penalty vis-a-vis Francis

Ross Douthat 
And life imprisonment under many penal conditions seems more contrary to human dignity than the death penalty.

But the bottom line is that this is another example of how Pope Francis has consistently exposed the tensions in the post-Vatican II conservative position, and pushed the JPII synthesis into intellectual crisis.

Now Francis is going further, doing something dramatic enough to be described as "development of doctrine" or a "new paradigm" -- but still preserving a touch of deniability on the definitiveness of the change, in which continuitarians can take refuge.

Another way to see this is that on both the death penalty and divorce, the JPII synthesis stretched the claim of continuity -- with a prudential anti-death penalty arg that *sounded* absolute, and a liberal annulment policy -- without making a formal break.

Which is also the effective pattern in other arenas -- like divorce -- where Francis has sought to shift a teaching without formally using the language of reversal. You can argue that constant teaching remains constant, but no normal person listening to popes would think that.

But anyone arguing for continuity has to recognize that at the very least this kind of shift turns the traditional teaching into a sort of hermetic secret, available to ppl who read extremely carefully but invisible in the normal public teaching of the church.

So you could argue -- and some will -- that we're still stopping sort of reversal, that the church is still emphasizing modern conditions to make a prudential argument rather than an absolute one -- even though some of its language is absolutizing.

Now we have new language that seems to go further, describing the death penalty as "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person," and urging its worldwide abolition.


  1. Rough time to be an RC convert and/or apologist. Wonder how some of the recent conversions during Ratzi's term are faring.

  2. Nowadays, I get weary dealing with Catholicism. There was a time when the changes in Catholicism were so slow that you could hit the doctrinal and dogmatic targets in the bullseye. Now, the changes are so fast that it's like trying to hit flying skeet.