Capital punishment and the ordinary magisterium of Pope Francis

I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Hos 6:6; Mt 9:13).

Several conservative Catholics in the United States of America are up in arms against the latest declaration of Pope Francis in relation to the death penalty and its inadmissibility. They are particularly miffed that he has “dared” to make sure that the Catechism of the Catholic Church accurately reflects the needs of our times. The below, therefore, bears repeating as many (wilful traditionalist clerics included) believe that to be Catholic, they do not need to follow what the Pope says, but only what he says if it happens to agree with whatever their particular religiopolitical-ideological stance might be.

Pride and spiritual arrogance at their best.

So, here goes:

Public statements by the Pope that do not qualify as ordinary and universal magisterium also have an authority that Catholics are not free to dismiss. They are required to give such teachings religious submission in accordance with the declaration of Vatican Council II as follows: Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking (Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, §25).

Many American Catholics, some clerics included, keep confusing the ordinary magisterium of Pope Francis for his ordinary and universal magisterium; to speak only of parts of the ordinary part, not the extraordinary part, of the teaching office of the Catholic Church.

They are wrong.

The Pope, like all other Popes before him, has both the ordinary magisterium and the ordinary and universal magisterium. It is under the former that the death penalty issue has been addressed, not under the latter, and this magisterial route, as shown above, also requires acceptance of it and religious assent – if you want to be, at the very least, minimally Catholic (let alone hard-identity Catholic).

A different route, however, is always possible for the wilful, the stubborn, the spiritually proud (non)cognoscenti: those who believe they know God’s mind and will more than anyone else, and His desires for all humanity since prior to the beginning of time. The route is this:

Go and set up your own church like Fr. Martin Luther, O.S.A., did in 1517. After all, it’s not like setting up one’s own church, with one’s own particular magisterium, and one’s own cult of personality (and followership) is not in the ‘best’ traditions of American church life, since the nation’s inception over 250 years ago! Then you can be your own (little p) pope. You can lay down whichever law you want, however you want it, with whatever stipulations and ‘membership requirements’ you want, in wherever ‘refuge’ you want, and no one will contradict you. You will be the head honcho and, as the saying goes, everyone will live happily ever after.

You will be in ‘good’ company – the company of the most famous, spiritually rebellious ‘church’ father. Just do not expect to attain Heaven and life with the Holy Trinity for eternity, unless you genuinely turn back to God and His One, True Church, because extra ecclesiam nulla salus.