Friday, 3 August 2018

Time To Admit It

When The Catechism of the Catholic Church was being compiled, the then Pope and his eventual successor still needed the American Catholic Right for certain purposes. 

So they did not shy away from writing in de facto condemnations of its economic theories or what were increasingly becoming its views on geopolitics, because they knew that the people in question already just ignored everything that the Church said on those issues, anyway.

But they hedged about the condemnation of capital punishment, which everyone else had long simply assumed to be the Church's line, with caveats about "admissibility" that were designed to be impossible to implement in practice.

Perhaps they hoped that it would keep the door open to bringing the target readers round on everything else, at which point the penny would also drop about the death penalty. If so, then they were to be thoroughly disappointed.

Well, yesterday Pope Francis decided that he could no longer be bothered to play that game. Not being from the North Atlantic milieu, he does not see why there should always be whatever the United States happens to want.

Nor does he feel any need of an alliance with the figures who have turned Catholicism into a mere baptism of the presuppositions of one very particular, largely and culturally Protestant, section of American society and politics.

Those are only about half of weekly Mass-goers in the United States, who are in turn a fairly small minority of American Catholics in general, a very small minority of Americans in general, and a tiny minority of Catholics in general.

They need to get over themselves, and to tell people to get over themselves is a very important part of why there is a Pope at all.

Next, he can tell them that they also have to start listening on wealth and poverty, war and peace. He can, and he will. 

Again, he will be saying nothing new, nor anything surprising to the rest of the Church or to the rest of the world. The novelty will be his insistence on being heard.

Of course, as with slavery, and as still with the lending at interest that will recur as an issue even if it did not do so until we were all dead, the Church has really, eventually, inescapably been opposed to capital punishment by virtue of everything else for which She stood.

And of course, and as the American experience fully bears out, it is impossible to argue to any practical effect that the State is entitled to put to death those whom it deems guilty even if they are not morally so, but that it is not entitled to define that legal guilt in such terms as to include anyone whom it might wish to euthanise or to abort.

No sizeable body of Catholics has done anything other than presuppose all of this for quite some time now. Except in one country, where they have felt entitled to do so.

They have felt entitled to do so on the grounds that they themselves were tremendously important, which they no longer are if they ever were, and that their political ideology trumped the Gospel, which it does not.

Indeed, they need to consider their own vulnerability. The political party to which they have attached themselves has never nominated a Catholic for President, and it never will. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was terrifyingly enthusiastic about the death penalty.

And, as a comment on a post here yesterday put it, "Bill Clinton enthusiastically signed death warrants, Barack Obama rarely commuted death sentences. An increasingly frightened liberal elite would send traditional conservatives and the Left to the gallows together."

Indeed it would. And by no mean only in the United States.


  1. One thing I've noticed about right wing American and wannabe American Catholics is they never have any theological training, or hardly any. One of the most Anglo-American Modernist-Protestant things about them is they assume theology is hardly a proper subject, anybody can set up as an expert in it, idiot younger sons of the gentry are sent into the Church. So this kind of thing completely throws them. Who is this insolent cleric? The Pope, that's who. And he knows more than you do.

    1. I wish that I could remember who it was who first said that American Catholics were "Protestants who go to Mass". And yes, at that social level, they are the old school of "mainline" WASP Protestants who go to Mass, just as you describe.

      Their echo chamber around the Daily Telegraph is culturally similar. As you put it, "idiot younger sons of the gentry are sent into the Church." And their formation for it takes about a year, all told, in the form of two years of old-fashioned English university terms, usually attached to an old-fashioned English university. Well, the Catholic Church is not like that. She is not like that at all.

      If the Pope had announced some radical departure from previous teaching, then there would be a chorus of protest, or at least of surprise, from around the Catholic world. But instead, it is coming, insofar as it is, from a couple of dozen bloggers who all know each other. Guess where they all are.

    2. They are all in the only advanced Western country where the police have to be armed to the teeth to patrol the normal streets in normal times. The only advanced Western country that still retains capital punishment even in theory. Violence begets violence, state killing begets street killing.

    3. Quite.

      There are routinely armed Police for various reasons elsewhere in the West, of course. But they are not armed like that, nor are they remotely as trigger-happy.

      It is possible to see something similar in the military adage that if you fight alongside the Americans, then you are at greater risk from your own side than you are from the enemy.

      Well, if even the State, "the government" can kill you.

      I am always baffled at people who profess to favour only the most limited government, yet who support capital punishment. Or nuclear weapons. There was none of that with Enoch Powell, who steadfastly opposed them both, even to the point of voting Labour on the nuclear issue in 1987, his fourth Labour vote at a General Election.