It’s not Tuesday/Newsday, but I couldn’t let this wait. If you’re Protestant, the headline may not seem like much news, but if you are not then it may sound a bit shocking. The Pope declared that the death penalty is always inadmissible. Always! Why is it always?
“I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”
Life is sacred. That is correct. It is sacred because man is created in the image of God. That’s behind the word “sacred:” holy. God is holy. Since we are made in His image, our lives are sacred. But that doesn’t mean that the death penalty is always inadmissible. In fact, according to God (and not the Pope) it means the exact opposite! Read carefully the following words: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image,” (Genesis 9:6, ESV).
Understand what God is telling Noah here. This isn’t a culture thing. This isn’t like divorce in which Jesus said that Moses allowed it because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. This is set in stone because man has always been and always will be made in the image of God. When one man (or woman) disregards that person and maliciously destroys such image, that man (or woman) forfeits their right to live. This isn’t some church teaching. This is biblical doctrine. Yes, one may have mercy. But there is a difference between pleading for mercy and saying that the death penalty is always inadmissible. One cannot say that the death penalty is never allowable and still be biblically accurate. That not only goes beyond the teachings of Scripture, but is anti-biblical.
This is also not simply an Old Testament teaching. This is New Testament as well. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul wrote that we are to obey our governing authorities, “for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out the wrath of God on the wrongdoer,” (v. 4, ESV [italics mine]). It is the prerogative and the responsibility of the government to wield the sword–impose corporal punishment on those who do wrong. In some respects, that would mean that the government would decide what is wrong enough to garner the death penalty. Some governments may decide to impose it in certain circumstances while others may decide not to impose it at all. But they (including the governing authority of the Vatican City and head of the Church of Rome) do not get to say that it is always inadmissible–never allowable, tantamount to sin, when God says that it is allowable and necessary at times.
One cannot forget what happened with Ananias and Saphira when they lied to the Holy Spirit. They both died immediately at the hands of the one to Whom they lied. At that moment there was the death penalty, and it was admissible. One cannot forget Nadab and Abihu who offered strange fire to God within minutes of receiving the instructions on how to offer the real thing. They too were struck down. One cannot forget Uzzah who thought it would be better for the unclean hand to touch the Ark of the Covenant than for the Ark to touch the ground. Dead. Why? Because these were sacred. God the Spirit is holy. God the Father is holy. The Ark of the Covenant is holy. It is not something with which to trifle. Nor is the human life. It is made in the image of God and thus to shed the blood of man is reason to forfeit one’s existence.
If one is part of the Roman Catholic Church, he/she must understand that Pope Francis is fundamentally changing the teaching of the church which has lasted for millennia. While it may be fitting with the times and culture of today, make no mistake, this is major news for him to change the catechism in such a way. And that is exactly what he did.
“Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before…added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.”
In years past, Pope Francis has hidden behind the wall of an atheist reporter subtly making statements that go against official church teachings. However, today, he has done so openly and defiantly. If Jesus is God in the flesh (and He is) then Jesus has the same thoughts toward this as what is stated to Noah in Genesis 9. To go against Christ is by its very definition anti-Christ. I am not one to use that description lightly. But I call ’em like I see ’em.
Quotes were from the New York Times article.