Catechism on the Death Penalty

In August of 2018, Pope Francis announced he intended to alter the wording in the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church pertaining to the use of the death penalty. Whereas previous editions of the 1992 Catechism had stated that the death penalty was theoretically admissible but urged governments to mitigate its application, Pope Francis' amendment says that the death penalty is inherently opposed to the Gospel and can never be licitly applied; in other words, that it is intrinsically evil. The only dogmatic source given for this interpretation is a speech given by Pope Francis in October of 2017. In May of 2019 he offered an explanation of the change in another speech, saying, "I said clearly that the death penalty is not acceptable—it’s immoral. But, fifty years ago, no. Did the Church change? No. Moral conscience has developed."

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Death Penalty & Retributive Justice

The key point which is at the heart of every debate on capital punishment is that of justice. What is just? Both those who argue for an broader application of the death penalty as well as those who argue for its abolition do so from motives of justice. The former typically argues that such-and-such a crime "deserves" death and hence capital punishment is just; the latter usually say that a criminal cannot be executed by the state because it would be "unjust." Part of the problem is semantics; there is more than one kind of justice, and proponents of the various positions are often arguing in favor of different types of justice. To make it more complicated, it can happen that multiple forms of justice come together in a single issue, as in the case of capital punishment. In this article we will examine retributive justice, a concept that was once at the heart of the West's understanding of punishment but which is increasingly misunderstood or ignored by modernity.

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Why is Masturbation a Sin?

Alright, let's talk about masturbation. This is an extremely sensitive topic because so many people struggle with it. There is something uncomfortable about it; many Catholics, even in the past, were very reluctant to talk about "the solitary sin." For example, there is no entry for masturbation in the otherwise very voluminous 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. This traditional reluctance is somewhat understandable. To discuss the matter is to admit one into a very intimate aspect of one's life, an aspect that is sometimes not proper to discuss at all. And to admit of masturbation is a serious embarrassment; it is like admitting that one lacks the most basic self-control. However, given the prevalence of masturbation, the awkwardness surrounding it, the confusion many young people have about it, and the silence of many in the Church about this issue, it is fitting to take some time to address it here.

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Wedding Cake Q and A

We are in an interesting time in American legal and cultural history. On the one hand, the advance of modernity is throwing down traditional legal barriers to same-sex so-called marriage and opening up new doors to homosexuals to not only practice homosexuality but have their unions recognized by the State. On the other hand, there is a growing movement of concerned Americans protesting infringements against religious liberty by the new regime which in many cases compels Christians to support things contrary to their faith, either implicitly or explicitly. These two contrary movements have come crashing together in the controversies over whether Christian bakers, florists, restaurants, etc. are legally obligated to provide services for homosexual weddings, the so-called "wedding cake" dilemma.

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Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives

At the time of the writing of this article (December, 2014), United States citizens are reeling from revelations concerning extrajudicial torture camps operated by the CIA. American Catholics who identify themselves as political conservatives find themselves in a difficult spot; conservative thinking associated with the United States Republican Party has - especially since September 11, 2001 - tended to justify the use of torture in the interrogation of suspects with connections to radical Islam on the premise that such methods are necessary to save American lives from future terrorist attacks. However, this stalwart defense of torture flies in the face of statements found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of recent popes who rank torture among those offenses against human dignity which no Catholic can participate in without sin. These conservative Catholics must either distance themselves from this position or else explain away Catholic teaching - or so the dilemma is framed.

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Returning to a Morality of Happiness

The modern Church seems crippled when it comes to its moral teaching. Of course, many in the hierarchy openly dissent from the Catholic moral principles. But even among those inclined to defend them, there seems a growing uncertainty about how to explain them. Similarly, the Catholic laity are as little disposed as ever to live by them; hence the complaint of the bishops in the Instrumentum Laboris of the 2014 Synod on the Family that a morality grounded in natural law is "incomprehensible" to most Catholics. Thus dissent and confusion are the order of the day. As with many problems in the modern Church, this difficulty is bound up with an abandonment of the teaching of St. Thomas on morality. In order to build a solid basis for our moral teaching, we need to recover a Thomistic approach to morality. In this article, we will sketch St. Thomas's moral principles and contrast them with the presumptions of post-medieval moral theology.

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Homosexual Marriage is not a Civil Right

The debate over same-sex marriage has not been resolved. Instead, the militant homosexual lobby has simply declared that the debate is over and is trying to shut down conversation. The manner in which they are bullying their opposition into silence is by pushing homosexual marriage as a "civil right." This is manifestly false, but has unfortunately been repeated so much that ignorant Americans are starting to accept it as a given. Of course, if one admits that homosexual marriage is a "civil right", then to deny the legitimacy of same-sex marriage puts one in the same category as racists who would deny blacks the right to vote. In this article, we will examine why homosexual marriage is in no way a "civil right." We will also confine ourselves to using arguments from law and common sense, because in the public debate on this issue, religious and moral considerations are often not given any weight. 

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Philosophies of Nature

One of the tragedies of modernity is that not only has Christian culture been displaced, but even the very vocabulary of our Christian heritage has been jettisoned or redefined. A classic example is the concept of "free will", which in Catholic Tradition means man's capacity to act of his own volition without internal coercion. In the mind of the modern post-Christian, however, free will usually is the belief that human beings are morally free to engage in any behavior they wish, so long as they are "following their heart". Thus, all sorts of behaviors seen as sins in Catholic Tradition become expressions of man's "free will" in the secularist's view. The traditional term is redefined to mean something completely different from the classical understanding.

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Homosexuality, Shellfish and the Bible

There are many things that need to be said in the Christian response to homosexuality. This article deals with only one small corner of this debate, but it is an important corner, and hopefully you will remember it and link to it next time you are in some discussion with a supporter of homosexual so-called marriage who, when confronted with the many biblical injunctions against homosexuality in the Old Testament, responds by saying, "Well, the Old Testament says we ought not to eat shellfish and we still do that. You can't pick and choose which passages from the Old Testament you are going to obey." This is the shellfish argument. Let us use two-seconds of common sense to put this stupid argument to rest.

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Viktor Orban on Christian Europe

In 1925 Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical Quas Primas, which established the Feast of Christ the King and taught the moral obligation of all nations to reverence the kingship of Christ over all the world. The reverence is due not only by Catholic countries, but by all men, whether baptized or not, and applies equally to governments as to individuals. The pope wrote: "all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society...If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ...With God and Jesus Christ excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation" [1] In this teaching, Pius reaffirms the traditional Catholic teaching of the social kingship of Christ. This principle underlay the whole social and political edifice of the Middle Ages known as "Christendom", and it is this teaching which has been subsequently lost or denied in the modern world.

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Roman Rota on the Ends of Marriage

When modern society speaks about the end of marriage, it usually means a lot of money paid to attorneys and a trip to the divorce court. In philosophical vocabulary, however, an end (Gk: telos, Lat: finis) refers to the final purpose of a thing, the goal towards which it is directed. When we look at the purposefulness of things, we are studying them under their teleological aspect. Teleology considers things in light of their final end, their ultimate purpose. The end of an acorn is to turn into an oak tree; if we anthropomorphize this reality, we could say the acorn "wants" to become a tree; in other words, the development of into a fully mature tree is the outcome the acorn tends toward by its very nature. Sacraments, too, have teleological ends; the end of the Sacrament of Penance is restoration of sinners to friendship with God through the forgiveness of their sins.

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Humility and Station in Life

While most Catholics are familiar with the concept of "state in life" to describe whether one chooses the married or the consecrated vocation, there is also a corresponding idea of "station in life" that was traditionally used to explain the  differentiation of men into different social classes. The original medieval distinction recognized only three stations: "Those who work, those who pray, those who fight", but by the high middle ages these distinctions would be subdivided into over two dozen distinct "stations in life", each with their own social standing and corresponding obligations. But how did these diverse "social standings" interact with the Gospel's universal call to humility? Let us look into this question and see how men of high station in life still exercised humility, and how this was quite different from modern concepts of what a humility looks like.

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Homosexual and Heterosexual Household Studies


As we all know, the Obama White House website has a function that allows anyone to post a petition for any cause whatsoever and, if that petition gets over 25,000 signatures, the Obama administration has pledged to issue a response. As we also know, this has turned out to be a farce - the slew of secession petitions that garnered way over the required 25,000 votes in 2012 went famously unanswered. Many of you are also aware that one of the petitions featured on the site is a request to have the Catholic Church officially labelled a hate group. This designation was sought largely due to Pope Benedict XVI's address to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2012.  In that address, the Holy Father speaks about the need for us to recognize the nature of humanity as given in maleness and femaleness. The pope also speaks of the natural structure of the family and that we cannot remake it.

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Three Types of Scandal

"Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal comes", our Lord tells us in the Gospel of Matthew (18:7). Scandal has been defined in the Church's tradition as an act or omission on our part that, through our bad example, leads another to commit sin or lose faith. Our Lord warns us in the above cited passage that to do such a thing is particularly heinous; as if it is not bad enough that we destroy our own souls, scandal causes us to drag others down with us into the mire of our sin, sometimes by actively leading others into sin, sometimes just by causing them to be shaken in their faith by our poor example. He levels dire consequences against those who lead believers to sin, warning that it would be better to have a stone about our neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea than be guilty of scandal.

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Pro-Life Perspectives

Wishy-washy, liberal Catholics are notorious for their insistence that Catholics not base their political votes solely on whether a candidate is Pro-Life. There are many other compelling issues that demand out attention, they say: war, poverty, energy policy, the economy. A candidate's stance on abortion is but one of many issues that Catholics ought to consider when supporting a candidate. This is the liberal critique. Interestingly enough, Traditionalist Catholics often take a similar criticisms of the Pro-Life movement: that a too exclusive focus on the abortion issue detracts attention from matters liturgical and spiritual and ignores growing concerns that many Catholics have about our economic system. But are these critiques really any different?

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A Federalist Solution to Abortion?

When considering the gains and setbacks of the Pro-Life movement over the past thirty-eight years since Roe v. Wade, it seems to me that much of the movement has written off what could be a very viable option in eliminating abortion in this country. I am speaking of the federalist solution.

Having only really become cognizant of the abortion debate as an adult when I returned to the Church, I do not know what the "strategy" of the Pro-Life movement was in the first two decades after 1973, but it seems that the current strategy seems to be nothing other than a push for a nation wide ban on all abortion at the federal level. We could term this the federal solution, as opposed to the federalist solution, which I will explain later.
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Homosexual Compromise

It is no secret that for the past several decades, there has been a serious problem with rampant homosexuality in many of our seminaries. This much is beyond dispute and does not need to be reiterated here; it is documented thoroughly in Donald Cozzens' book The Changing Face of the Priesthood and more famously in Michael Rose's Goodbye, Good Men, which is a must read for anybody who cares about the future of the Catholic Church.

Besides the problem with open, flamboyant homosexuality in the seminaries, which I am obviously alarmed at, I am equally put off by what I consider to be a compromise with homosexuality. I am referring to the position that, while a dissenting, openly practicing homosexual is an unsuitable candidate for the priesthood, an orthodox man who has homosexual tendencies but does not try to act on them is suitable; i.e., a homosexual "living chastely."
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