It has been saddening to watch some of the responses to the recent change (a word I use deliberately!) in the Church’s stance towards the application of the death penalty. Most of those responses have come from a particular part of the Church, not surprisingly, but it is saddening still to see those folks, whom I trust to have the very best of intentions, more interesting in taking Pope Francis to task rather than seeing the Church’s doctrine on the sanctity of life develop to its logical conclusion.
Writing for ABC’s Religion & Ethics website, Massimo Faggioli provides some insight into the reasons behind this response to the development, insights that any concerned Catholic should take note of. Perhaps the most significant insight is to be found towards the end of the article, when Faggioli writes
This is not just a purely intellectual issue. It is also an ecclesial issue because it has to do with the credibility of the Church that Francis sees as a missionary Church. Neo-traditionalist Catholic thinkers put their faith – and that of others – in danger when they make their membership of the Church dependent on the intellectual viability of Catholicism strictly grounded on the idea that the Church’s teaching never changed because it was never wrong. As if the Church decided to stop learning from history – its own history, first of all – about what Christians got wrong of Jesus’s Gospel; as if the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992 represented the idea that history had ended within the Church.
In my humble opinion this is the crux of the matter; the Church, that divinely inspired yet absolutely humanly fallible reality, cannot begin to grasp the fullness of the Gospel at any one point in its history. The reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ must surely mean that the Church, the disciples of Jesus Christ, is always open to deepening its understanding of the Gospel as it seeks to live in faithfulness to Christ.
Read the full article below.