Pope Francis recently revised (changed) an official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on the death penalty declaring it “inadmissible.” Catholic answers states this somehow is not in contradiction to past teachings and uses words like: ‘doctrinal development’ , ‘an increasing awareness’, ‘reformulated’, ‘a new understanding’, etc.
This may or may not be a big deal for many Roman Catholics but this will no doubt make things difficult for many Roman Catholic apologists who staunchly defend the Roman Catholic faith.
Peter D. Williams, a Roman Catholic apologist in a very recent debate (2018 not sure the month/day) with Dr. James White on the RC teaching of indulgences said the following:
“The Pope Could not.. if he wanted to. he Could not., change the churches teaching, if it had been established by ecumenical council or by order of magisterium by which we mean the continual teaching of the church over time. “ (video link at end of article)
Tim Staples the director of apologetics at Catholic Answers in an article published in May 2015 said the following:
“I pointed out to John what too many Catholics simply do not know: The death penalty has always been, and always will be, upheld as a legitimate and potentially just punishment in Catholic Tradition as well as in Scripture.
This teaching cannot change. “
Then he goes on to quote scripture.
Genesis 9:6 says, for example, “He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God created man in his own image.”
Here we have an example of two Roman Catholic apologists declaring that teachings cannot change once they’ve been established by the Church of Rome. But yet this is exactly what the current Pope has done.
In another article we read about two U.S. Catholic professors saying the following:
“Two U.S. Catholic professors who authored what many consider to be a rigorous defense of Catholic teaching on capital punishment say that Pope Francis’ new teaching on the subject appears to be “contradicting scripture, tradition, and all previous popes.” And, he may be “committing a doctrinal error.”
Why does this matter?
It matters because many Roman Catholics have been taught to believe that the RC Church is the ‘one true church’ that Christ established , and that the Pope, a fallible mortal man, is somehow infallible in matters of faith and morals when speaking ex-cathedra. The Bishop of Rome is believed to be the successor of Peter, the “Holy Father”, the “Vicar of Christ”, and “visible head” of the church.
If this is true whether he is speaking ‘infallibly’ or not we should then take seriously what this man says in matters of faith and morals even when it’s not ‘ex cathedra’. If it conflicts with all previous Popes, and RC teachings then I would hope this would raise questions/concerns for any practicing RC today.
Will this cause a Schism?
I’d argue that there already is although I’m uncertain how large this group is yet (see here.) Gerry and many others claim to be true catholics and say Pope Francis is a heretic. They’ve been labeled by Roman Catholics “sedevacantists.”
Will this even matter to the average everyday Roman Catholic?
Probably not, as I’ve found people have an incredible ability to ignore these things and in a few weeks/months it will be business as usual. I imagine most people wont even think about it. For some, I’m sure it will matter, and I pray this will lead them to the one true Holy Father who is truly infallible, in all matters of faith and morals not just certain times and certain special circumstances. The one true Holy Father who has made a clear path to salvation found in those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and Christ alone. The one true Holy Father that doesn’t change rules and add new rules throughout time all according to mans will, and popular culture.
On what soil do you stand?
To my Roman Catholic friends I encourage you to step back and think about this for a minute. As a Roman Catholic you are putting your faith, trust and final authority into the hands of fallible men and simply just accepting whatever they say, even if it’s in conflict with scripture or with previous teachings of your own church. The truth is you’re church is ‘evolving’ and ‘changing’ and contradicts it’s own teachings.
As Christians, if our ultimate, final authority in matters of faith and morals is not rooted in God’s Word then we are standing in quick sand and will be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” Ephesians 4:14.
But if your ultimate, final authority is rooted in God’s Living Word then you are standing on Jesus. The Rock the Church was built on. Stand on this and in 20 years, 50 years, 1000 years the teachings will be the same.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 [f]in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I sincerely hope and pray with all the chaos going on in the churches today God leads you to the stability that is only found in Christ.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0f95nvmfVs&t=1h25m34s (1:25 minutes in)