Author: Ben Bayer

The Destructive Illusion of Moral Authority

Two stories about the Roman Catholic Church have saturated the headlines for much of the summer of 2018. One concerns developments in the sex abuse crisis that has scandalized the church for almost 20 years: these include revelations of cover-ups in Chile, Australia, and, most recently, Pennsylvania in the United States. The other story concerns Pope Francis’s recent decision to revise the Catholic catechism’s position on the death penalty: previously the church merely discouraged the death penalty, but the new teaching now condemns it without exception. If you don’t stop to consider it, you might not see how these stories are related. Some commentators, especially conservative critics of the Church’s opposition to the death penalty, have suggested that the revision to the catechism was intended to distract the public’s attention from the intensifying sex abuse scandal. However, I think that if there is a hidden agenda, it’s more likely that it encourages a kind of reflection about the predators. After all, if we are encouraged to show mercy to murderers, then it follows that we …