In the church’s debate over the issue of capital punishment I was interested that the pope ruled that capital punishment is “impermissible” Note that he did not say that it is morally, objectively sinful or wrong, but that it is “impermissible”. Being interested in words and their meanings led me to look up “permissible” and ponder its relationship to morality.

Very simply “permissible” means something is allowed or permitted by law or custom–not that it is necessarily good or even beneficial and not even that it is legal. So it may be permissible to drive five miles per hour over the speed limit, but that doesn’t mean it is good, advisable or even technically legal.

So also, if something is “impermissible” it doesn’t mean that action is necessarily intrinsically evil or wrong.

Praise the Lord

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