Kevin, you oppose abortion, but support the death penalty. How?
Last fall prior to the election I saw a brochure in the vestibule of my church. Entitled “A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters,” it was written by Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, PhD.
Fr. Stephen graduated from St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, earned his Masters and Doctorate at Boston College and his Masters of Divinity at Harvard University. He was ordained in 1980. Since 1988 Fr. Torraco has been Associate Professor of Theology at Assumption College, Worcester, MA, until he died in 2010.
Fr. Torraco served on the Board of Catholic Experts of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), answering moral theology questions from people around the world at EWTN’s web site on a daily basis. He was the author of various books and articles in moral theology, medical ethics, the social teaching of the Catholic Church and the spiritual life.
Here’s an excerpt from his voting guide:
- If I may not vote for a pro-abortion candidate, then should it not also be true that I can’t vote for a pro-capital punishment candidate?
It is not correct to think of abortion and capital punishment as the very same kind of moral issue. On the one hand, direct abortion is an intrinsic evil, and cannot be justified for any purpose or in any circumstances. On the other hand, the Church has always taught that it is the right and responsibility of the legitimate temporal authority to defend and preserve the common good, and more specifically to defend citizens against the aggressor. This defense against the aggressor may resort to the death penalty if no other means of defense is sufficient. The point here is that the death penalty is understood as an act of self-defense on the part of civil society. In more recent times, in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II has taught that the need for such self-defense to resort to the death penalty is “rare, if not virtually nonexistent.” Thus, while the Pope is saying that the burden of proving the need for the death penalty in specific cases should rest on the shoulders of the legitimate temporal authority, it remains true that the legitimate temporal authority alone has the authority to determine if and when a “rare” case arises that warrants the death penalty. Moreover, if such a rare case does arise and requires resorting to capital punishment, this societal act of self-defense would be a *morally good action* even if it does have the unintended and unavoidable evil effect of the death of the aggressor. Thus, unlike the case of abortion, it would be morally irresponsible to rule out all such “rare” possibilities a priori, just as it would be morally irresponsible to apply the death penalty indiscriminately.
—This Just In, January 5, 2017
The update: From Crusade Magazine:
In response to the circulating notion that the death penalty is comparable to abortion and euthanasia, Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, stated in 2004 that: [I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment…he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.
While the Church exhorts civil authorities…to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to…have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia. While a Catholic may oppose capital punishment out of circumstantial reasons, he may not deny its legitimacy, nor condition it according to particular circumstances in such a way that it never can be applied.
Read the entire piece beginning on Page Two here.