Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters


Folks, sadly there is much confusion out there among Catholic voters as to their responsibility in the upcoming November Presidential election. The following is a short explanation from the EWTN website in an easy-to-read "Q and A" format. The one matter that is undeniable is that we all have a moral obligation to faithfully form our consciences so that we are equipped to make proper moral choices in the upcoming election. That is for certain. The Catholic Church does not tell us WHO to vote for, but instead, it educates us as to the issues we MUST consider if we are to vote as faithful Catholics. I therefore offer the following simply as an aid to assist all of us as we struggle with the very involved, yet extremely serious issues that confront our nation and our society today.



A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters
Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, PhD


1. Isn’t conscience the same as my own opinions and feelings? And doesn’t everyone have the right to his or her own conscience?


Conscience is NOT the same as your opinions or feelings. Conscience cannot be identical with your feelings because conscience is the activity of your intellect in judging the rightness or wrongness of your actions or omissions, past, present, or future, while your feelings come from another part of your soul and should be governed by your intellect and will. Conscience is not identical with your opinions because your intellect bases its judgment upon the natural moral law, which is inherent in your human nature and is identical with the Ten Commandments. Unlike the civil laws made by legislators, or the opinions that you hold, the natural moral law is not anything that you invent, but rather discover within yourself and is the governing norm of your conscience. In short, Conscience is the voice of truth within you, and your opinions need to be in harmony with that truth. As a Catholic, you have the benefit of the Church’s teaching authority or Magisterium endowed upon her by Christ. The Magisterium assists you and all people of good will in understanding the natural moral law as it relates to specific issues. As a Catholic, you have the obligation to be correctly informed and normed by the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium. As for your feelings, they need to be educated by virtue so as to be in harmony with conscience’s voice of truth. In this way, you will have a sound conscience, according to which we you will feel guilty when you are guilty, and feel morally upright when you are morally upright. We should strive to avoid the two opposite extremes of a lax conscience and a scrupulous conscience. Meeting the obligation of continually attending to this formation of conscience will increase the likelihood that, in the actual operation or activity of conscience, you will act with a certain conscience, which clearly perceives that a given concrete action is a good action that was rightly done or should be done. Being correctly informed and certain in the actual operation of conscience is the goal of the continuing formation of conscience. Otherwise put, you should strive to avoid being incorrectly informed and doubtful in the actual judgment of conscience about a particular action or omission. You should never act on a doubtful conscience.



2. Is it morally permissible to vote for all candidates of a single party?


This would depend on the positions held by the candidates of a single party. If any one or more of them held positions that were opposed to the natural moral law, then it would not be morally permissible to vote for all candidates of this one party. Your correctly informed conscience transcends the bounds of any one political party.



3. If I think that a pro-abortion candidate will, on balance, do much more for the culture of life than a pro-life candidate, why may I not vote for the pro-abortion candidate?


If a political candidate supported abortion, or any other moral evil, such as assisted suicide and euthanasia, for that matter, it would not be morally permissible for you to vote for that person. This is because, in voting for such a person, you would become an accomplice in the moral evil at issue. For this reason, moral evils such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are examples of a “disqualifying issue.” A disqualifying issue is one which is of such gravity and importance that it allows for no political maneuvering. It is an issue that strikes at the heart of the human person and is non-negotiable. A disqualifying issue is one of such enormity that by itself renders a candidate for office unacceptable regardless of his position on other matters. You must sacrifice your feelings on other issues because you know that you cannot participate in any way in an approval of a violent and evil violation of basic human rights. A candidate for office who supports abortion rights or any other moral evil has disqualified himself as a person that you can vote for. You do not have to vote for a person because he is pro-life. But you may not vote for any candidate who supports abortion rights. Key to understanding the point above about “disqualifying issues” is the distinction between policy and moral principle. On the one hand, there can be a legitimate variety of approaches to accomplishing a morally acceptable goal. For example, in a society’s effort to distribute the goods of health care to its citizens, there can be legitimate disagreement among citizens and political candidates alike as to whether this or that health care plan would most effectively accomplish society’s goal. In the pursuit of the best possible policy or strategy, technical as distinct (although not separate) from moral reason is operative. Technical reason is the kind of reasoning involved in arriving at the most efficient or effective result. On the other hand, no policy or strategy that is opposed to the moral principles of the natural law is morally acceptable. Thus, technical reason should always be subordinate to and normed by moral reason, the kind of reasoning that is the activity of conscience and that is based on the natural moral law.



4. If I have strong feelings or opinions in favor of a particular candidate, even if he is pro-abortion, why may I not vote for him?


As explained in question 1 above, neither your feelings nor your opinions are identical with your conscience. Neither your feelings nor your opinions can take the place of your conscience. Your feelings and opinions should be governed by your conscience. If the candidate about whom you have strong feelings or opinions is pro-abortion, then your feelings and opinions need to be corrected by your correctly informed conscience, which would tell you that it is wrong for you to allow your feelings and opinions to give lesser weight to the fact that the candidate supports a moral evil.



5. 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.



6. If I think that a candidate who is pro-abortion has better ideas to serve the poor, and the pro-life candidate has bad ideas that will hurt the poor, why may I not vote for the candidate that has the better ideas for serving the poor?


Serving the poor is not only admirable, but also obligatory for Catholics as an exercise of solidarity. Solidarity has to do with the sharing of both spiritual and material goods, and with what the Church calls the preferential option for the poor. This preference means that we have the duty to give priority to helping those most needful, both materially and spiritually. Beginning in the family, solidarity extends to every human association, even to the international moral order. Based on the response to question 3 above, two important points must be made. First, when it comes to the matter of determining how social and economic policy can best serve the poor, there can be a legitimate variety of approaches proposed, and therefore legitimate disagreement among voters and candidates for office. Secondly, solidarity can never be at the price of embracing a “disqualifying issue.” Besides, when it comes to the unborn, abortion is a most grievous offense against solidarity, for the unborn are surely among society’s most needful. The right to life is a paramount issue because as Pope John Paul II says it is “the first right, on which all the others are based, and which cannot be recuperated once it is lost.” If a candidate for office refuses solidarity with the unborn, he has laid the ground for refusing solidarity with anyone.



7. If a candidate says that he is personally opposed to abortion but feels the need to vote for it under the circumstances, doesn’t this candidate’s personal opposition to abortion make it morally permissible for me to vote for him, especially if I think that his other views are the best for people, especially the poor?


A candidate for office who says that he is personally opposed to abortion but actually votes in favor of it is either fooling himself or trying to fool you. Outside of the rare case in which a hostage is forced against his will to perform evil actions with his captors, a person who carries out an evil action  such as voting for abortion  performs an immoral act, and his statement of personal opposition to the moral evil of abortion is either self-delusion or a lie. If you vote for such a candidate, you would be an accomplice in advancing the moral evil of abortion. Therefore, it is not morally permissible to vote for such a candidate for office, even, as explained in questions 3 and 6 above, you think that the candidate’s other views are best for the poor.



8. What if none of the candidates are completely pro-life?


As Pope John Paul II explains in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), “…when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” Logically, it follows from these words of the Pope that a voter may likewise vote for that candidate who will most likely limit the evils of abortion or any other moral evil at issue.



9. What if one leading candidate is anti-abortion except in the cases of rape or incest, another leading candidate is completely pro-abortion, and a trailing candidate, not likely to win, is completely anti-abortion. Would I be obliged to vote for the candidate not likely to win?


In such a case, the Catholic voter may clearly choose to vote for the candidate not likely to win. In addition, the Catholic voter may assess that voting for that candidate might only benefit the completely pro-abortion candidate, and, precisely for the purpose of curtailing the evil of abortion, decide to vote for the leading candidate that is anti-abortion but not perfectly so. This decision would be in keeping with the words of the Pope quoted in question 8 above.



10. What if all the candidates from whom I have to choose are pro-abortion? Do I have to abstain from voting at all? What do I do?


Obviously, one of these candidates is going to win the election. Thus, in this dilemma, you should do your best to judge which candidate would do the least moral harm. However, as explained in question 5 above, you should not place a candidate who is pro-capital punishment (and anti-abortion) in the same moral category as a candidate who is pro-abortion. Faced with such a set of candidates, there would be no moral dilemma, and the clear moral obligation would be to vote for the candidate who is pro-capital punishment, not necessarily because he is pro-capital punishment, but because he is anti-abortion.



11. Is not the Church’s stand that abortion must be illegal a bit of an exception? Does not the Church generally hold that government should restrict its legislation of morality significantly?


The Church’s teaching that abortion should be illegal is not an exception. St. Thomas Aquinas put it this way: “Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.” [ emphasis added]. Abortion qualifies as a grievous vice that hurts others, and the lack of prohibition of this evil by society is something by which human society cannot be maintained. As Pope John Paul II has emphasized, the denial of the right to life, in principle, sets the stage, in principle, for the denial of all other rights.



12. What about elected officials who happen to be of the same party affiliation? Are they committing a sin by being in the same party, even if they don’t advocate pro-choice views? Are they guilty by association?


Being of the same political party as those who advocate pro-abortion is indeed a serious evil IF I belong to this political party IN ORDER TO ASSOCIATE MYSELF with that party’s advocacy of pro-abortion policies. However, it can also be true that being of such a political party has as its purpose to change the policies of the party. Of course, if this is the purpose, one would have to consider whether it is reasonable to think the political party’s policies can be changed. Assuming that it is reasonable to think so, then it would be morally justifiable to remain in that political party. Remaining in that political party cannot be instrumental in the advancing of pro-abortion policies (especially if I am busily striving to change the party’s policies) as can my VOTING for candidates or for a political party with a pro-abortion policy.



13. What about voting for a pro-abortion person for something like state treasurer, in which case the candidate would have no say on matters of life in the capacity of her duties, it just happens to be her personal position. This would not be a sin, right?


If someone were running for state treasurer and that candidate made it a point to state publicly that he was in favor of exterminating people over the age of 70, would you vote for him? The fact that the candidate has that evil in his mind tells you that there are easily other evils in his mind; and the fact that he would publicly state it is a danger signal. If personal character matters in a political candidate, and personal character involves the kind of thoughts a person harbors, then such a candidate who publicly states that he is in favor of the evil of exterminating people over the age of 70 - or children who are unborn - has also disqualified himself from receiving a Catholic’s vote. I would go further and say that such a candidate, in principle - in the light of the natural law - disqualifies himself from public office.



14. Is it a mortal sin to vote for a pro-abortion candidate?


Except in the case in which a voter is faced with all pro-abortion candidates (in which case, as explained in question 8 above, he or she strives to determine which of them would cause the let damage in this regard), a candidate that is pro-abortion disqualifies himself from receiving a Catholic’s vote. This is because being pro-abortion cannot simply be placed alongside the candidate's other positions on Medicare and unemployment, for example; and this is because abortion is intrinsically evil and cannot be morally justified for any reason or set of circumstances. To vote for such a candidate even with the knowledge that the candidate is pro-abortion is to become an accomplice in the moral evil of abortion. If the voter also knows this, then the voter sins mortally.

COPYRIGHT © 2002Stephen F. Torraco

2 comments:

dudleysharp said...

Pope John Paul II: His death penalty errors
by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
(contact info, below)
October 1997, with subsequent updates thru 5/07
 
SEE ADDITIONAL REFERENCES AT THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT

The new Roman Catholic position on the death penalty, introduced in 1997,  is based upon the thoughts of Pope John Paul II, whose position conflicts with reason, as well as biblical, theological and traditional Catholic teachings spanning nearly 2000 years.
 
Pope John Paul II's death penalty writings in Evangelium Vitae were flawed and their adoption into the Catechism was improper.

In 1997, the Roman Catholic Church decided to amend the 1992 Universal Catechism to reflect Pope John Paul II's comments within his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). Therein, the Pope finds that the only time executions can be justified is when they are required "to defend society" and that "as a result of steady improvements . . . in the penal system that such cases are very rare if not practically non existent."
 
This is, simply, not true.  Murderers, tragically, harm and murder, again, way too often.
 
Many issues, inexplicably, escaped the Pope's consideration.
 
First, in the Pope's context, "to defend society" means that the execution of the murderer must save future lives or, otherwise, prevent future harm.  
 
When looking at the history of  criminal justice practices in probations, paroles and incarcerations, we observe countless examples of when judgements and procedures failed and, because of that, murderers harmed and/or murdered, again. History details that murderers murder and otherwise harm again, time and time again -- in prison, after escape, after improper release, and, of course, after we fail to capture or incarcerate them. 
 
Reason dictates that living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and/or murder again than are executed murderers - an obvious truism overlooked by the Pope.
 
Therefore,  the Pope could err, by calling for a reduction or end to execution, and thus harm more innocents, or he could "err" on the side of protecting more innocents by calling for an expansion of executions.
 
History, reason and the facts support an increase in executions based upon a defending society foundation. 
 
Secondly, if social science concludes that executions provide enhanced deterrence for murders, then the Pope's position should call for increased executions. 
 
If  we decide that the deterrent effect of executions does not exist and we, therefore, choose not to execute, and we are wrong, this will sacrifice more innocent lives and also give those murderers the opportunity to harm and murder again. 
 
If we choose to execute, believing in the deterrent effect, and we are wrong, we are executing our worst human rights violators and preventing such murderers from ever harming or murdering again - again, defending more innocent lives.
 
No responsible social scientist has or will say that the death penalty deters no one.  Quite a few studies, including 16 recent ones, inclusive of their defenses,  find that executions do deter. 
 
As all prospects for negative consequence deter some (there appears to be no exception),  it is a mystery why the Pope chose the option which spares murderers and sacrifices more innocent lives. 
 
If the Pope's defending society position has merit, then, again, the Church must actively support executions, as it offers an enhanced defense of society and greater protection for innocent life.
 
Thirdly, we know that some criminals don't murder because of their fear of execution.  This is known as the individual deterrent effect.  Unquestionably, the incapacitation effect (execution) and the individual deterrent effect both exist and they both defend society by protecting innocent life and offer enhanced protections over imprisonment.

Fourth, furthermore, individual deterrence assures us that general deterrence must exist, because individual deterrence could not exist without it. 

Executions defend more innocent lives. 

Fifth, actual innocents that are convicted for murders are better protected by due process in death penalty cases, than in non-death penalty cases. No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the US death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed. That is. logically, conclusive.

Again, offering more defense of innocents and, thereby, a greater defense of society.

The Pope's defending society standard should be a call for increasing executions. Instead, the Pope and other Church leadership has chosen a position that spares the lives of known murderers, resulting in more innocents put at risk and more innocents harmed and murdered --  a position which, quite clearly, contradicts the Pope's, and other's, conclusions.
 
Contrary to the Church's belief, that the Pope's opinion represents a tougher stance against the death penalty, the opposite is true. When properly evaluated, the defending society position supports more executions.
 
Had these issues been properly assessed, the Catechism would never have been amended  --  unless the Church endorses a position knowing that it would spare the lives of guilty murderers, at the cost of sacrificing more innocent victims. 
 
When the choice is  between

1) sparing murderers, resulting in more harmed and murdered innocents, who suffer through endless moments of incredible horror, with no additional time to prepare for their salvation, or
2) executing murderers, who are given many years on death row to prepare for their salvation, and saving more innocents from being murdered,

The Pope and the Catholic Church have an obligation to spare and defend more innocents, as Church tradition, the Doctors of the Church and many Saints have concluded. (see reference, below)
 
Pope John Paul II's death penalty stance was his own, personal prudential judgement and does not bind any other Catholic to share his position. Any Catholic can choose to support more executions, based upon their own prudential judgement, and remain a Catholic in good standing and they can also, thereby, defend more innocents.
 
Furthermore, prudential judgement requires a foundation of reasoned and thorough review. The Pope either improperly evaluated the risk to innocents or he did not evaluate it at all.
 
A defending society position supports more executions, not less. Therefore, his prudential judgement was in error on this important fact, thereby undermining his sole point in reducing executions.
 
Sixth, defending society is an outcome of the death penalty, but is secondary to the foundation of justice and biblical instruction.
 
Even though Romans and additional writings do reveal a "defending society" consideration, such references pale in comparison to the mandate that execution is the proper punishment for murder, regardless of any consideration "to defend society."  Both the Noahic covenant, in Genesis 9:6 ("Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."), and the Mosaic covenant, throughout the Pentateuch (Ex.: "He that smiteth a man so that he may die, shall be surely put to death."  Exodus 21:12), provide execution as the punishment for unjustifiable/intentional homicide, otherwise known as murder.
 
These texts, and others, offer specific rebuttal to the Pope's position that if "bloodless means" for punishment are available then such should be used, to the exclusion of execution. Pope John Paul II's prudential judgement does not trump biblical instruction.
 
Seventh, most telling is the fact that Roman Catholic tradition instructs four elements to be considered  with criminal sanction.
1.  Defense of society against the criminal.
2.  Rehabilitation of the criminal (including spiritual rehabilitation).
3.  Retribution, which is the reparation of the disorder caused by the criminal's transgression.
4.   Deterrence
 
It is a mystery why and how the Pope could have excluded three of these important elements and wrongly evaluated the fourth. In doing so, though, we can confirm that his review was incomplete and improper. 
 
At least two Saints, Paul and Dismas, faced execution and stated that it was appropriate. They were both executed.
 
The Holy Ghost decided that death was the proper punishment for two devoted, early Christians,  Ananias and his wife, Saphira,  for the crime/sin of lying. Neither was given a moment to consider their earthly punishment or to ask for forgiveness. The Holy Ghost struck them dead.
 
For those who erroneously contend that Jesus abandoned the Law of the Hebrew Testament, He states that He has come not "to abolish the law and the prophets . . . but to fulfill them."  Matthew 5:17-22.  While there is honest debate regarding the interpretation of Mosaic Law within a Christian context, there seems little dispute that the Noahic Covenant is still in effect and that Genesis 9:6 deals directly with the sanctity of life issue in its support of execution.

(read "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
 
"In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die (Mt 15:4; Mk 7:10, referring to Ex 21:17; cf. Lev 20:9). (Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, 10/7/2000)
 
Saint Pius V reaffirms this mandate, in the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), stating that executions are acts of "paramount obedience to this [Fifth] Commandment."  ("Thou shalt not murder," sometimes improperly translated as "kill" instead of "murder").  And, not only do the teachings of Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine concur, but both saints also find that such punishment actually reflects charity and mercy by preventing the wrongdoer from sinning further.  The Saints position is that execution offers undeniable defense of society as well as defense of the wrongdoer.
 
Such prevention also expresses the fact that execution is an enhanced defense of society, over and above all other punishments.
 
Eighth, the relevant question is "What biblical and theological teachings, developed from 1566 through 1997, provide that the standard for executions should evolve from 'paramount obedience' to God's eternal law to a civil standard reflecting 'steady improvements' . . . in the penal system?".  Such teachings hadn't changed.  The Pope's position is social and contrary to biblical,  theological and traditional teachings.
 
If Saint Pius V was correct, that executions represent "paramount obedience to the [Fifth] Commandments, then is it not disobedient to reduce or stop executions?
 
The Church's position on the use of the death penalty has been consistent from 300 AD through 1995 AD.  The Church has always supported the use of executions, based upon biblical and theological principles.
 
Until 1995, says John Grabowski, associate professor of Moral Theology at Catholic University, " . . .  Church teachings were supportive of the death penalty.  You can find example after example of Pope's, of theologians and others, who have supported the right of the state to inflict capital punishment for certain crimes and certain cases." Grabowski continues: "What he (the Pope now) says, in fact, in his encyclical, is that given the fact that we now have the ability, you know, technology and facilities to lock up someone up for the rest of their lives so they pose no future threat to society -- given that question has been answered or removed, there is no longer justification for the death penalty."  (All Things Considered, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, 9/9/97.)
 
Ninth, the Pope's position is now based upon the state of the corrections system -- a position neither biblical nor theological in nature.  Furthermore, it is a position which conflicts with the history of prisons.  Long term incarceration of lawbreakers in Europe began in the 1500s.  Of course, long term incarceration of slaves had begun thousands of years before --  meaning that all were aware that criminal wrongdoers  could also be subject to bondage, if necessary - something that all historians and biblical scholars -- now and then --  were and are well aware of. 
 
Since it's inception, the Church has issued numerous pronouncements, encyclicals and previous Universal Catechisms.  Had any biblical or theological principle called for a replacement of the death penalty by life imprisonment, it would have been revealed long before 1995. 
 
Tenth, there is, finally, a disturbing reality regarding the Pope's new standard.  The Pope's defending society standard requires that the moral concept of justice becomes irrelevant.  The Pope's standard finds that capital punishment can be used only as a vehicle to prevent future crimes. Therefore, using the Pope's standard, the moral/biblical rational -- that capital punishment is the just or required punishment for murder -- is no longer relevant to the sin/crime of murder. 
 
If defending society is the new standard, the Pope has decided that the biblical standards of atonement, expiation, justice and required punishments have all, necessarily, been discarded, with regard to execution.
 
The Pope's new position establishes that capital punishment no longer has any connection to the harm done or to the imbalance to be addressed.  Yet, such connection had always been, until now, the Church's historical, biblically based perspective on this sanction.  Under a defending society standard, the injury suffered by the murder victim is no longer relevant to their punishment.  Executions can be justified solely upon that punishments ability to prevent future harm by the murderer.

Therefore, when considering executions in regard to capital murder cases, a defending society standard renders justice irrelevant.  Yet, execution defends society to a degree unapproachable by any other punishment and, therefore, should have been fully supported by the Pope.
 
"Some enlightened people would like to banish all conception of retribution or desert from our theory of punishment and place its value wholly in the deterrence of others or the reform of the criminal himself.  They do not see that by doing so they render all punishment unjust. What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it?" (quote attributed to the distinguished Christian writer C. S. Lewis)
 
Again, with regard to the Pope's prudential judgement, his neglect of justice was most imprudent.
 
Some Catholic scholars, properly, have questioned the appropriateness of including prudential judgement within a Catechism. Personal opinion does not belong within a Catechism and, likely, will never be allowed, again. I do not believe it had ever been allowed before.
 
In fact, neither the Church nor the Pope would accept a defending society standard for use of the death penalty, unless the Church and the Pope believed that such punishment was just and deserved, as well.  The Church has never questioned the authority of the government to execute in "cases of extreme gravity," nor does it do so with these recent changes. 
 
Certainly, the Church and the Pope John Paul II believe that the prevention of any and all violent crimes fulfills a defending society position.  There is no doubt that executions defend society at a level higher than incarceration. Why has the Pope and many within Church leadership chosen a path that spares murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives, when they could have chosen a stronger defense of society which spares more innocents?
 
Properly, the Pope did not challenge the Catholic biblical and theological support for capital punishment.  The Pope has voiced his own, personal belief as to the appropriate application of that penalty. 
 
So why has the Pope come out against executions, when his own position -- a defense of society -- which, both rationally and factually, has a foundation supportive of more executions?
 
It is unfortunate that the Pope, along with some other leaders in the Church, have decided to, improperly, use a defending society position to speak against the death penalty.
 
The Pope's position against the death penalty condemns more innocents and neglects justice.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

These references provide a thorough rebuke of the current Roman Catholic Church teachings against the death penalty and, particularly, deconstruct the many improper pronouncements made by the US Bishops.
 
 
(1)"The Death Penalty", Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum,
by Romano Amerio, 
a faithful Catholic Vatican insider and scholar, a professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian)  at the Council. 

Thoughtful deconstruction of current Roman Catholic teaching on capital punishment.
 
domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html
titled "Amerio on capital punishment ", May 25, 2007 
 

(2)  "Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty", at
homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx
 

(3)  "Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective" at
www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm
 

(4) "The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)", by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 2003
www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4
 

(5) "MOST CATHOLICS OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?", KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
www(dot)catholic.com/newsletters/kke_040302.asp
 

(6) "THOUGHTS ON THE BISHOPS' MEETING: NOWADAYS, VOTERS IGNORE BISHOPS" , KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers,, Nov. 22, 2005
www(dot)catholic.com/newsletters/kke_051122.asp


(7) "God’s Justice and Ours" by Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
www(dot)firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022


(8)  "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).


(9) "The Death Penalty", by Solange Strong Hertz at
ourworld(DOT)compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/death2.htm


(10) "Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says", Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987. The definitive biblical review of the death penalty.


(11) Forgotten Truths: "Is The Church Against Abortion and The Death Penalty", by Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Crusade Magazine, p14-16, May/June 2007
www(DOT)tfp.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=957
 
copyright 1997-2008 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or part, is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharp(at)aol.com, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 
 
homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx
 
www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
joshmarquis(dot)blogspot.com/
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_contents.htm  (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Tom Lang said...

The "Comment" from Dudley Sharp below highlights the most important point about the original post. Faithful Catholics are free to disagree about issues such as capital punishment, BUT NEVER ABOUT AN INTRINSIC EVIL SUCH AS ABORTION OR EUTHANASIA!! Mr. Sharp himself notes at the end of his comment that he formerly was an opponent of the death penalty. Personally, having majored in Criminology and Law Enforcement in college and being a lawyer myself, I have struggled throughout my adult life with the morality of capital punishment as so many of us have. Pope John Paul II and so many theologians have recognized that the issue is not a moral absolute, unlike abortion or euthanasia. Such intrinsic evils are NEVER morally acceptable and that MUST be at the forefront of our thought as faithful Catholics when we enter the voting booth.