Two of the the bigger issues debated far and wide, are abortion and the death penalty. Politically, they have been used by both conservatives and liberals to try to prove hypocrisy by the other: how can one be against abortion as a "life thing," but be for the death penalty; or be against the death penalty as a "life thing," and be pro-abortion? I believe there is a general (mis)understanding of how the Church views these issues; that is, many folks think the Church teaches that both abortion and the death penalty are morally wrong. In fact, the Church's position are these issues are very different: one (abortion) is morally wrong in all cases; the other (death penalty) is permissible and is in fact a moral obligation of the civil authority, under certain circumstances. To wit:
- "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law..." CCC 2271
- "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense..." CCC 2272
- "Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm." CCC 2265
- "Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor... Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." CCC 2267
The CCC is such a wonderfully written and formative work, and a treasure for which Catholics should never lose their appreciation.