Abortion, Capital Punishment and War: One of these things is not like the other

The basic difference between abortion and capital punishment (or the waging of armed force) is that the Church has firmly and explicitly taught that the former is an intrinsic evil: the direct taking of innocent human life to be opposed everywhere and at all times, while the moral worth of the latter two measures are contingent upon specific criteria and circumstance.

In the case of capital punishment, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s discussion of the fifth commandment, specifically the matter of “legitimate defense” (sections #2263-2267); on the matter of the waging of armed force, the Catholic tradition’s criteria for a “just war” (sections #2307-2317).

But is it not true that the Church has explicitly opposed contemporary instances of capital punishment or war? — If so, why have the Bishops not sought to impose similar restrictions on communion on those officials in public life favoring the use of capital punishment, or expressing their support of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq — a conflict on which both Pope John Paul II and even our present Pope (then-Cardinal Ratzinger) made their opposition known? Aren’t such figures not in open dissent and in a state of obstinate sin against the Church as well?

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