In the great and ongoing debate about abortion, it is often suggested that opposition to abortion and opposition to the death penalty go hand in hand. Perhaps so; capital punishment should no longer be a shirt sleeve issue for Catholic conservatives, seeing as Rome has spoken so forcefully about it in recent years. Still, it does appear that the one question does not so easily blend with the other.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“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.
“If however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
“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 definitively 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.” (#2267)
While this is obviously a very strong statement against capital punishment, it does not condemn it. Indeed it seems to say that, though ‘practically nonexistent’ the right of the state to use the death penalty does exist. It almost sounds like the admonition against violence or war: it should be used as a last recourse, when no other option exists.
So tying abortion to capital punishment, especially in a state such as right here in Michigan, where capital punishment has not existed since the middle of the 19th Century, indeed to place the death penalty under the umbrella of ‘life issues’ seems nothing short of a brazen attempt to call conservative anti-abortion activists hypocrites. Don’t misunderstand this: if getting rid of capital punishment would in turn rid us of abortion, then we should do it.
But it won’t. It would only force the pro-abortion crowd to find another bad name to call the right wing. Because they, unlike the Church and true conservatives, do not want what’s right. They want what they want because they want it. They want it, not on grounds of true morals, but on the selfish grounds of mere human will.