From Kathryn Lopez on The Corner:
Amazing numbers of readers have informed me of my future eternal damnation for hypocrisy on abortion vs. the death penalty and Catholic politicians. Thing is (and I oppose the death penalty, for the record), they are different issues. I refer you to a good, clear essay by Avery Cardinal Dulles on the topic. Two excerpts:
The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority statement on capital punishment, conceded that “Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the State has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime.”
[I]t seems safe to conclude that the death penalty is not in itself a violation of the right to life. The real issue for Catholics is to determine the circumstances under which that penalty ought to be applied. It is appropriate, I contend, when it is necessary to achieve the purposes of punishment and when it does not have disproportionate evil effects. I say “necessary” because I am of the opinion that killing should be avoided if the purposes of punishment can be obtained by bloodless means.
Read the whole thing here