Friday, May 21, 2004

False Teachings

There is an idea which is permeating through the media. The idea is support for the death penalty and the war in Iraq is morally wrong and violates the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Furthermore, it has been claimed support for the death penalty and war in Iraq are both on par with support for abortion.
Thus, a Catholic politician like Sen Kerry, who supports abortion, is no more wrong than a Catholic politician like Gov Jeb Bush, who supports the death penalty.  The underlying suggestion is, Catholic voters would be wrong to vote for any candidate who supports the death penalty, the war in Iraq, or abortion, so a candidate's stand on abortion really should not matter to these Catholic voters.
I can give the benefit of the doubt to writers and reporters who are not Catholic or happen to be under-catechized Catholics. Their understanding of Catholic teachings is bound to be limited. Still, they are knowingly or unknowingly contributing to the scandalous idea growing among Catholics that opposition to abortion is not the paramount social teaching of the Catholic Church.
There is no Catholic teaching, as there is concerning abortion, that states the death penalty is always wrong or that war is always wrong. As Catholic League president William Donohue has stated, 
"(T)he pope’s position on the war was that it could be resorted to only ‘as the very last option,’ thus allowing room for a legitimate debate on whether that time had arrived.  Regarding the death penalty, the Holy Father has never taken an absolutist position against it; he argues that for the most part it is no longer necessary to defend society.  In short, war and capital punishment, while never desirable, may sometimes be necessary.  By contrast, abortion is intrinsically evil."
Catholics are free to disagree on the application of the death penalty or the timing of the war in Iraq. We are obligated to listen to the hierarchy, but we are not required to come to the same conclusion. And those who support the death penalty or the war in Iraq are not "heartless" or "war-mongers" or unfaithful Catholics. To misrepresent the Catholic understanding of these issues is dangerous. We can only hope and pray that the media will do a better job and soon.


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