In other times in his story, and in other circumstances, the Catholic Church did not oppose the death penalty. It was supported as within the purview of the jurisdiction of State. Arguably, with the rise of the evils of extremist jihadism in some nations, one could hypothetically foresee its use as once again necessitated in some places to protect the common good.
However, procured abortion is intrinsically evil, always and everywhere wrong, because it is the taking of innocent defenseless life. The contemporary approach of opposing the death penalty emphasizes it is no longer necessary and bloodless means of punishment are readily available. In fact, the Catechism was amended to emphasize that the use of "capital punishment" adds to the growth of what St. John Paul II labeled the "Culture of Death."
The Catechism emphasizes, "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity with the dignity of the human person" (CCC, n. 2267).
Some of the disappointed responses to the messages Francis gave in Washington, D.C. are understandable concerns being raised by sincere men and women who wish he was much clearer in opposing the evil of abortion, defending marriage and the family, and respecting the contributions of a market economy.
However, I am suggesting that some of the opposition is a form of political piracy. It is coming from some within both the political left and right. Francis is neither left nor right - he is Catholic. The social teaching of the Catholic Church must be viewed as a whole. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church compiles it in one place.
The dignity of every human life is not simply a political issue but the lens through which every political, economic, international and social issue is to be viewed. Every single person has human dignity precisely because they are created in the Image of God, whether they are still in the womb, a wheelchair, a soup kitchen, a hospice, or a prison cell. The reason we care about the poor, in all of their manifestations, is because of that human dignity.
Pope Francis told his brother Bishops in his Wednesday address, "I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit." After New York City, he will travel to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Stay tuned, there is more controversy to come and there will be other pirates seeking to plunder his messages on marriage and the family.
The truth about marriage as solely possible between one man and one woman, intended for life, and open to the gift of children is affirmed by the Catholic Church as objectively true. No-one can redefine this objective truth. It is revealed by the Natural moral law and serves the real common good. Pope Francis will stand up for this truth and against the growing assault on marriage and the family. If you think his messages have been controversial so far, I sense there is much more ahead.