Slate’s William Saletan tries to instruct Archbishop Charles Chaput on Catholic teaching, who is supposedly “trying to have it both ways” by insisting that he opposes the death penalty but that faithful Catholic politicians can support it. Chaput, Saletan complains, has “allowed no such ambivalence about abortion.”
Chaput treats abortion and the death penalty differently because Church teaching treats them differently. It doesn’t condemn the death penalty in principle, the way it condemns abortion in principle; it doesn’t say that faithful Catholics may not participate in executions, as it says that they may not participate in abortions; it does not regard the execution of murderers as a grave injustice on par with abortion. Saletan may wish that Church teaching were different from what it is, and the teaching may well continue to develop in an anti-capital-punishment direction (although I doubt it will ever treat these issues as equivalent). But everything Chaput is saying is consistent with the teaching as it stands today, even if that teaching is too nuanced for Saletan’s liking.