Double standard on Iraq and Death Penalty

I’m a Protestant, and I have a serious question about the Catholic church’s policy on Iraq vs. life issues in the context of politics. I believe the church has what many view to be a double standard on the taking of life.

My question is, why does the Catholic church instruct its followers on how to vote based on a politician’s views on abortion, but not based on a politicians views on war or the death penalty? Especially when many killed in war or put on death row are absolutely innocent? Is the Catholic church unaware that most wars both today and past are unjust and cost innocent life without fail, and that many people on death row are exonerated by DNA evidence?

My question is based on reports that Bishop Joseph Martino is politicizing his diocese on abortion, yet not on war or the death penalty. This is consistent with many recent actions the church has taken over the years, and strongly reinforces the double standard that it holds on life.

Why are you so surprised that the Church has different “standards” (teachings) on subjects so vastly different as abortion, war and the death penalty? I would be astonished if she didn’t.

BTW, what exactly is the position of the Church on war?

I know! I know!

It depends. =D
Catholics are permitted to pertake in a “just war”, Thomas Aquinas defines it in his Summa. The war in Iraq is not a war of conquest but is legitimately trying to free the people of a corrupt government and a gang rule formation of terrorists.

As for the death penalty, it too is circumstancial, it depends on whether or not a person can be contained or whether they will continue to pose a risk to society by managing to escape, which is unlikely in the west, so the death penalty isn’t really that great for the west, but may be a need in impoverished countries.

The church’s position on war is verbal protest, followed by apologies between figureheads 800 years later and an unrepentant repetition of this policy. Do you have a better explanation?

The real issue is proportionality. The Church does not condone the death penalty or war, however, the damage caused by those issues, while great, is small in proportion to the damage caused by abortion. I agree that it is deeply saddening that thousands of troops and tens or hundreds or thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the war, but when you compare that to the 40 million children that have been killed by abortion, there really is no comparison. The Church loudly proclaims the issue that it thinks is most grave.I have also seen the Church take stances on the death penalty and the war, just not with the same vehemence as it decries abortion.

When voting, you have to pick the lesser of two evils. That is unfortunately the state of politics today.

That’s a more reasonable explanation than what I’m hearing from some Bishops in the US. But I still believe the church has underestimated the ramifications and evils of war and has not done enough until long after the fact.

Right now there are estimated between 1-2 million abortions a year in the world. Because of the two world wars and dozens of major civil wars, the loss of human life averaged 1-2 million humans a year over the last 100 years. Starvation kills 6 million children a year under recent UN estimates, but that number also skyrockets during wartime. The point I’m making is it’s easy to point to today’s numbers and dismiss the significance of wars during relatively good times.

A lot of the difference today is thanks to the fact that we haven’t hard another world war or major civil war in recent decades, and I believe strongly that avoiding such an escalation is paramount.

I see this life calculus that the church follows as a dangerous path of reasoning. Life calculus was the very reasoning used by the 4th Crusade to murder Catholics in Zara and pillage the entire city of Constantinople, returning home with ships laden with silver. Only Christians were killed, only money was gained, and this ushered in Islam into the Byzantine empire. This is what happens when you use life calculus and simply disregard life as unimportant in the greater goal.

Pope John Paul II says there was not sufficient reasons to unleash a war in Iraq, and Benedict agrees. Iraq is not a just war, but to save face we are trying to justify the hundreds of thousands who have died through a mix of lies and calls for democracy.

Right now it’s up to the followers to make their judgement, and I see that judgement has been clouded by the church’s policy which I feel has been just as flawed as it has been since the Crusades.

Yes, how about the truth? The Church’s position on just war accepts that war may be an allowable tool of government in certain circumstances. There are, and have been, just wars. There are no justifications for abortion as an end.

With all respect, this is really a cop out answer the church has given on Iraq and many other unjust wars. But thank you for at least answering seriously, and not apologizing on Iraq itself. I’ve heard too many Catholics and their leaders paint Iraq as worth the cost in human life, an alarming and cavalier attitude towards life. That doesn’t even begin to touch the justification issue of the Iraq war itself, which was based on lies.

Both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have opposed the war in Iraq.

You are aware that many of the innocent vicitims in Iraq were/are Catholic Christians right? And that the Pope met with president Bush about this very issue, no?

Also, how can you compare the murder of innocent children in the womb with the death penalty???

Here is St. Thomas Aquinas on the Death Penalty:

It is written: “Wizards thou shalt not suffer to live” (Ex. 22:18); and: “In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land” (Ps. 100:8). ….

Every part is directed to the whole, as imperfect to perfect, wherefore every part exists naturally for the sake of the whole. For this reason we see that if the health of the whole human body demands the excision of a member, because it became putrid or infectious to the other members, it would be both praiseworthy and healthful to have it cut away. Now every individual person is related to the entire society as a part to the whole. Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and healthful that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since "a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6).

(Summa Theologiae, II, II, q. 64, art. 2).

The fact that the evil ones, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement.

They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so obstinate that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from malice, it is possible to make a quite probable judgment that they would never come away from evil.”

(Summa contra gentiles, Book III, chapter 146)

Because right now, like it or not, abortion has become the make-or-break issue for some Catholics. Not all, but those who yell that abortion out-trumps anything and everything else are very loud indeed. And hate to be contradicted. I have been kicked out of the Politics 2008 forum for daring to contradict them.

I’m aware that some of them are, many is a gross exaggeration. And yes, the Pope met with Bush, as part of the church’s lip service policy on war.

(Edited) If it’s an issue of priority, I can see the church’s point of view. But I simply respectfully disagree with their introduction of modern life calculus, and it’s flawed reasoning on the sanctity of life.

The Church does not instruct its followers to vote based on a politician’s views on abortion and nothing else. Catholics are to take all aspects of a candidacy into account. It is difficult to justify supporting supporting a candidate that supports any intrinsic evil, but unfortunately abortion is not the only intrinsically evil act supported by some politicians. You should read what the Church actually says on this topic. Most of the official publications of the US Bishops and the Vatican are collected here:


In my original post, I specifically cited the death penalty as unavoidably killing innocents. And I find that this and the cavalier attitude towards war has fostered a fundamental disrespect for life, and is permissive of evil wars waged by Christians. That is the result of life calculus and the lip service double standard being practiced.

I’m not comparing the sins of the death penalty and war with the sin of abortion itself, rather the double standard the church has in instructing its followers on how to vote on them exclusive of all other issues in the world.

The guidance given by several Bishops has been absolute on this issue, and goes beyond even life calculus. For example, if a politician is against war and works against world hunger but favors abortion in very rare cases, you are instructed to vote against that politician based on abortion alone. In fact, voting for such a politician is literally equated to and I quote “endorsing homicide”.


Bishop Joseph Martino equates any vote for a supporter of any abortion rights to be “endorsing homicide”. He gave no exceptions at the time (Edited).

maybe you were a fan of saddam’s institutional rape factories or poison gas tactics. that seems to have a greasy appeal for some.

Thread closed for clean up.

Yes, that’s my point. Abortions will only be outlawed by a Constitutional amendment. Reducing abortions on the other hand, is a matter of policy that all politicians are capable thanks to progress on poverty and education. Whereas one life issue trumping two other life issues has been justified to the point that we’ve accepted selective morality and become permissive of unjust wars.

We can’t suggest that all the good or evil done by a politician is defined by his views on abortion, irregardless of their views on war or the death penalty. And even by the measures of life calculus, this ignores hunger, war, and poverty in favor of an absolute interpretation of one political policy.

I didn’t want to make this into a political discussion, but rather one about church policy. I’m writing to the Vatican about specific developments in the church, and wanted to explore the issue before I finished it.

I apologize for anyone I offended. My original comments were not intended to be offensive, but the discussion ended up that way. I think this may not be the best place for these serious discussions on an issue that eventually turns to recent events.

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