I was wondering how to reconcile CCC 2267 allowance of the death penalty in certain cases and CCC 2302 prohibition of willing one’s death. Furthermore, CCC 2302 appears internally inconsistent. It is simply a difficulty I am having which in no need has to rise to doubt, but I wish to understand proper justice. Here are the two provisions, bolded and underlined by myself to show my difficulty:
2302 By recalling the commandment, “You shall not kill,” our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.
*Anger* is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance **in order to do evil** to someone who should be punished is illicit," but **it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice." If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin.** the Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment."
2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor……
I. The Difficulties
One difficulty is that 2302 appears to say it is praiseworthy to have anger that is directed to maintaining justice by restitution (which I take to mean retribution), and such a desire is good because it does not necessarily have to be directed at the “desire vengeance in order to do evil” as retribution, if properly measured, is no evil. Likewise, a person can merit the death penalty, and thus it would seem that the person imposing it must have “a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor.” So the apparent contradiction would be that this is just and unjust, both by the fact that it is praiseworthy to desire retributive justice (a form of anger, though not necessarily one of passion) and the death penalty can be good in some cases.
II. My Proposed Solutions
My first thought is that what is meant by “If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin”, is that it prohibits one wishing the killing or wounding as an end in itself. And these things (wounding and killing) disconnected from justice are always an evil when done with knowledge and consent. Furthermore, an agent of the state carrying out justice perhaps could still sin in this way if that intention is also mixed in with the retributive desire. That seems the most logical explanation to me, but it seems odd that they did not use the word ‘intentional’ rather than ‘deliberate’, since ‘intention’, in context of the Catechism is basically defined to mean “the end in view” (CCC 1750). However, it is not a huge stretch to think that ‘deliberate’ here means ‘intentional’.
With the above in mind, another possibility is that perhaps since ‘deliberate’ qualifies the word ‘desire to’ which is further qualified by ‘kill’, it means the deliberate desire to intentionally kill is forbidden and not merely the desire to purposely kill for the sake of retribution, for the ‘desire to kill’ seems to mean the same thing as the desire to ‘intentionally kill’.
My other thought is that I have heard that the Catechism, though a sure norm for teaching the faith, is not completely infallible, so that’s another possibility (Hopefully that’s not a heretical view, or I shall drop it). However, I think the first two solutions are sufficient.