In short, the less you are a “good Catholic” in America, the more likely you are to support the Church’s actual teaching on the death penalty: namely, that it should be abolished. The more “prolife” you are (in the sense of “voting for Republicans in the hope of overturning Roe v. Wade and outlawing abortion as much as possible”) the more likely it is you oppose and even work to undermine the teaching of the Magisterium on the death penalty and call it an error and even a heresy.
The problem is this in a nutshell: For centuries, the Church affirmed the power of Caesar to execute capital criminals.
But since Evangelium Vitae, the Church has called for the abolition of the death penalty.
Nonetheless, off he goes, and while making the obvious point that John Paul's statements in the Catechism and EV were not merely personal opinion, cites these very words of the Catechism that refute the idea that a “development of doctrine” requires death penalty abolition, :
2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
By the very authority he cites, Mr. Shea then must at least implicitly admit that per se the death penalty is a moral option, and he does so by pivoting immediately to what he says is the true “development:”
Moreover, it is the teaching of the Church that the practical upshot of the “practical non-existence” of the need to execute is this: abolish the death penalty. That is the express demand of three popes and all the bishops of the world.