Deacon Greg quoted the Pope (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) on the intrinsic evil over at the Deacon’s Bench:
“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
OK, I agree and want to honor the church’s teaching on the moral weight of these issues but when we think about capital punishment, just because the church has taught that there may be some instances in which capital punishment may be permissible doesn’t mean that any of those cases actually exist in the United States. President Bush executed many prisoners in Texas and none of those cases were morally right.
So while something may be intrinsically evil like abortion we can say that nobody should ever hold the position that would say otherwise. But evil is still evil–intrinsic or otherwise. We need to judge the actions of those who have actually taken the power given to them directly by the state to take the life of someone else as evil–and once we recognize that evil we need to hold them to the same standard that we do when we see evil being done in other areas–intrinsic or otherwise.
I could go on with an analysis of war in the same way but the US Bishops already did so by saying the war in Iraq did not meet the standards for a just war.