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Catholic Church and the Death Penalty - Term Paper Example

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Recently, many people, especially faithful Catholics, openly declare that the Catholic Church is against death penalty. These people treat the…
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Catholic Church and the Death Penalty
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Catholic Church and the Death Penalty

he issue of death penalty or the so-called “capital punishment” (from the Latin word ‘capitalis’ to describe “that which related to life, by which life is endangered”) [1] and how it has changed over time.
Capital punishment has already been practiced since the ancient times. In Genesis 9.5-6, we find: “If anyone takes human life, he will be punished. Human beings were made like God, so whoever murders one of them will be killed by someone else.” [2] This was the very first formal declaration of the penalty of death ever recorded in the Judeo-Christian history. When the Israelites journeyed from Egypt to the Sinaitic Peninsula, the Lord gave them a code of legislation (mostly found in Exodus 21) (Ibid.) which prescribed death as the penalty for some acts: murder (Ex. 21.12); willful assault upon the parents of an offender (Ex. 21.15); kidnapping (Ex. 21.16); cursing someone’s parents (Ex. 21.17), etc. The Bible has mentioned several accounts where death has been a crucial part of legislation in the ancient times. But it has some exceptions in as much as it is strictly imposed: “But if it was an accident and he did not mean to kill him, he can escape to a place which I will choose for you and there he will be safe.” (Ex. 21.13)
Thinking that death penalty is intrinsically evil, most people probably do not realize that it is legal and therefore say that it is “not approved” by the Church. On the contrary, the Church has a long history of approving it. In his City of God (Book 1, Ch. 21), St. Augustine of Hippo deems the imposition of death penalty as “not contrary” to the commandment “Thou shall not kill” and signifies approval of death penalty based on certain exceptions [3].
By this statement, St. Augustine mentions about God’s “explicit commission to an individual for a limited time,” (Ibid.) thereby exempting the individual from the killing “since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand and is not ... Read More
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