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Give a History of the Catholic Church on the Death Penalty and Note How It Has Changed over Time-

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Give a history of the Catholic Church on the death penalty and note how it has changed over time-

Taking life in order to retain order in society, or capital punishment, has been a big debate over the past years. People, especially in the United States, have different perspectives on the subject. Some believe it is justified and others simply want to abolish or ignore the idea entirely. Traditionally, the Catholic Church supported the idea of capital punishment but presently we have seen Christianity (and thus the Catholic Church) slowly merge toward opposing lethal means to solve social problems (Kostielney, 1996)

For centuries the defense of the death penalty was based on the texts of the Sacred Scripture.

In the Old Testament we read that God had sanctioned bloodshed by flooding earth, this passage served to legitimize and validate the death penalty in common law. Historically the bible has been known for putting people to death for various reasons, some include people who do not listen to priests, witches, homosexuals, etc. This culminated in several historical events such as witch hunts and the Spanish inquisition.

Women would be persecuted and convicted based on hearsay and nonexistent evidence brought up by local citizens. This scenario is very controversial because the women had been wrongfully put on trial that most of the time ended in an execution.

In addition to witch hunts, the Spanish Inquisition is another example of the Catholic Church employing the death penalty as a means to an end. According to The Spanish Inquisition: a historical revision no fewer than two thousand souls were put to death for heresy (Kamen, 60). The Spanish inquisition was established and maintained by the Catholic monarchs of Spain.

Presently there is no consensus among Catholic people regarding the morality of the death penalty, and there are still those who believe it is just and necessary in today's society. The Catholic doctrine recognizes the State's right to take the life of a felon convicted of murder in the first degree to protect its citizens. This line of thought comes from St. Thomas Aquinas. He was a person that accepted death penalty as a prevention method but not for means of vengeance, that it should be reserved for serious crimes that significantly harm society's good or well-being. Aquinas had a philosophic approach, he states: "The good has no need of evil but rather the opposite. Therefore, whatever is necessary for the preservation of good cannot be essentially wrong. Punishing the bad is not essentially wrong." He also argues that the common good is better than the particular good of an individual, but some individuals prevents common good, therefore, such men are to be separated from human society through death" (Summa Theologica., 1471).

In opposition to St. Thomas Aquinas' opinion is the view that the death penalty should not be utilized as a means to control or rapidly solve social problems. The Vatican has presented a "Declaration to the Holy See to the first world congress on the death penalty". And it argues how the Holy See has consistently sought the abolition of the death penalty (Declaration of the Holy See, 2001). The previous Pope, John Paul II, has constantly been appealing in different occasions that death penalty should be reduced to a lesser penalty. This gives the convicted felon another chance to do some good in their life, and most importantly repent for all sin's he may have committed. One of the Church's basic teachings is summarized in one sentence "Love your partner as you do yourself "

Although the Vatican tends to keep a variable opinion on the matter, they are focused toward the common good of the people and abolished its death penalty statute in 1969. Death penalty is a sign of desperation, and if it was to be abolished it would mean that humans would start to believe in each other,

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