History of the Catholic Church and the Death Penalty

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The History of the Catholic Church and the Death Penalty

The Ten Commandments, principles issued by God for us to live our lives by, includes one that states – “Thou Shall Not Kill.” However, on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, two men in the United States were executed – Mr. Troy Davis in Georgia, and Mr. Lawrence Brewer in Texas. (Jonsson) While the approaching execution of Mr. Brewer was almost unmentioned, the approaching execution of Mr. Davis garnered much public attention with many believing his claims of innocence. According to an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, this public attention included world leaders, a former president and Pope Benedict XVI - the head of the Catholic Church. (Jonsson) Pope Benedict without a doubt was against not only Mr. Davis’ execution but that of Mr. Brewer’s as well. With the Catholic Church against the taking of another life, what exactly is the history of the Catholic Church and the death penalty? The Death Penalty, also known as capital punishment, can be traced back to the Eighteenth Century B.C. in Babylon and the first recorded execution in what eventually would become the United States dates back to 1608. (Death Penalty Information Center) Back in the colonial times, the laws were different from colony to colony as to how severe the crime had to be in order to receive a punishment of the death penalty. In some colonies, treason was a punishable offense, as well as “stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians,” and in other colonies “striking one’s mother or father, or denying the true God” (Death Penalty Information Center) were grounds for receiving the death penalty. Efforts to abolish the death penalty in the United States can be traced back to 1767, with the first major change occurring in 1794 when Pennsylvania decided to use the death penalty only in cases of first degree murder convictions. With the exception of treason, in 1846 Michigan became the next state to...
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