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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Student: Aleesha siddiqui Teacher: Mr. Conn

Capital punishment
Definition:
Capital punishment which is also called death penalty is the judicially ordered death sentence awarded to a person for serious capital offences such as rape, murder, serial killing etc. Some jurisdictions restrict the use of capital punishment to a limited number of offences such as treason and murder. Death penalty has its roots in history, religion and culture. The justification provided for using capital punishment is that when a person commits a serious crime he destroys the fabric of the society by creating anarchy and fear in the public. He is a danger to the wellbeing of the general population and for that reason it is necessary to eradicate him. Although now used in few countries around the world capital punishment is a very controversial practice with many people supporting it and many opposing it. History: Death penalty can be traced back to the 5th century BC when the first recorded capital punishment law was established by the Romans. In the 7th century the Draconian law of Athens made death penalty compulsory for all crimes although this was later repealed. In medieval Europe it was also a very common practice for crimes such as rape, adultery, espionage, murder etc. Subsequently in the Britain of 1700s 222 crimes were punishable by death including: marrying a Jew, stealing a rabbit or lying to the king; and so in the reign of King Henry VIII alone 72000 people were executed. The methods used for execution were often extremely inhumane and cruel e.g. breaking wheel, slow slicing and crucifixion. Over the years there has been a move to make these methods more civilized e.g. hanging, firing squad etc. Nearly all executions were conducted in public places as a warning for people to stay away from criminal activities. Apart from primitive tribal law capital punishment is also endorsed by all major religions of the world. All Abrahamic faiths believe that if a person does something wrong to another person, he needs to be punished in the same way (an eye for an eye). Other religious texts such as Hinduism and Buddhism also support it. UN stance: Despite this capital punishment is becoming unpopular throughout the world. Human rights activists regard death penalty as degrading, inhumane and ultimate denial of human rights. In the recent years many NGOs, lobby groups and activists who advocate for human rights have run a strong campaign to abolish death penalty. This provided the incentive for the United Nations general assembly to pass a resolution that called for a moratorium on death penalty around the world. The resolution asked states who use the punishment to make laws to abolish it or restrict its use. It also asked them to respect the rights of those who were awarded death penalty. Consequently over 95 countries have abolished the practice; and so only 58 countries around the world still use it. Although most countries have abandoned the practice 60% of the worlds population live in areas where it is still enact. China is the world leader in executions with 1,718 executions in 2010 followed closely by Iran and United States: the only developed country to implement this practice. Death penalty was eradicated in Australia in 1973 by the commonwealth death penalty abolition act 1973.

Arguments:
Against: Recently capital punishment has become a very controversial and sensitive topic. There are many groups, activists and organisations who question its effectiveness and morality. Today an overwhelming majority of 67% do not support death penalty. Many people see death penalty as inhumane as it involves taking the life of another human being. They also feel that life is a gift from god and by taking that gift away from others, humans are trying to play god as they have no right to decide who will live and who will not. Other arguments presented against death penalty are that it costs more to taxpayers than keeping someone in prison for life. This is because of the additional procedures, appeals and legalities involved. There is also no evidence that suggests that death penalty lowers crime rate or murder rates in places where it is in effect. A very big disadvantage of death penalty is that sometimes innocent people might be executed. There is an error rate of 1 innocent person per 7 people put on death row. Many people think that death penalty creates sympathy for criminals; they also believe that killing someone does not bring the victim back to life. It is also believed that poor are more likely to get death penalty as they cannot afford a good legal counsel for their defence. Lastly some people consider the wish to put a criminal to death as a desire for revenge from the victims families and not a way to seek justice or compensation for their loss. For: On the other hand there are those who believe that death penalty is necessary to eradicate crime and prevent anarchy in the society. However today only a small minority of 30% support death penalty. Many supporters of capital punishment feel that crimes such as murder, rape and treason destroy the morality and ethics of a society and so death penalty is necessary to protect the values of a society. Many studies have proven that murders that are not given the death penalty are likely to re-offend at least once in their life. Death penalty deters people away from serious crimes; as nearly everyone is afraid of death, therefore it creates a sense of security. Another argument is that now with the advancement in science and technology courts can use DNA and other forensic evidence to determine the guilt of a criminal and so there is a very low chance of innocent people getting executed. Supporters of death penalty also believe in an eye for an eye that is if a person commits a serious crime like murder he should be punished in the same way. There is also no evidence that the poor are more disadvantaged by this law as in most countries people with low income are provided some sort of legal aid or council by the government. Other people also think that death penalty is a just punishment as it is supported by nearly all religious texts. Lastly many believe that it provides comfort and closure to the family of the victim after their loss.

Christian beliefs:
History: In Christianity like other faiths capital punishment has been mentioned and used several times both in the bible and churchs teachings. The bible has prescribed death penalty for 36 crimes including murder, kidnap, and witchcraft etc. For much of history the Catholic Church took a traditional stance on capital punishment. It was viewed as lawful slaying according to Gods command and necessary to eradicate crime. In the middle ages heretics were executed by the church. Furthermore the law of Vatican City also prescribed death penalty for anyone who tried to

assassinate the pope. This view was presented in the writings of St. Augustine who said The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows exceptions, as when God authorises killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time. Arguments for: Today death penalty has become a very divisive topic amongst Christians with many supporting it and many opposing it. This is because some texts in bible seem to sustain while others seem to oppose capital punishment. The Catholics who support the application of death penalty base their argument according to biblical laws. They give examples from the Old Testament where its use is commanded by God e.g. flood of Noah. The Old Testament also mentions death penalty for 36 capital offences. Other arguments are that God has authorized death penalty and gives the state the power to exercise it on criminals. Although the teachings of the New Testament are based on sympathy and compassion Jesus never denied the use of death penalty.Furthermore St. Paul also says,For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil...Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:3-4). Arguments against: The Christians who oppose death penalty believe that only God creates and destroys life. In addition Christianity is based on love and compassion and so capital punishment goes against the teachings of Christ that were about forgiveness. Furthermore they also use some statements of Jesus Christ to argue that death penalty is incompatible with the teachings of the New Testament e.g. he said. You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you... whoever slaps you on your right cheek; turn the other to him also." (Mat. 5:38-39). There are many stories of Jesus forgiving sinners which are also used as arguments against death penalty. It is also said that in modern society there are punishments which are more humane; these punishments can be used instead of death penalty.

Catholic Church:
Over the years the catholic stance on capital punishment has transitioned from the traditional view to a more modern view. During the first half of the 20th century nearly all catholic theologians had consensus in favour of capital punishment. However by the end of the century these views were changing. In 1969 the pope abolished the use of capital punishment in Vatican City as the church represents the mercy of God. Subsequently in 1995 pope John Paul II stated that in todays modern society capital punishment is unnecessary and unforgivable. Finally In 1997 the Vatican made amendments in its catechism about capital punishment which read 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 more in conformity with the dignity of the human person. Therefore at the moment, the Catholic Church does allow state to administer death penalty in extreme cases but only as the last option. The reason the church allows capital punishment is for the maintenance of law and order

in society. However there are some conditions that need to be satisfied before punishment that are: the crime has to be extremely serious and death penalty should be the only option viable enough to punish the criminal. In addition the guilt of the person has to be proven without a doubt, all the requirements of a fair trial should be fulfilled and there should be no injustices done. The church also states that the need to execute someone should only arise to rid the society of evil and not with the intention to take revenge. The Catholic Church also persuades people to use Jesus principle of forgiveness and be compassionate and merciful to criminals. According to the church people should be respectful of criminals on death row as they are still human beings. However lastly the church also proclaims that as in todays society there are many different measures that can be taken to prevent crime and the criminal could also be punished in other alternative forms that are more humane to preserve the dignity of humans as well as for conserving life. The church also believes that the cases in which execution is absolutely necessary are very rare in modern days because of other options available thus the use of capital punishment is ultimately brought to an end. In summary the church believes that capital punishment should be used as the last option in extremely serious cases. Before the execution there are some conditions that need to be met. However as times have progressed many different and better methods have been discovered to avert crimes and punish offenders; so today the state should avoid awarding death penalty as much as possible. They should follow the principle of mercy advocated by Jesus and use alternative methods of retribution. Consequently the cases in which execution is necessary are rare in modern age and so death penalty is ultimately inoperative today because it invokes more harm than good.The catholic bodies have recently increased their opposition of death penalty. In January 1999 the pope voiced his animosity towards death penalty and appealed world leaders to abolish the practice. The bishops of many countries especially the United States have also opposed death penalty. Today there are several catholic groups and advocators who operate against capital punishment

Effect on Christians:
A Christian should always look towards the church teachings for guidance as they preach justice, love and compassion. The Catholic Churchs teachings about capital punishment have a major impact on 4 entities: society, state, criminals and mostly Christians. These teachings are based on the bible and reflect the needs of modern times. They provides a conduct for criminal, victim, families of victims and community as a whole as to how to react to death penalty. It should be understood that the Catholic Church puts forgiveness, compassion and humanity before the human desire for revenge or retribution. Death penalty should only be used in extreme cases as the last resort and only for protecting the society. Ordinary citizens: These teachings prevent Christians from killing a fellow human being or committing another serious crime. They tell Christians that murder is the most grievous sin and a violation of the Ten Commandments seeing that life is a gift from god and no one has the right to take it away from someone. A Christian adhering to these practices should exercise self control and stay away from sin. They should respect life and fellow human beings.

Although in Australia capital punishment does not operate in society a large number of Christians live in places where its still performed. Christians living in such countries should not vote for political parties that endorse capital punishment. They should lobby to their government to abolish the practice or restrict is use. Victims or families of victims: As the Catholic Church does not allow capital punishment nowadays except in extremely rare cases which it believes do not exist in todays society due to alternative measures; victims and families may feel disappointed because they want justice to be served but it is important for them to recognize the catholic teachings on forgiveness and revenge. Although capital punishment is not used in Australia many Christians live in areas where it is still in use. If Christians find themselves in situation involving capital punishment they should follow the church teachings on the issue. Forgiveness: In many countries around the world, the victims or families of victim are given the choice to forgive the criminal in the case of capital punishment. The countries where this is done are Korea, India, Pakistan, Japan, Philippines etc. If a Christian is given this option, they should use it to save a human life from execution. This is because Christians are to exercise forgiveness upon other human beings. The whole emphasis of the New Testament is on showing mercy to others. Christians who find themselves in the midst of a situation involving capital punishment should always look upon the criminal as a human being who made some wrong choices. They should realize that God loves those people more who choose to forgive, as forgiveness is a special quality of God. It can give us a chance to come closer to God and maybe give the criminal a chance to repent his actions. Revenge: As mentioned above many countries give victims a right to forgive the criminals. If a Christian is given the option for forgiveness, he should gladly accept it and not use Capital punishment as means for vengeance. The reason being that when someone does something wrong to a person he or she would want to have some sort of payback or reprisal but Christians are forbidden to revenge according to catholic teachings. This is as revenge stems from anger and since anger is a sin so is revenge. A person who takes revenge is as wrong as the person who committed the crime. So capital punishment should only be given for the sake of correcting the public and not to quench the thirst for revenge or retribution. State: If capital punishment is necessary in extreme cases: According to the teachings of the church, it is the responsibility of the state and justice system to provide a fair trial. The accused needs to be protected and his rights should be respected. The judge or the jury should not be prejudiced against him and listen to the case in an unbiased and neutral manner. Before awarding, someone with capital punishment the person has to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and death penalty should be the only option feasible enough to punish him. If a person is convicted and awarded the death penalty, he should still be respected and cared for. The state should only award capital punishment in very serious cases So Christians

should give the accused a chance to defend himself and only award the death penalty in very serious cases if there is no other choice. Abolishing the capital punishment: The government should try to find new ways for bringing justice. In a Christian country the government should try its best to find new methods that can be used to punish criminals instead of death penalty. They should make new laws that abolish the practice. Countries like Australia where capital punishment no longer operates in society can ask other countries to abolish the practice. Criminal: In a state which uses capital punishment: According to these teachings a person must stay away from sin at all times however if a person does commit serious crimes his rights are to be protected. Under the catholic system, a criminal cannot be awarded the death penalty unless he has done something extremely inhumane and brutal which cannot be forgiven. The catholic teachings require a free and fair trial which gives the accused a good chance to defend themselves. If a person has not committed a serious crime they are not given the death penalty. If however, they are awarded the death penalty there human rights need to be protected. In a state where capital punishment is abolished: Once more a Christian should stay away from sin. If they commit a serious crime they should first of all realize their mistake. They must apologise to the victim and their family and ask repentance for their action. They need to ask God and the victim for forgiveness. Although God will punish them for their wrongdoing they can ask for his mercy by showing him they are sorry. After they complete their sentence, they should work in the community to help others and try to be a good human being.

Ethical teachings:
Value of Human life The Catholic Church does not believe in the use of capital punishment in modern society. Capital punishment was first denounced by Pope John Paul II who regarded it as an unforgivable crime against humanity. The roots of these teachings of the Catholic Church lie in the reverence for human life. Human life is invaluable and a gift from God. And no one on earth is entitled to take that gift away from someone. As humans we should learn that taking someones life on the basis of capital punishment is as bad as killing someone in wars, abortion, bombing etc. Everyone has a right to live and the value of a human life cannot be destroyed by their conduct. Furthermore, Bible is the gospel of life that tells us to respect human beings whether they are criminals or not. In the case of Jesus and the adulteress; Jesus forgave the woman who was being stoned to death after allegedly committing adultery. This shows that human life is put before anything else. And so as human life is more important than anything else the Catholic Church does not support death penalty. Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a cornerstone of Catholic teachings. Catholic Church asks Christians to forgive criminals and give them a chance to repent their actions. The Church puts a lot of emphasis on

forgiveness, as it is a special quality of God and Jesus. Every human being can make a mistake and they deserve a second chance. Christians need to know that by capital punishment you cannot bring your loved one back to life (in case of murder) but by forgiving you can come closer to God. Forgiveness demonstrates moral superiority and it teaches the offender a much better lesson. The biggest example of forgiveness in modern times is when Pope John Paul II forgave a man who tried to assassinate him in St. Peters square. All of us should take a lesson from this especially the Christians who live in areas where capital punishment is practiced. This shows that the Catholic Church believes that forgiveness is the ethical and moral thing to do for the protection of human life. Revenge: Lastly we are forbidden to take revenge. The ethics behind this is that revenge stems from anger and as anger is a sin so is revenge. When a person is angry, he cannot decide between right and wrong and might feel remorseful for his actions later on. Besides Jesus himself said If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. In this way he denounces revenge. Revenge is wrong because it puts the victim and the perpetrator in the same line. Christians should trust God to treat the criminal justly and not take matter into their own hands. They should punish the criminal but not use extreme measures like in the case of capital punishment which is a severe form of retribution. In the end as capital punishment is mostly used as a means for revenge which is ethically wrong it should be abolished

Summary:
Capital punishment is the name given to the judicially ordered death sentence awarded to a person who has committed a serious capital offence e.g. murder, rape. Death penalty has its foundation in religion, culture and history. It was endorsed by all major religions and customs of the world. The reason behind death penalty was that it acts as a deterrent and warning for people to stay away from crime. Although now used in a few countries around the world; capital punishment is a very controversial topic. There are many arguments used for and against capital punishment and it is surrounded by many ethical questions. Capital punishment has also been a very divisive topic amongst Christians as the bible teachings on the issue are unclear. It has been used many times in the Old Testament however it goes against the compassionate teachings of the New Testament. Over the years the Catholic Church also took a much traditional stance on capital punishment and viewed it as lawful slaying however in the recent years their position on the issue has transitioned to a much more modern one. In 1995 pope John Paul II called capital punishment inhumane and unforgivable. In 1997 the church made amendments to its catechism about capital punishment. The church did not completely take away the right of the state to award capital punishment however they said that it should be awarded in extreme circumstances only. However the church also believes that in modern times there are alternative options that can be used to punish criminals so capital punishment is ultimately abolished. These teachings affect Christians around the world. Victims of a crime might feel as though these teachings are unfair because they cannot punish the criminal. However they need to understand Christian principles of love and forgiveness and that the church does ask the state to punish the criminal but in ways less cruel than death penalty. The church also asks world leader to abolish this practice in their countries. The reason capital punishment is forbidden is because of ethical

and moral values. Christianity emphasises reverence for life but capital punishment goes against that. Human life is invaluable even if it belongs to a criminal and no one has the right to take that life away from others. Other ethical principles are forgiveness and revenge. Christianity is based on forgiveness and a Christian should always remember Jesus and his kindness towards everyone even those who did wrong to him. We should try to forgive criminals or punish them in ways more humane than death penalty. Christians should not take revenge either. This is because revenge is wrong and comes from anger. It makes a person blind and he may feel sorry for his actions afterwards. And capital punishment is based on revenge. Ultimately, capital punishment is a practice that has no place in todays world. As Catholics, we should oppose it in every way possible and lobby to our government to persuade other countries to abolish it. In the end I would like to present a quote from Jesus on forgiving sinners, Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven). (Matthew 18:21-22)

Bibliography 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment 2. http://www.beyondintractability.org/articlesummary/10249/ 3. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/ 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/capitalpunishment/ 5. http://www.americancatholic.org/news/deathpenalty/ 6. http://usliberals.about.com/od/deathpenalty/i/DeathPenalty.htm 7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_capital_punishment 8. http://www.balancedpolitics.org/death_penalty.htm 9. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/10-pros-and-cons-of-capital-punishment.html 10.http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/christianethics/capitalpun ishment_1.shtml 11.http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/fifth.html

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