Colonial period[ edit ] Abolitionists gathered support for their claims from writings by European Enlightenment philosophers such as MontesquieuVoltaire who became convinced the death penalty was cruel and unnecessary  and Bentham.
After a five-year moratorium, from tocapital punishment was reinstated in the United States courts. Objections to the practice have come from many quarters, including the American Catholic bishops, who have rather consistently opposed the death penalty.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops in published a predominantly negative statement on capital punishment, approved by a majority vote of those present though not by the required two-thirds majority of the entire conference.
Pope John Paul II has at various times expressed his opposition to the practice, as have other Catholic leaders in Europe. While sociological and legal questions inevitably impinge upon any such reflection, I am here addressing the subject as a theologian.
At this level the question has to be answered primarily in terms of revelation, as it comes to us through Scripture and tradition, interpreted with the guidance of the ecclesiastical magisterium.
In the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution by stoning, burning, decapitation, or strangulation. Included in the list are idolatry, magic, blasphemy, violation of the sabbath, murder, adultery, bestiality, pederasty, and incest.
In many cases God is portrayed as deservedly punishing culprits with death, as happened to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram Numbers In the New Testament the right of the State to put criminals to death seems to be taken for granted. Jesus himself refrains from using violence. He rebukes his disciples for wishing to call down fire from heaven to punish the Samaritans for their lack of hospitality Luke 9: Later he admonishes Peter to put his sword in the scabbard rather than resist arrest Matthew At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment.
Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds Luke The early Christians evidently had nothing against the death penalty.
They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action Acts 5: Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death.
No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty. Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St.
Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners. To answer the objection that the first commandment forbids killing, St. Augustine writes in The City of God: The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time.
In the Middle Ages a number of canonists teach that ecclesiastical courts should refrain from the death penalty and that civil courts should impose it only for major crimes.
But leading canonists and theologians assert the right of civil courts to pronounce the death penalty for very grave offenses such as murder and treason.
Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus invoke the authority of Scripture and patristic tradition, and give arguments from reason.
Giving magisterial authority to the death penalty, Pope Innocent III required disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church to accept the proposition: In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses.
The Roman Catechism, issued inthree years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment.
In modern times Doctors of the Church such as Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori held that certain criminals should be punished by death. John Henry Newman, in a letter to a friend, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century the consensus of Catholic theologians in favor of capital punishment in extreme cases remained solid, as may be seen from approved textbooks and encyclopedia articles of the day.
The Vatican City State from until had a penal code that included the death penalty for anyone who might attempt to assassinate the pope.
Pope Pius XII, in an important allocution to medical experts, declared that it was reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life in expiation of their crimes.Student Resource Center R.
Bohm, "Deathquest: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States," Anderson Publishing, H. Bedau, A History and Discussion of the Death Penalty," L.
Randa, editor, University Press of America, The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide — the first of its kind in the United States — was established to coordinate efforts to end practice of the death penalty through research and.
DPIC is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. The Center was founded in and prepares in-depth reports, issues press releases, conducts briefings for journalists, and serves as a .
United States of America (United States). Geographical Region. the practice of executing the insane “has consistently been branded ‘savage and inhuman,’” purposeless and immoral. estimony in both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees revealed that of the 38 states that authorize capital punishment, very few have established.
R. Bohm, "Deathquest: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States," Anderson Publishing, "The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies," H.
Bedau, editor, Oxford University Press, Currently 32 states have capital punishment laws on the books. The death penalty was, briefly, rendered essentially illegal in the United States by the Supreme Court case Furman v.