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Death Penalty According to Catholic Dogmas

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The victim’ s life was taken away, but not the chance for correction. The final judgment has not yet been pronounced; it would sound only in the other world, after death. The religious values and, in particular, the belief in an afterlife, were the basis for a higher sentence, because, according to their own logic, it could not be final and irrevocable. It was justified to that extent in which it was the highest measure. The Catholic Church, for example, has always recognized the need for the death penalty. It generously shared this conviction through different eras.

To nowadays, it justifies the death penalty and recognizes the right of the state to apply it. The Catholic faith is nourished not only with the personal teachings of Christ – that the exact observance of the moral precepts is incompatible with the murder. It is also supported by the Old Testament, the teachings of the Apostle Paul and the Church Fathers. The immortality of the soul and universal resurrection of bodies represent part of their tenets. The concept of death penalty, based on them, is considered as only temporal punishment for the believer, which must be followed with final judgment; it is considered as the action required only for maintaining of the temporal order, an administrative measure, which does not only reduces the latest scores with the convicted but can facilitate his redemption.

Saying this, I mean that the belief of the immortality of the soul allowed Catholicism to raise the question of the death penalty in very specific terms and to justify it. The death penalty in Catholicism had found support even in the earliest theologians. While the church was persecuted (especially in the first centuries of Christianity), the clergy was an ardent opponent of executions.

Then, from the time of Theodosius IV, Catholic tradition prescribed the death penalty for religious offenses. Hundreds of thousands of heretics found a martyrs death at the stake of the Inquisition, and the clergy insisted that the death penalty does not conflict with religious laws.  

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