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Dead Man Walking Essay

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					                                                                          Natalee Cecil
                                                                       October 1, 2003
                                                                              Period 5
Dead Man Walking Essay



       “But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye, for eye, tooth for

tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for

stripe.”

       These words, stated from Exodus 21:23-25, are often used to justify the

death penalty and serve as a purpose to make punishment fit crime. In today’s

society the Catholic Church teaches that capital punishment erodes respect for

life, which was clearly evident in Dad Man Walking. Through Catholic beliefs, as

well as viewpoints, we see how Dead Man Walking ties in with the Church’s

teaching.

       “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 the only way of effectively defending human lives

against the unjust aggressor” (Paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic

Church). Public authority has the right to punish malefactors proportionate to

the gravity of the offense, which in turn, cases of extreme gravity do result in the

death penalty. “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”

(Paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). Today, the United
                                                                   Natalee Cecil
                                                                October 1, 2003
                                                                        Period 5
States bishops and Vatican members encourage all Christians to abolish the

death penalty.

       The United States bishops and other Vatican members view that the

abolition of capital punishment would seek to build a society committed to

human life. The United States bishops said that the abolition of the death

penalty would reaffirm the dignity of each person as a creature made in the

image of God, practice forgiveness, and promote a compassionate society. Pope

John Paul II stated that the death penalty was cruel and unnecessary. It is a

sign of desperation. He also looks at how the abolition of the death penalty

would reaffirm civilization in being successful in dealing with criminality. Other

Vatican members “echoed the pope’s views,” as well as many other humanistic

issues. We see how some of these teachings and views are relevant in Dead

Man Walking.

       A film based on capital punishment, Dead Man Walking creates a

disturbing and compelling picture about the death penalty and how it relates to

the Catholic teaching. As Matthew Poncelet is on death row and awaiting his

execution, Helen, a Catholic nun, becomes exposed to Poncelet’s pain and offers

love and a chance for salvation in his life. As viewers, we see that every human

life is sacred, even when the individual is guilty of wrong doing, as well as we

see the Christian faith being professed; that human beings are never beyond

repentance or reconciliation. Yet Poncelet’s crime was a case of extreme gravity,
                                                                    Natalee Cecil
                                                                October 1, 2003
                                                                         Period 5
but more importantly we see that Poncelet was willing to confess to his crime

and in turn became redeemed.

      Through Catholic beliefs and viewpoints, we see how the Catholic Church’s

teaching ties in with Dead Man Walking. Remember the teachings of Christ, and

pray for the forgiveness of others who have injured us. The future is the true

example of love and compassion.