Catholic Teaching And The Capital Punishment In The Movie The Green Mile

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The use of capital punishment is one contested issue within today’s society and is present within the movie ‘The Green Mile’. ‘The Green Mile’ tells a story of an unusual inmate who possess many inexplicable healing powers. The man who possess the special powers, named John Coffey, was convicted of killing two young girls however later on in the movie evidence shows otherwise. This movie has the ability to teach and inform many people that those who are of other race and culture are just as important as everyone else. Within this analytical essay paragraphs will discuss the ethical issue that has been chosen, which is capital punishment. Along with the Catholic Teaching in regard to the issue and two characters will be chosen from the movie to analyse their actions they play in the movie.

Many reports stem from different opinions and beliefs regarding what should be case with the death penalty. However, whilst scrolling through copious amounts of articles, one side considered to be the most frequent. ‘’The death penalty is not the answer to punish criminals’’ (amnesty 2019). Within our world there are many individuals who have committed heinous crimes which resulted in hurting and potentially ending the lives others. Those ‘criminals’ believe that they have done the wrong thing and should face punishment, however the death penalty is not the solution. It is known that the death penalty deprives people from the opportunity to reform (amnesty 2019). You may be thinking, that those who take the life of others should have their life taken away from them. But no. The death penalty is not irreversible. Many judgements may lead to people facing harsh consequences and treatments for crimes in which they did not commit. Therefore, the opportunity to reform and rehabilitate is the answer to many of the challenged debates in the world today, for people who both have committed the crimes and those innocent ones who have been suspected of committing the crimes.

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The Catholic Social Teaching has much to say about the death penalty. For instance, the most common occurrence is the dignity of the human person is automatically stripped away from those who face capital punishment. The human person is made in the image and likeness of God and is the foundation of moral vision. (Matt 25:40) says “In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbour of every person without exception and of actively helping him [sic] when he comes across our path [...] who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, 'As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me (catholic network, 2019). The Catholic Social Teaching also says that the death penalty does not bring healing to victims’ family. The process of the death penalty brings much trauma and pain to those in the family. A mother of a murder victim said, “Pursuing the death penalty would not be the way we want to honour our daughter’s life”. This certain quote is from a family member who experienced the pain and suffering that one has to go through when their family members have had the death penalty.

Paul Edgecomb, Tom Hanks, is one of the main characters in ‘The Green Mile’. Paul is a very compassionate and caring prison guard but takes his job very seriously. Paul differs from many of the other prison guards as he respects and treats the prisoners with care so the final moments can be tolerable and occur without any pain and torture. Paul also displays qualities of commitment and fairness when he unwillingly dedicates his time to investigate the case of an, unusual inmate, John Coffey (LitCharts, 2019). Due to Coffey possessing many interesting qualities, he had the ability to transfer the vision of what happened on the night he was convicted of murdering two young girls. The images in which Paul witnessed showed that Coffey did not commit the crime however, it was another inmate that was already in prison for committing another crime. The reason why Coffey was convicted of murdering the girls was because he was holding the dead girls trying to bring them back to life with his special powers. The parents of the girls saw Coffey holding the two girls and automatically thought he committed the heinous crime. Therefore, as Paul saw the real truth, he was not able to stop the execution in which Coffey was about to experience. He felt guilt that he had to go ahead with the death penalty however, even though he knew Coffey was innocent Paul still had to go ahead with capital punishment because that is what his job entails him to do. This explains that Paul believes that he should not be killing an innocent man as in the movie he expresses much sadness when the time comes to execute Coffey, but it is against his will to do otherwise. Many innocent people are facing the hardship of being executed even though they have not committed a crime. stated that in 2016 there were 60 cases where prisoners were under the death sentence but were found non-guilty. As all humans are made in the image and likeness of God, a life should not be taken away in order to punish. It is also evident that Paul, along with the other guards displays teleological framework. The boss of the prison has a terminally ill wife, and due to the guards witnessing the powers Coffey possesses he escapes out of the prison at his own expense. Paul and the other guards know the consequences of what they are doing however, they believe if there is a positive outcome, it is worth the risk. In the end, the terminally ill women is cured from her sickness because of Coffey’s powers.

However, Percy Wetmore is another one of prison guards in the movie ‘The Green Mile’. His personalities differ completely to Paul Edgecomb. Different in such a way that his foremost reason for working on death row is for the pleasure of being able to watch the prisoners die. (Stephen King Wiki, 2019). He certainly can be described as an instigator as his main priority is to stir up prisoners with his violent behaviour. It can be assumed that his perspective on those who are in jail is to torture the lives of those who are suspected of committing crimes. It can be inferred that his main priority it to make the last moments of someone’s life a living hell and he feels no sympathy for giving the prisoners an opportunity to reform and be able to have a second chance at becoming a better person.

In conclusion, it is evident that the Catholic Social Teachings, in relation to capital punishment, is not the way to end someone’s life. This analytical essay has discussed the ethical issue, the catholic social teachings related to the issue and analysed two characters from the movie and their perspective and views on how the ethical issue should be handled.

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Catholic Teaching And The Capital Punishment In The Movie The Green Mile. (2021, August 06). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Catholic Teaching And The Capital Punishment In The Movie The Green Mile.” Edubirdie, 06 Aug. 2021,
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