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BOOK REVIEWS703 Finally, one wonders if Lang's attribution ofthe Lord's Prayer toJohn the Baptist and his movement (pp. 78-80) is more provocation than history. He seems correct in underlining the political nature of this prayer, but offers no convincing evidence that it should have come from the circle of the Baptist rather than from Jesus. This history of Christian worship contains a number of other features that are often lacking in standard liturgical histories. By providing essays on sermon and ecstasy the author draws a fuller picture of the experience of worship than can normally be found in such standard studies. In doing so Lang has written a book that will have to be dealt with by historians for a long time to come. John F. Baldovin, SJ. Jesuit School ofTheology Berkeley, California The Death Penalty. An Historical and Theological Survey. By James T. Megivern. (Mahwah, NewJersey: Paulist Press. 1997. Pp. xiii, 641. $29-95.) Capital punishment, like slavery, was one of those institutions of Roman law that the early Christians accepted as an ordinary mechanism of civil society. Occasionally , Christians (e.g., Lactantius) taught that all killing was wrong. More often,bishops (e.g.,Ambrose and Augustine) rebuked the official authors ofparticular public executions or recommended mercy in particular cases. No established , coherent, fundamental opposition to the institution developed. At the beginning of the fifth century, Innocent I could say, "On this point nothing has been handed down to us."The Christian emperors (Theodosius,Justinian), codifying the law, freely incorporated the death penalty. The Gospel texts on forgiveness and love ofneighbor had not been made a barrier against such law, nor had the example of enormous official error in the execution ofJesus provided a deterrent. The Old Testament, with at least thirteen capital crimes including blasphemy, stood as a ready repository of authority affording divine approbation of the practice. The medieval Church got more deeply into its support as death became the punishment for heretics.Ad abolendam,X.5.7.9, of Lucius III in 1 184 provided that the unrepentant or lapsed heretic was to be "left to the judgment of the secular power to be punished by punishment of death." R. H. Helmholz, The Spirit of Classical Law, says," [N]o one doubted that the punishment being referred to was death" (p. 362). Megivern, relying on Edward Peters' Inquisition, sees the decisive step as Gregory LX's constitution of 1231,Excommunicamus. By this point the fiction that priests did not shed blood in turning heretics over to the secular power had been accepted without cavil by the canonists.Writing against this legal background, Thomas Aquinas's defense of capital punishment in general and of turning the lapsed over to the state to be killed sealed the official position with the prestige of a great theologian. 704BOOK REVIEWS The course was set for centuries. Spectacular examples of error—Jan Hus, Joan ofArc, Girolamo Savonarola—did not shake confidence in this way of fortifying the faith. The outbreak of revolt against the papacy in the sixteenth century only enlarged the number of executions. In the bull Exsurge Domine, Leo X condemned proposition 35 of Martin Luther,"It is against the will of the Spirit to burn heretics."The Roman Catechism and the great Counter-Reformation theologians endorsed the practice. Suarez in Defide Theologica, Disputation 23, asked,"Can the Church justly punish the heretics with the punishment of death?" and confidently answered affirmatively. There was now not even a fiction : it was the Church that punished capitally. In the Papal States, the death penalty was an ordinary part of criminal law enforcement, used against brigands and heretics alike. I draw the foregoing from Megivern's book. The author's method is a judicious use of secondary sources such as Peters supplemented by his own reading of texts such as Bellarmine's. He writes as an avowed critic of the death penalty today. His credentials include a doctorate in theology from the University of Fribourg and a licentiate's degree in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute. He currently teaches in the Department ofPhilosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina. He sets out the horrors...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 703-705
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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