Philippine Bishops say No to Death Penalty
The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines oppose calls for restoration of the death penalty in their country. In a statement issued on 14 September 2016, Archbishop Socrates Villegas asks Catholic law-makers not to support any attempt to restore the death penalty. Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, he asks Catholic jurists to study the issue and use ‘proper judicial proceedings’ to oppose the re-introduction of capital punishment. He appeals to them to consider attenuating or mitigating circumstances so as not to impose the death penalty.
Life is God’s Gift
The Bishops acknowledge that Catholic teaching has not always opposed the death penalty. However they explain that, over time, with better understanding of the human person, our moral sense evolves. They say that the Church now sees opposition to the death penalty as a demand of human dignity.
In every human person is that incomparably precious breath of life from God himself, as we read in the book of Genesis, “the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
It is this Divine gift of life, sublime and unsurpassable, that the death penalty takes away. It is the breath of life, the gift of the Creator, that every judicial execution snatches and cuts short.
To every man and woman is open, by the Savior, Jesus Christ, the invitation to the fullness of life. Every man and woman is a person redeemed by God’s own Son, made an adopted son or daughter of God, and heir to the promise of the Resurrection.
This is the dignity of the human person. It is this dignity that the death penalty transgresses!
The Philippine Bishops recall how Pope John Paul II also took this position, saying that the new evangelisation requires “followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life”. Furthermore, Pope Francis says that “it is time then to rid ourselves of the obsolescent notion that a person who commits a heinous wrong forfeits his right to life.”
A Legal Responsibility
The Bishops also make the case that the Philippines has a responsibility under international law not to reintroduce the death penalty. They explain that the government took on this obligation when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For example, Article I of the Protocol says:
- No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.
- Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.
Read the full statement here.