The death penalty

Published October 20, 2021, 5:52 PM

by Mercedes B. Suleik

          “Human life is sacred because from its beginning, it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator.”

          This article propounds on the Church’s teaching on capital punishment. No one can claim for himself under any circumstance claim for himself to directly destroy an innocent human being and abrogate for himself God’s sole end.

            In the Philippines, 23 bills have been passed across both houses of Congress to reinstate the death penalty for drug crimes, including its possession and sale.  This is President Duterte’s claim (as it was his campaign promise): “reinstating the death penalty would deter criminality.”

            Research has shown that this punishment more often than not affects the most disadvantaged.  The Philippine Supreme Court said in 2004 that 71.77% of death penalty verdicts handed by the lower courts were wrong.

            Harm Reduction International declared that the Philippines by imposing the death penalty for drug offenses is moving away from the downward global trend using the death penalty for such offenses.

            The death penalty has been abolished twice before – in 1987 and then again in 2006 after being reinstated in 1993. In fact, there is little evidence that the death penalty can be a deterrent, and many believe that it is not always the answer, nor has it ever solved the drug related problems of any country. Indeed such a move would be a breach of the international human rights law.

            The deepest element of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is to protect human life, and is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every human being.The assault on human life is a consequence of original sin. 

            Mercy and pardon are proper to God .  Mercy must also be present in the life of a child of God, stirring up in his heart compassion for those who are suffering.

            Defending common good means not to do harm.  Church teaching  allows that legitimate  authority may impose punishment commensurate to the gravity of the crime,  The aim of p8unishment is to compensate for the harm caused  by the offense, to ensure public order, the security of persons, as well as the correction of guilty persons.

            A long time ago the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority was regarded was allowable following a fair trial  and in response to the gravity of certain crimes;  It was considered a means of safeguarding the common good.

            Today, ho9wever, as emphasized by Pope Francis, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of a very serious crime.  In addition, a new understanding of the significance of the  penal  sanctions imposed by  the state has emerged.  More effective sanctions and systems of detention have developed which ensure the protection of citizens but at the same time do not definitively deprive the guilty the possibility of rehabilitation..

            Consequentlt, the Church teaches today, in light of the Gospel, that “the  death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the human person”  (Pope Francis in his address to the participants  of the Promotion of the New Evangelization on October 11, 2017).  Thus the Church works for its abolition worldwide.

            Thus, in response to the bills submitted to both Houses of the Philippine Congress, this article adds its objection to the death penalty.  Human life, as we see in Genesis, has always been sacred by the fact of man’s creation by God to be in likeness to Himself.

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