Philippine Jesuits join bishops in opposing efforts to revive death penalty

Source: Social Justice & Ecology Philippines

The Philippine Jesuits have joined the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in condemning efforts to revive the death penalty.

"The Philippine Jesuits stand behind our bishops in condemning the wanton disregard for life that capital punishment represents, something made even more repulsive in a context where rampant killing has been taking place with apparent disregard or even endorsement," said Philippine Provincial Fr Antonio Moreno SJ in a letter to his fellow Jesuits dated Thursday, February 9.

"As Pope Francis reminds us, we are all part of a Church that proclaims, in word and deed, a gospel of life," he said.

The CBCP had issued a statement on January 30, in which it reiterated the Church's stand on the death penalty: "When we condemn violence, we cannot ourselves be its perpetrators, and when we decry murder, we cannot ourselves participate in murder, no matter that it may be accompanied by the trappings of judicial and legal process."

Fr Moreno said that the Philippine Jesuits "laud the government's efforts to rid the country of lawlessness and criminality, for this aim, in its own way, is an affirmation of life" but stressed that "such efforts should not be made in a manner that tears asunder an integral ethic of life".

"Just as we respect the lives of the unborn and the innocent, we too should consistently protect the lives of every individual person, not excluding those rejected and marginalized by society. Might should not be equated with right. Any punitive or sheerly pragmatic approach, whether wielded by government or popular opinion in support of death by legal or non-legal means, denies the God-given value of human life, a value that can never be compromised."

Fr Moreno further stated: "Indeed, we recognize and agree with compelling arguments put forth against capital punishment: the myth of its 'deterrent effect' against crime, its uneven implementation in a flawed judicial system where the poor often bear the brunt of 'justice', its promotion of a culture of death that desensitizes the youth to violence and revenge."

He added that the Philippine Jesuits especially support the work of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service (PJPS) and members of the Coalition Against the Death Penalty in their campaign for genuine respect of life.

In a recent letter to the heads of Jesuit social apostolates, ministries and educational institutions, PJPS Executive Director Fr Eli Rowdy Lumbo SJ declared, "We in PJPSFI make a stand against the restoration of the death penalty and oppose the proposal to lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility". He called on all of them to make a stand, and offered suggestions on how they could take action.

Fr Moreno highlighted two of these - to contact local legislators to decry legislation favoring a culture of death and support online efforts such as www.veritas846.ph/chooselife or the poll at www.congress.gov.ph.

"Let us not forget that in His last moments on earth, Jesus, Himself a victim of capital punishment, forgave the repentant thief dying together with Him. May Our Lord's Divine Mercy inspire our nation to uphold the sanctity of all human life and to reject the death penalty once and for all," Fr Moreno said.