If death penalty returns, bishop says he’ll volunteer to die

If death penalty returns, bishop says he’ll volunteer to die


Archbishop Ramón Cabrera Argüelles of Lipa, located on the Filipino island of Luzon.

In what may be a precursor to a showdown between church and state in perhaps the most pervasively Catholic nation on earth, a Filipino bishop has said he’ll take the place of condemned criminals if the country’s new president reintroduces the death penalty.Earlier this month, the Philippines elected the tough-talking, crime-busting former mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, who’s said he wants to see the country bring back capital punishment, which was abolished in 2006.Duterte has said he hopes to apply it to a variety of “heinous” crimes, including drug offenses, rape, robbery, car theft and corruption.Although Duterte was raised as a Catholic and educated by the Benedictines, that stance puts him on a collision course with the country’s bishops, who have vowed to resist any effort to bring back the death penalty.

Archbishop Ramón Cabrera Argüelles of Lipa, located on the Filipino island of Luzon, has been especially outspoken in his criticism of the idea, even suggesting he’d volunteer to be killed in place of the condemned.

“The archbishop of Lipa will volunteer to be executed in the place of all those the government will hang,” Argüelles said, speaking of himself in the third person.

“Didn’t Christ do that?” he asked aloud.

Argüelles promised a full-court press by the Church in opposition to any effort to restore capital punishment.

“In the Year of Mercy, Catholics in the Philippines will be merciless,” he said.

Notably, Argüelles, 71, is not generally known as among the more progressive bishops in the Philippines. Earlier this year, he urged local Catholics to boycott a Madonna concert because of what he described as her “suggestive” lifestyle and “vulgar” style of dressing.

Four years ago, Argüelles issued a similar protest over a concert by Lady Gaga.

Archbishop Oscar Valero Cruz, now retired from the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, also threw down a gauntlet over the new president’s death penalty push.

“We will certainly oppose his plan, especially the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines,” he said. “The Church will not take it sitting down, but will stand against the death penalty.”

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga likewise disagreed with Duterte’s plan, which he described as akin to playing God.

“Only God has power over life,” Santos said. “God gives life, and God takes life. No one should play God.”

Duterte should use his influence and power to push reforms in the justice system in the country, the bishop argued, to ensure the guilty are prosecuted and punished and victims get their due.

“Life is sacred. Life is promoted, respected and protected. It is the prisons they have to reform and the justice system they have to review,” Santos said.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, the current president of the national bishops conference, has said he intends to seek a meeting with Duterte to try to persuade the president to back down from attempting to reintroduce capital punishment.

A spokesman for the bishops indicated the opposition to Duterte’s plan will be fairly unanimous from the Church.

“As people of faith, we do not adhere to capital punishment because we do not have the right to judge who should live and who should die,” said Father Lito Jopson, head of the bishops’ communications office.

“It is not based on popularity … but rather on complete moral principles of the Catholic faith and faith demands we respect all persons’ human dignity,” Jopson said.

Human rights groups and the government’s own Commission on Human Rights have also announced opposition to the move.

Some Catholic social justice activists believe Duterte’s crime-fighting record in Davao City should be subject to critical examination, charging him with having at least condoned, and perhaps actively encouraged, vigilante-style summary executions of suspected criminals.

“I felt sad and depressed,” said Father Amado Picardal of Duterte’s rise to power.

A Duterte presidency is “very frightening,” he said, adding that human rights groups will need to keep a close watch and document any violations in the next six years.

Almost 90 percent of the Philippines’ population of 100 million is Catholic, making it the third largest Catholic nation behind Brazil and Mexico, and levels of faith and practice are exceptionally high by global standards.

Read the source and comments: http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/05/19/if-death-penalty-returns-bishop-says-hell-volunteer-to-die/

Pope Francis on the death penalty: It does not render justice, but instead fosters vengeance

Published on Mar 20, 2015

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In a letter to the International Commission against the Death Penalty, the Pope says that today the death penalty is “inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. It is an offence against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person.” He adds that it “does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance.”

Pope’s Letter to International Commission Against the Death Penalty

“Justice will never be reached by killing a human being.”

Here below is a translation of the letter that Pope Francis handed to the President of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, Federico Mayor, in the course of this morning’s audience with the commission at the Vatican:

* * *

Your Excellency Mister

Federico Mayor

President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty

Mr. President:

With these letters, I wish to have my greeting reach all the members of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, to the group of countries that support it, and to those who collaborate with the organism over which you preside. I wish, in addition, to express my personal gratitude, and also that of men of good will, for your commitment to a world free of the death penalty and for your contribution to the establishment of a universal moratorium of executions worldwide, with a view to abolition of capital punishment.

I have shared some ideas on this subject in my letter to the International Association of Criminal Law and the Latin American Association of Criminal Law and Criminology, of May 30, 2014. I had the opportunity to reflect further on them in my allocution before the five great world associations dedicated to the study of criminal law, criminology, victimology and penitentiary questions of October 23, 2014. On this opportunity, I wish to share with you some reflections with which the Church can contribute to the Commission’s humanist efforts.

The Magisterium of the Church, beginning with Sacred Scripture and the centuries-old experience of the People of God, defends life from conception until natural death, and supports full human dignity in as much as image of God (Cf. Genesis 1:26). Human life is sacred because from its beginning, from the first instant of conception, it is fruit of the creative action of God (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2258), and from that moment, man, the only creature God loves for itself, is the object of personal love on the part of God (Cf. Gaudium et spes, 24).

States can kill by action when they apply the death penalty, when they take their peoples to war or when they carry out extra-judicial or summary executions. They can also kill by omission, when they do not guarantee to their peoples access to the essential means for life. “Just as the Commandment ‘do not kill’ puts a clear limit to ensure the value of human life, today we have to say ‘no to an economy of exclusion and inequality’” (Evangelii gaudium, 53).

Life, especially human life, belongs to God alone. Not even the murderer loses his personal dignity and God himself makes himself its guarantor. As Saint Ambrose teaches, God did not want to punish Cain for the murder, as He wants the repentance of the sinner, not his death (Cf. Evangelium vitae, 9).

On some occasions it is necessary to repel proportionally an aggression underway to avoid an aggressor causing harm, and the necessity to neutralize him might entail his elimination: it is the case of legitimate defense (Cf. Evangelium vitae, 55). However, the assumptions of legitimate personal defense are not applicable to the social milieu, without risk of distortion. Because when the death penalty is applied, persons are killed not for present aggressions, but for harm caused in the past. Moreover, it is applied to persons whose capacity to harm is not present but has already been neutralized, and who find themselves deprived of their freedom.

Today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime of the condemned. It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person that contradicts God’s plan for man and society and His merciful justice, and it impedes fulfilling the just end of the punishments. It does no do justice to the victims, but foments vengeance.

For a State of Law, the death penalty represents a failure, because it obliges it to kill in the name of justice. Dostoevsky wrote: “To kill one who killed is an incomparably greater punishment than the crime itself. Killing in virtue of a sentence is far worse than the killing committed by a criminal.” Justice will never be reached by killing a human being.

The death penalty loses all legitimacy given the defective selectivity of the criminal system and in face of the possibility of judicial error. Human justice is imperfect, and not to recognize its fallibility can turn it into a source of injustices. With the application of capital punishment the condemned is denied the possibility of reparation or amendment of the harm caused; the possibility of Confession, by which man expresses his interior conversion; and contrition, gateway of repentance and of expiation, to comer to the encounter of the merciful and healing love of God.

Moreover, capital punishment is a frequent recourse used by some totalitarian regimes and fanatical groups, for the extermination of political dissidents, of minorities, and of any individual labelled “dangerous” or who can be perceived as a threat to one’s power or to carry out one’s ends. As in the first centuries, today also the Church suffers the application of this punishment to her new martyrs.

The death penalty is contrary to the meaning of humanitas and to divine mercy, which should be the model for men’s justice. It implies cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as is also the prior anguish to the moment of execution and the terrible waiting between the dictating of the sentence and the application of the punishment, it usually lasts many years, and, in the waiting-room of death, not rarely leads to sickness and madness.

In some places there are debates about the way to kill, as if there were a way to “do it well.” In the course of history, different mechanisms of death have been defended to reduce the suffering and agony of the condemned. However, there is no human way of killing another person.

At present, not only are there means to repress crime effectively, without depriving definitively the possibility of the one who has committed it from redeeming himself (Cf.Evangelium vitae, 27), but a greater moral sensibility has been developed in relation to the value of human life, causing increasing aversion to the death penalty and the support of public opinion to the different dispositions that tend to its abolition or the postponement of its application(Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 405).

On the other hand, the punishment of life imprisonment, as well as those that because of their duration entail the possibility for the one punished to plan a future in freedom, can be considered veiled death penalties, because with them the culprit is not deprived of freedom but there is an attempt to deprive him of hope. However, although the criminal system can take away time from the culprits, it can never take away their hope.

As I expressed in my allocution of last October 23, “the death penalty implies the denial of love to enemies, preached in the Gospel. All Christians and all men of good will are obliged not only to fight for the abolition of the death penalty, legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also for prison conditions to be better, in respect of the human dignity of the persons deprived of freedom.”

Dear friends, I encourage you to continue with the work you do, as the world needs witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of God.

I take my leave entrusting you to the Lord Jesus, who in the days of his earthly life did not want his persecutors to be wounded in his defense – “Put your sword back into its place” (Matthew 26:52) –, he was arrested and condemned to death unjustly, and He identified himself with all prisoners, culpable or not: “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:36). May He, who before the adulterous woman did not question her culpability, but invited her accusers to examine their own consciences before stoning her (Cf. John 8:1-11), grant you the gift of wisdom, so that the actions you undertake in favour of abolition of this cruel punishment, are right and fruitful.

I beg you to pray for me.


Vatican, March 20, 2015


[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]

Pope Benedict: End the Death Penalty

The Holy Father encouraged countries to end the policy during his Nov. 30 audience.


Pope Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction at his Nov. 30 general audience.

Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the controversial topic, the Pope said he hopes that their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”

The conference was organized by the Italian-based Sant’Egidio Community under the theme of “No Justice Without Life.” The Pope told them that he applauded “the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the traditional teaching of the Church “does not exclude” recourse to the death penalty when it is “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” It adds, however, that today such cases are “very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

Recent figures suggest that around a third of the world’s countries use the death penalty as part of their legal code. In the United States, there are currently 34 states where the death penalty is legal.

Read the source and comments: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-benedict-end-the-death-penalty/


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