Is death penalty Biblical? Priest explains why not

Is death penalty Biblical? Priest explains why not

The Sto. Niño Parish in Tacloban City regularly holds Masses inside the Tacloban City Jail to provide spiritual nourishment to detainees accused of crimes ranging from heinous to petty ones. (Photo: Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros)

PALO, Leyte, May 23, 2016 – Since the Old Testament is full of Divine punishment, wrath, and death, surely God is pro-death penalty or is He? A priest explained why this is far-fetched.

Fr. Ivo Velasquez, Dean of Studies at Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo reacted to a general idea advanced by some camps that even the Bible calls for death as penalty such as in a New Testament verse that reads: “For the wages of sin is death.”

“One should take the whole of sacred Scripture into account, and be mindful of how apostolic tradition and the magisterium has always understood and taught it,” explained the priest, saying the verse’s more accurate interpretation is that “sin is separation from God and this amounts to death.”

Simplistic Biblical interpretation

Velasquez stressed: “Sin is basically the willful rejection of God’s love, and his offer of salvation. When we say the wages of sin is death, by that is meant that without God there is nothing else but death.”

“In the face of man’s rejection, God always extends his arms in mercy,” said the priest.

According to him, “the great temptation” is to be selective with regard to certain Biblical passages. “We can make the Bible say what we want to say. But is the Bible really saying what we want it to say?”, he asked.

Citing for instance buy cheap propecia uk another person’s perspective, he said, “I can justify killing my own daughter basing myself [on] the Bible or I could justify many other things.”

Self-imposed ‘death penalty’

Velasquez said God’s real stance on the death penalty can be seen in Ezekiel 13:2, among other verses. “’I do not wish the sinner to die, but to turn back to me and live’ are words that are also in the Bible, and they are the response of God to man’s sin and rebellion.”

He clarified, “This doesn’t mean that it’s God who kills,” stating further, “We are the ones who take the poison [but] God always calls us to be with him and live. We could always choose not to, and die instead.”

“The death penalty has been with us since primitive times, the mystery of human freedom,” he said.

Countering presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte’s desire to revive the death penalty, the seminary dean of studies stressed anew the point, “God calls us to life not death.” (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros / CBCPNews)

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Pope Francis Calls for Abolition of Death Penalty

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In a letter (March 20,2015) to the International Commission against the Death Penalty, the Pope Francis 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.”