Catholic teaching conforms to death penalty
He (David) ran to him, stood over him, took Goliath’s sword out of his sheath, and cut off his head and killed him.” (1 Samuel 17:51)
Let me point out the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church concerning death penalty.
With all due respect to other Christian sects that consider the Bible as the sole authority (sola scriptura), Catholics believe that aside from the Bible, the official teaching and pronouncement of the Church being infallible on matters of faith and morals. So let me discuss both the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the matter.
First, let me tackle the Bible on the basic and elementary doctrine by memorizing the Ten Commandments. The fifth commandment says, “Thou shall not kill.” (Exodus 20: 13). Such order is very clear to everyone, without a need for one to enroll in higher subjects in theology.
But we know that like the law of the land, every general rule there is an exception or there are exceptions. So the question is, are there exceptions to the fifth commandment? I do not want to answer that question but rather let us let the Bible give the answer.
There are many Bible verses as regards to killings that can make us pause and meditate. To mention a few, Moses, the very person who directly talked to God at Mount Sinai and received the two tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them, killed a person (Exodus 2: 11-15). He also commanded the Levites to kill that resulted to the death of about three thousand people.(Exodus 32:1-35).
In another Bible story, a justifiable case of killing, the young David killed the giant Goliath who caused fear to the people of Israel. Such killing was brutal because when David slung a stone at Goliath that hit his forehead and broke his skull, the giant fell face downward on the ground. (1 Samuel 17:1-50)
In the New Testament, Peter confronted spouses Ananias and Sapphira who lied and did not turn over the whole amount of money to the apostles. The couple ended up dead just for that mistake (Acts 5:1-11).
Second, let me proceed to the official teaching of the Catholic Church on the matter. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2267 says, “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” (CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, Definitive Edition, page 606).
Also, my friend Atty. Marcelo Bacalso, former President of the Catholic Faith Defenders, shared to me the book on the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which enumerates the exceptions to the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” The following are: the killing of animals, killing in a just war, execution of criminals, killing in self-defense and killing by accident.
“The Council of Trent was an ecumenical council, that is, a general council of the whole Church. Its doctrinal decrees, therefore, are official and authoritative teaching and cannot be revised. (Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home Vol. II page 62)
So what happened to some Catholics who insist that death penalty is against the church teachings? Are they not aware of the exceptions? It will not do them any harm if they will read the books on Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and much more so if they read and familiarize themselves with the Bible. Or, are they just opposed to anything that President Rodrigo Duterte want to implement?
In view of the foregoing, I can say that the Roman Catholic Church is not against the death penalty. Only some of its leaders in the Philippines are expressing their opposition to the pending bill in Congress. Although they are entitled to their own opinion, but for them to invoke the name of the church is misleading and unfair to the church as a whole, even if said leaders underwent “advanced theology.”
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