The fact remains that Catholic teaching conforms to death penalty
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 2267,” Definitive Edition, page 606).
Father Ramon Echica reacted on Facebook to my column entitled “Catholic teaching conforms to death penalty,” saying “that I was not able to print the succeeding paragraph of 2267.” I hope he sincerely realized the reason, as I understand his reason that “lack of space” prevents him from elaborating on any of the revisions on the teaching of Trent.
In any case, the fact still remains that the church does not exclude recourse to death penalty. Such statement cannot be erased by simply printing the succeeding paragraphs.
The good priests also cited the opinions of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis on death penalty. Their opinions are good and must be respected. However, every Catholic theologian knows, with all due respect to other Christian sects, that the Pope is infallible only on matters of faith and morals and when he is speaking EX CATHEDRA; but not in everything he does and says especially if the statement is only made during media interviews. There are requisites when the Pope’s pronouncements will fall within the ambit of infallibility of the Pope. After all they are also human beings capable of making mistakes.
At the very least, we agree that the commandment, “thou shall not kill” has exceptions. The bone of contention that the good priest proposed is whether execution of criminals by the state is morally justified and would constitute an exception to the fifth commandment. He also questioned the killing of Goliath by David and emphasized that David was not yet king then.
As I said, there are many verses in the Bible that God approves killings and my purpose in mentioning a few including that of David is to emphasize the exceptions to the fifth commandment. And yes, I remember that David was not yet a king then. Does it mean to say that such killing was not an execution by the state? Is it not a fact that, aside from God, King Saul gave authority to David to face Goliath and kill him? (1 Sam. 17: 37–38).
How I wish that the busy schedule of Fr. Echica allows him time for a friendly discussion or comparison of notes with me. But just to abbreviate, let me quote another Bible verse where a king ordered a killing. “So King Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada to execute him, and Adonijah was put to death.” (1 Kgs 2:25, NLT). Remember, Solomon was already a king when he made that order.
The New Testament states, “Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgment on himself.
“For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good, and they will praise you. Because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil” (Rom. 13: 1–5).
I hope Fr. Echica will not invoke the “stage of evolution of biblical thoughts” to say that these particular verses are irrelevant in the present time. After all, many believe that even if the Bible was written many centuries ago, it is still relevant to the present. Hence, many appreciate a priest/pastor who can discuss the Bible and relate it to modern times.
At any rate, it is emphasized that the state will be the one to carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil and not the church, as can be gleaned in the early stage of its history that some bishops actively participated in the harsh killings of the “heretics” during the so-called Holy Inquisition years.
Clearly, the state has the power to punish. If death penalty will be approved and implemented in the Philippines, can we not accept it as God’s will in line with the Bible verse on the authority of the state? After all, everything happens for a reason (Rom. 8:23; Ecc. 3: 1–15). Besides, we cannot fathom the wisdom of God (Isa. 55: 8–9; Isa. 40:28; Ps. 147:5).
In closing, Fr. Echica mentioned about leaving the 99 sheep behind to find a solitary lost sheep. I agree as to the sheep, but not as to the wolf, who snatches the sheep and brutally kills them.
Let me supply the biblical verse to appreciate the whole story. It is in John 10: 7–15. In the story of the sheep and shepherd, we should not take out the wolf from the picture. Many biblical verses say that the shepherd kills the wolves and other predators to protect the sheep.
I respect Fr. Echica if he considers the drug addicts, pushers and drug lords who gruesomely murder innocent people, rape vulnerable children, rob weak citizens, destroy happy families, etc., as “solitary lost sheep.” But I will respect also those who see them as wolves; hence, they consider President Rodrigo Duterte as the effective shepherd who can protect them from the wolves and other predators.
Granting arguendo that they are “sheep,” so pray, tell me, aside from talking, what concrete actions do priests take, except the sincere ones, maybe including Fr. Echica, to find the lost sheep? If they cannot join the “Tokhang II” with the police, can they not make their own “Tokhang”? Is it not biblical that a good shepherd is willing to die for the sheep? (John 10: 11). Again, action speaks louder than words!
Let us reflect on what Pope Francis said when he mentioned that an atheist is better than a Catholic hypocrite!
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