While writing my article, I was still pondering and in the process of soul searching for ideas of what is proper to say. In the midst of what I heard in televisions and radio, and read in broadsheet media on the various comments of our President Rodrigo R. Duterte on eradicating corruption, crime and drugs, and his shocking statements attacking the Catholic Church and some bishops.
At the start let me clarify two important points. First, I welcome most of the programs of our president particularly on the areas of corruption, crimes, drugs and poverty. Second, as an active Church leader, my views and suggestions in my article does not aim to interfere in any way in the politics of the state but to share some of my insights on the core values of human life.
As a humble, law-abiding citizen and faithful servant leader of the Catholic Church, I believe in my faith and its teachings on human life. The Catholic Church upholds that every human life is precious and sacred, and must be protected from conception to death.
Pope John XXIII in his encyclical, Pacemin Terris in 1963, a document in Church teaching on Capital Punishment documents for the first time the Church’s defense of the life of the individual in the context of human rights and common good. In the late 1960, the theme of the sanctity of life was given increased attention by the Church.
John Paull II affirmed and strengthened the Church defense in the sanctity of life through various writings and encyclicals, among are the Redemptoris Hominis in 1979, an apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (1988), Christi Fidelis Laici (1988), and an encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) in March 1995.
The Philippines is an active party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is aimed at the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world. Many organizations such as the Commission on Human Rights (local and international groups), the Pro-life organization, Amnesty International Phils., etc. are not in favor of restoring the death penalty which have abolished the past years.
To restore it, a long process has to be done not only in Congress and, more important, in the teachings and doctrines of the Church. God is the author of this divine law of life. Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do what I command you.”
Sad to say that the alarming reported increased in the rate of death penalties around the world tells us that while most of us by instinct like to cling to life at all costs, many are misinformed and misled. Those advocates of death penalty view this approach as an instant solution to life’s miseries. Thus making it an easy instrument of controlling criminalities and heinous crime and a “show of their mastery of life.”
In trying to eradicate criminals, all the law enforcers make sure that the process of administering justice is always and properly observed instead of just ending up in killing justice itself.
“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say this to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek turn the other left cheek to him as well,” here Jesus presents to his disciples the proper way to drive away evil, and bring out the good from their hearts.
He taught them not to fight evil by evil means. This way evil grows stronger when the injured party retaliates. This approach brings out the good from the heart of the evil person and invites the offended party to realize the bad in the evil deed of the erring person.
The vicious cycle of evil in the form of revenge and further violence is broken. This brings out good from your enemies’ hearts. This kind of love for enemies is not a matter of feelings, emotions, sympathy or natural affection but an act of good will and deep understanding and concern called “AGAPE Love.”
It is only God who knows the depths of the human heart. The last word in death is not extinction but Hope. Pope Francis stressed that “punishment that does not give rise to Hope is torture, it is not punishment,” emphasizing his firm opposition to death penalty. (~Dr. Ricardo S.D. Ledesma)