To the Catholic Faithful in the Archdiocese of Manila
(comprising the cities of Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasay, and San Juan)
My dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ,
Peace be with you! Once again the issue of capital punishment or the death penalty has surfaced in our country. Through the centuries there have existed differing opinions on the authority of the state to administer the death penalty for heinous crimes. In these past years many nations have abandoned the use of the death penalty, including the Philippines. They try instead to find other means to suppress crimes while giving offenders the chance to reform. I would like to share some reasons why recent Catholic teaching opposes the death penalty. I invite you to study and reflect on them as guides for prayer and action.
1. Studies worldwide show that the death penalty has not lessened violent crimes. The threat of punishment by death has not reduced criminality. The best approach is to address positively and comprehensively the roots of crime of which offenders have probably been victims themselves: the loss of moral values, injustice, inequality, poverty, lack of access to food, education, jobs and housing, proliferation of weapons, drugs, pornography, loss of respect for sexuality, and many others. The death penalty has not reduced crime because it does not solve criminality from its roots. To help solve these roots of criminality, the Church and the state need to protect and strengthen the basic unit of society, which is the family.
2. There is a danger that the death penalty might legitimize the use of violence to deal withvery wrongdoing. We affirm that victims of crimes need justice and healing. An honest and upright judicial and penal system assures the victims and society of protection and renewal. There is real danger that the death penalty might be applied to an innocent person. We need to reform institutions so they would safeguard justice while preventing the spread of a culture of violence. Penalties are not imposed for vengeance but for the correction of offenders and the good of society. A culture of violence dehumanizes. A culture of justice, integrity, and hope heals.
3. As Christians we believe that human life is God´s gift. Every human being is created in God´s image and likeness. Every human being is saved by Jesus Christ. This is the reason for forgiveness, hope and salvation. This is the reason why an ethic of life, a culture of life, is inconsistent with abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking, mutilation, and violence against innocent and vulnerable persons. Before God the source of life, we are humble. We cannot pretend to be gods.
I offer these thoughts for your serene study and prayer. If you share these convictions, you should make them known to your elected representatives. I commend you, our Archdiocese, and our beloved country to God who sent Jesus to the world “not to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). We rely on the prayers and protection of Our Mother Mary, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
+LUIS ANTONIO G. CARDINAL TAGLE
Archbishop of Manila
2 February 2017, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple