CBCP to lawmakers: Christ was never for 'legal killing'

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2017 11:38 AM | Updated as of Mar 19 2017 04:27 PM

CBCP asks Filipinos to pray for legislators

CBCP to lawmakers: Christ was never for 'legal killing' 1
A banner hangs outside a church in the town of Pateros , Metro Manila Tuesday. Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA - As the Senate considers the revival of capital punishment, leaders of the Philippines' Catholic Church on Sunday urged legislators not to use the Bible to defend the death penalty, which they say runs against the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In a pastoral letter read out at Mass services across the country, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said lawmakers must "interpret the Scriptures properly" and take note that Jesus "was never an advocate of any form of 'legal killing.'"

"To the people who use the Bible to defend death penalty, need we point out how many other crimes against humanity have been justified, using the same Bible? We humbly enjoin them to interpret the Scriptures properly, to read them as a progressive revelation of God's will to humankind, with its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, God's definitive Word to the world," the letter read.

"Jesus was never an advocate of any form of "legal killing". He defended the adulterous woman against those who demanded her blood and challenged those who were without sin among them to be the first to cast a stone on her."

Christ, the CBCP said, pushed for "justice founded on mercy" in lieu of a system of retribution exemplified by the principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Senator Manny Pacquiao, a champion boxer and born-again pastor, has repeatedly used the Bible to defend the return of the death penalty. He said in January that that while the 10 Commandments prohibit killings, God approves of capital punishment to pursue justice and that even Christ was sentenced to death.

CBCP to lawmakers: Christ was never for 'legal killing' 2
Policemen and a passerby look at pictures of the ones killed due to alleged involvement in illegal drugs, during a protest against extra-judicial killings at an open area of a Roman Catholic Church in Parañaque, early March. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

Capital punishment inched closer to reinstatement earlier this month after it was approved by the House of Representatives on 2nd reading on Ash Wednesday, March 1, as well as on final reading last March 7.

CBCP said it was ironic that majority of congressmen during the 2nd reading voted in favor of death penalty while their foreheads were marked with crosses made of ashes, a symbol of God's forgiveness.

"Could they have forgotten what that cross meant? Could they have missed out the contradiction between their vote and the crosses on their foreheads, which were supposed to serve as a loud statement of faith in the God who, for love of us, chose to give up his life for our salvation, rather than see us perish?" the Church leaders asked.

The bishops said capital punishment has often been used by repressive governments as "a way of stifling dissent, or of eliminating those whom they regarded as threats to their hold on political power."

"Think, for instance why Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded, or why Pilate had Jesus crucified. Think of the thousands of Christian martyrs who were put to death for sheer hatred for the faith," they said.

They added that capital punishment was never proven as an effective deterrent to crime and will likely target only the poor who cannot afford good lawyers and a guarantee of due process.

The CBCP ended its pastoral letter with an appeal for the public to pray for the enlightenment of the Senate ahead of its death penalty deliberations.

"Let us pray fervently for the legislators of our country as they prepare to vote on death penalty in the Philippine Senate. Let us offer all our Masses for them, asking our Crucified Lord who offered his whole life, body and blood, for the salvation of sinners, to touch their consciences and lead them to abolish capital punishment once and for all," CBCP said.