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MANILA, Philippines – Filipino members of the Society of Jesus, the biggest male religious order in the Catholic Church, joined the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in condemning efforts to revive the death penalty.
The Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, said it “adds its voice to the chorus of dissent against moves in Congress to reinstate the capital punishment.”
The Jesuits also run the network of Ateneo schools in the Philippines, which count government leaders, including President Rodrigo Duterte himself, among former students.
“The Philippine Jesuits stand behind our bishops in condemning the wanton disregard for life that capital punishment represents, something made even more repulsive in a context where rampant killing has been taking place with apparent disregard or even endorsement,” said Father Antonio Moreno, the head of the Philippine Jesuits, in a letter to his fellow Jesuits dated Thursday, February 9.
Moreno quoted Pope Francis, who is also a Jesuit, in saying that “we are all part of a Church that proclaims, in word and deed, a gospel of life.”
“We laud the government’s efforts to rid the country of lawlessness and criminality, for this aim, in its own way, is an affirmation of life. But such efforts should not be made in a manner that tears asunder an integral ethic of life,” Moreno said.
He added: “Just as we respect the lives of the unborn and the innocent, we too should consistently protect the lives of every individual person, not excluding those rejected and marginalized by society.”
Deterrent effect ‘a myth’
“Might should not be equated with right. Any punitive or sheerly pragmatic approach, whether wielded by government or popular opinion in support of death by legal or non-legal means, denies the God-given value of human life, a value that can never be compromised,” Moreno said.
Moreno stressed that the death penalty’s “deterrent effect” against crime is a myth, and that he fears its “uneven implementation in a flawed justice system.” (READ: A lethal mix? Death penalty and a ‘flawed, corrupt’ justice system)
He then urged his fellow Jesuits “to contact local legislators to decry legislation favoring a culture of death,” and to support “online efforts like www.veritas846.ph/chooselife or the poll at www.congress.gov.ph.”
“Let us not forget that in His last moments on earth, Jesus, Himself a victim of capital punishment, forgave the repentant thief dying together with Him. May Our Lord’s Divine Mercy inspire our nation to uphold the sanctity of all human life and to reject the death penalty once and for all,” Moreno said.
The CBCP on January 30 denounced the death penalty in a statement released after their bi-annual plenary.
Days later, on February 5, the CBCP also issued its strongest statement yet against the drug-related killings. The bishops denounced the “reign of terror” in poor communities, with more than 7,000 deaths linked to Duterte’s war on drugs.
Days after issuing this statement, CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged Filipinos to join a grand procession, called “Walk for Life,” at the Quirino Grandstand on February 18. – Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com