Saturday, October 8, 2016

On death penalty and the Catholic Church: A reply to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

GMA network reported the following words by our president:
Hindi tumalab yung death penalty noon kasi hindi in-impose. One, because of the Catholic church. Second, the bleeding hearts, because only God can kill....
Let's analyze each statement.

1.  Hindi tumalab yung death penalty noon kasi hindi in-impose. 

Translation: "Death penalty was not effective before because it was not imposed." What does the president refer to by "noon" or "before" here? Most likely he is referring to the Philippines of recent history after World War II. The only way we can validate the claim that death penalty was not effective is to make a real study of the crime rate before death penalty was imposed and the crime rate after to see if the executions made a difference. Otherwise, we will just be making decisions not out of data, but on emotions or political expedience.

But there are some difficulties that would be faced in analyzing crime statistics. You have to be very careful in how crime is measured, e.g. is murder the same as theft and rape? Can you quantify the relative magnitudes of these crimes? I tried to do this for the PNP crime data for 2010-2015, but there are other possible normalization schemes. The safe way is not to add them up into a single index, but analyze each crime type on its own and answer the following question:
  • Does the imposition of death penalty for a particular crime type have any effect on the occurrence of such crime?
Since population is growing, we have to make sure that our measurement of crime is per one million people, so that we can compare different years. The numbers for different crime types were tabulated by the Philippine Statistics Authority for 2005-2016. Because the death penalty was only abolished on 2006, we have scant data to make a definite statement on the efficacy of death penalty. We need to have data all the way to the Marcos years, at least since the time after World War II.

2. Because of the Catholic church

If I am not mistaken, what the President is trying to say is that one of the reasons why the death penalty was not imposed was because of Catholic Church's opposition. Perhaps, this is true, when the Catholic Church was still strong enough to topple a dictatorship. But the Catholic Church is now considerably weakened, especially in our top universities claiming to be Catholic, as the passage of the RH law shows us. The Catholic Church, as represented by several bishops, cannot even stop the election of Duterte as president. Like the Bishop of Rome who lost the Papal States to the Republic of Italy, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has already lost much of its population to Protestant Sects and Secularists. The forces of the Culture of Death are now battering against the gates of the Church: abortion, divorce, homosexuality, death penalty, etc. Soon, the Catholic Church in the Philippines shall burn and fall like Gondor, with the passage of the laws of death, unless a help unlooked for comes to its aid. 

But if we go back to history, the founder of the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ, received the death penalty. Yet before He died, He promised His apostles that He will send another advocate, the Holy Spirit:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.j 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always,k17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.* (Jn 14:15-18)
The Church was born during the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the Apostles. The Catholic Church converted the Roman Empire through the blood of the martyrs and made it abolish death penalty during the time of Emperor Constantine:
Mosaic Law codified many capital crimes. In fact, there is evidence that Jews used many different techniques including stoning, hanging, beheading, crucifixion (copied from the Romans), throwing the criminal from a rock, and sawing asunder. The most infamous execution of history occurred approximately 29 AD with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ outside Jerusalem. About 300 years later, the Emperor Constantine, after converting to Christianity, abolished crucifixion and other cruel death penalties in the Roman Empire.  (History of Death Penalty)
Regarding Death Penalty, this is what the Catholic Church officially teaches:
 2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

3. The bleeding hearts, because only God can kill. 

Humans can be killed by their fellow humans, because man is mortal.  And all of it begun with the killing of Abel by Cain:
What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!11 Now you are banned from the ground* that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.d 12 If you till the ground, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a constant wanderer on the earth. (Gen 4:10-12)
Perhaps, in the phrase "Only God can kill" Pres. Duterte actually means "Only God may kill."

After the Great Flood, God told Noah:
Indeed for your own lifeblood I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from a human being, each one for the blood of another, I will demand an accounting for human life.d6* Anyone who sheds the blood of a human being, by a human being shall that one’s blood be shed; For in the image of God have human beings been made.e (Gen 9:5-6)
In other words, the punishment for killing a human being is death. This is echoed in the Books of Leviticus and Numbers:
Whoever takes the life of any human being shall be put to death;h18 whoever takes the life of an animal shall make restitution of another animal, life for a life.i19* Anyone who inflicts a permanent injury on his or her neighbor shall receive the same in return:20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The same injury that one gives another shall be inflicted in return.j21 Whoever takes the life of an animal shall make restitution, but whoever takes a human life shall be put to death. 22 You shall have but one rule, for alien and native-born alike.k I, the LORD, am your God. (Lv 24:17-22
You will not pollute the land where you live. For bloodshed pollutes the land, and the land can have no expiation for the blood shed on it except through the blood of the one who shed it. (Num 35:33
There are many sins which are punishable by death, not just murder. One of them adultery. During the time of Christ, a woman was caught in adultery. The Law of Moses stipulates that the woman must be put to death: "If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife,h both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." (Lv 20:10) But what did Jesus say? "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." (Jn 8:7) God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Jesus, the Son of God, perfected the interpretation of the Law: "Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more." (Jn 8:11) This corresponds with what God said in the Old Testament:
Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked—oracle of the Lord GOD? Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live? (Ez 18:23)