by Anthony James Perez
Recently, Archbishop Soc Villegas and Cardinal Chito Tagle came out with statements regarding the Culture of Death.
This is a layman’s attempt to explain the term “Culture of Death” in layman’s terms, to reduce it to its simplest terms without oversimplifying it.
The expression, “Culture of Death,” was coined by Pope John Paul II to describe the utter disdain and violence against human life in our times. This is seen in the popular support that many people have for abortion and euthanasia, for example.
In my opinion, Capital Punishment or the Death Penalty does not necessarily fall in this category; even the Catholic Church permits it, if it is the ONLY way to protect the public. What I think falls under the Culture of Death is the people’s bloodthirstiness, demanding an eye for an eye, calling for the death of criminals, not for the sake of public safety, but for retribution’s sake, albeit under the guise of justice.
Let us be clear about one thing: it is not right to kill. Killing means causing the death of one or more persons. This is the reason why we are angry with murderers in the first place – because deep in our conscience we know that killing is wrong. (Qualifiers: taking a life out of self-defense is not killing. It also doesn’t mean accidentally taking a criminal’s life as he fought the police back.)
Thus, I opine, and the experts of the law, ethics or philosophy can freely comment: what gives the state the moral right to take a person’s life?
To date, 58 people have already been killed and the present president has not yet even assumed office. Are all of them criminals? Many of them are, that we are sure of. But are we 100% sure? Are you 100% sure?
And yet many of us turn the other way, and say “buti nga,” or “buti naman!” This is a political as well as a moral problem. When people cling to violence it always seem a desperate measure because the people are extremely dissatisfied with the past administration. We can most probably look forward to more criminals killed. Lest we forget, these people are more than just criminals; they are sons. They are fathers. They are brothers and they are friends.
I see in our society the Culture of Death already setting in. When a supposedly Catholic country calls for the death of criminals out of spite and out of feelings of revenge, without any thought about their repentance or change of heart, we are well on the way to our moral ruin. Human life is cheapened and simply becomes just another means to the state’s ends.
Cain killed his brother Abel and chose the attitude that says “am I my brother’s keeper?”. Today, we say the same thing whenever we condemn someone to death. Hindi ko kaano-ano yan, mamamatay-tao yan, dapat sa kanya mamatay!
God chose to love Cain instead. By giving Cain his mark, that no one may lay a hand against him, God set an example not of revenge, but of mercy.
Aren’t we all called to be godly?
We can be hard on criminals without having to take their lives. Choosing life and avoiding the Culture of Death means taking the difficult but ultimately invaluable path of reparation and restoration for both victim and criminal, a path more beneficial to society in the long term. Yes, these criminals lived barbaric lives so far, with their actions so out of touch and out of step with today’s supposedly civilized world; we cry for their blood and we become barbaric ourselves, no different from these killers who kill.
The Culture of Life gives the criminal second chances; if you have issues with that, take it up with the Lord, who assured the repentant thief that he will be with Him in paradise.