Three good reasons to be against the death penalty
By Fr. Victor Roche, SVD – CBC Secretary General
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands (CBC) has issued specific press statements regarding the death penalty on 5 May 1995, 31 March 2003 and more recently as the law and order situation in the country deteriorated. Death penalty is already in the PNG criminal code, but only confined to the case of “wilful murder”. It has never been actually implemented, though there are now a handful of convicted criminals on death row. Now the government is considering introducing the death penalty for other serious crimes such as rape, murder, sorcery killings, misappropriation of public funds, etc.
However, here are three reasons for which the Catholic Church does not support the death penalty:
- It is against the Bible and Christian principles: “Thou shall not kill” (Ex 20:13). God is the author of life. Neither the judiciary nor the government have the power to take someone’s life. In the Old Testament revenge was allowed: “If further harm is done, however, you will award life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stroke for stroke” (Ex 21:23-24). But Jesus in the New Testament says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44).
- Death penalty has not decreased the crime rate in those countries where it is carried out. The law and order problems continue to exist. PNG will be no exception. We should rather go for life sentence with hard labour instead of death penalty. Improved justice system and certainty of punishment also are better deterrents.
- Who is going to execute the convicted criminals in PNG? Nationals or hired foreigners? If they are PNG citizens, revenge killings will take place against the family of the executioners. Tribal fights will erupt.