Pastoral Letter: Thou shall not kill

21 November 2001

(Exodus 20:13)

Dear People of God in the Archdiocese of Davao:

This is a strong and stern commandment from the author of life – God. To Jews and Christians this is as valid and relevant today as it was in the time of Moses who received if from God on Mount Sinai as part of the Ten Commandments.

As the value of life is fast diminishing due to the relentless onslaught of death-dealing values of the materialistic and consumer society, the strict observance of this commandment is imperative and urgent.

This stern order from the Creator to His human creatures stems from the fact that He and none other is the one and only source and giver of life. Most of all, He has endowed human life with dignity by creating it in His image and likeness according to the same Book of Genesis (Gen. 1:27).


1. To kill, whether in the mother’s womb or outside it, is therefore to usurp God’s power and to proclaim oneself as God. Which is a boastful and haughty stance reminiscent of the presumptuous Lucifer who rebelled against God. Killing, murder, salvaging, or the taking of life in whatever manner, is an affront against the Creator and against humanity. Committing it with full knowledge and willfulness is a mortal sin as far as Catholics are concerned. Those who knowingly are guilty of such sins and crimes are not supposed to receive Holy Communion unless they have been previously absolved and reconciled in the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession. To do so without sacramental absolution is tantamount to committing the sin of sacrilege.

2. There are laws of the State on crime and punishment and on the dispensation of justice through the courts and through the law enforcement agencies. The diverse kinds of punishments humanly imposed by law on convicted criminals are meant not to destroy the criminal for good but toreform him/her in order to be capable again of doing good. But no one
takes the law into one’s hands simply because no one is above the law and a law unto oneself. And every person is considered innocent until proven guilty. Such is the law.

3. As society improves in its understanding of human behavior through scientific research as well as in society’s advances in the science and art of professional counseling and healing and moral guidance with the help of the Church and the academe, it has been found out that prisoner rehabilitation is an easy possibility within the reach of governments who possesses material resources and the opportunity to avail of manpower experts they need for such projects.

4. It is therefore erroneous and wrong for any government to have recourse to the principle of self-defense when it inflicts capital punishment on prisoners. Or, when it seems to tolerate criminal groups like the Davao Death Squad to kill. It is an admission of failure in the fulfillment of its obligation to prevent crime and its recurrence. Statistics have shown that more and more States are giving up the use of capital punishment because it has been found out that it does not deter crime at all.

5. Crimes like individual murder and drug pushing, though a social sin and problem, are not direct assaults on society. It therefore cannot claim to use capital punishment, much less salvaging by death squads as a form of society’s self-defense. The so-called death squads are violating both civil and moral laws and therefore are criminals themselves. We call on
our government and its law enforcement agencies to stop them from making Davao City a “wild, wild, West” where the only law is the law of the gun.


There is a common saying that “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” This is a stern and ominous warning to States and individuals who are self-proclaimed gods. Sooner or later they will perish by their own lethal armaments if not by those of others.


These self-proclaimed gods are people without moral and social consciences. Or their consciences have become calloused and warped and the callousness (kobal in Cebuano) is so thick, so to say, that they cannot see and feel the gravity and the heinousness of their crimes and the suffering of their victims. Calloused consciences are the root causes of brutal killings and sadistic murders. There is need to sharpen these consciences through sustained prayer, reflections, counseling, education, etc. These means are available in the churches and in the academe and many formation/relief centers run by Church or NGOs which still need to be
tapped by governments.

The Church, which antedates all modern States and governments by 2000 years in this world, issues this teaching and warning to help sharpen people’s consciences and to stop the occurrence of killings and murders, thus promoting law and order in this beautiful City of Davao whose beauty is being disfigured by the increasing incidence of salvagings and killings
of young people even those who are merely suspects in drug pushing.


We call on the Davaoeños and all peace-loving residents of Davao City as well as the entire civil society groups, who are taxpayers, to assist the City government and its law enforcement agencies to undertake a humane and civil campaign against criminals and lawless elements in society. We enjoin our clergy to preach clearly and fearlessly this moral teaching of the Church. We enjoin our schoolteachers to inculcate the same in the hearts and minds of their students. We encourage lay organizations and movements to include this moral truth in their formation programs. We ask our parish prayer groups to offer their prayers, novenas and Masses for this purpose.

May Jesus Christ – the Way, the Truth and the Life – and the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Life, bless the City’s efforts and those of its citizens in the area of order and peace. Both are Prince and Queen of Peace for they are persons of moral order and moral integrity and are models to imitate and examples to follow.

Devotedly yours in Christ,

Sgd. Fernando R. Capalla
Archbishop of Davao

21 November 2001
Feast of the Presentation of Mary at the Temple