Thou Shall Not Kill: The Hypocrisy in Catholicism

In first grade, my Catholic primary school required us to memorize the Ten Commandments. Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false testimony. We were told to live by these truths; I obeyed and took them to heart.

I took mandatory catechism classes for six years. My grandmother read me Bible verses everyday. My parents place a Santo Niño — an image of the Child Jesus  — in every room in our house. For over seventy-six million Filipinos, Catholicism is deeply ingrained into our identities.

I was a performative Catholic for eighteen years; I didn’t want to upset or disappoint my family. I was told being a Catholic would grant me eternal salvation — that I would “go to hell” if I dared turn away from the Church. Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false testimony. For Claremont students who grew up in deeply Catholic households, this narrative is all too familiar.

As soon as I moved to the United States for university, I felt liberated from the shackles of performative Catholicism. Free from parental pressure and armed with newfound knowledge, I began questioning the glorification of Catholicism.

My eyes took notice of the dark blood stains on the Church’s white, pristine walls.

Catholicism served as justification for Spanish imperialist pursuits in the Philippines, Mexico, and the rest of Latin America. Spanish friars converted natives to Catholicism in order to 'liberate them from their savage and ignorant indigenous practices.' To them, killing men, stealing land, and erasing culture were all justified in the name of God.

Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false testimony.

Once local tribes were evangelized, Spanish friars usurped political and economic power from native leaders. Catholic missionaries were complicit in the tribute and encomienda systems, institutions that enslaved and extorted money from natives. Fertile land, sparkling waters, and rolling hills lay in the palm of a Spanish iron fist; we were prisoners on our own land. Ultimately, Catholicism became the face of oppression — an empire of churches and crosses built on the bones and blood of natives.

Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false testimony.

And to this day, the Catholic Church continues to exert undue sociopolitical influence over public policy. In the Philippines, the Church persistently condemns access to reproductive health and planned parenthood services, guilt-tripping contraception users as “sinners” and “murderers”. In doing so, the Church deprives a woman of agency over her own body. Moreover, the Catholic Church in the Philippines vehemently opposes any form of same-sex unions, further ostracising the Filipinx LGBTQIA+ community.

Most alarmingly, the Filipino Catholic Church claims to advocate for the poor, yet invests billions of pesos into the Philippines’ big banks and oil industries. It is hypocritical for the Church to preach morality whilst fuelling a capitalist machine that oppresses the most marginalised members of society.

Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false testimony.

Unfortunately, a lot of devout Catholics believe that the Church is infallible. They conveniently ignore Catholic atrocities and continuously pressure non-performing Catholics to participate in religious practices. Most notably, Catholic parents often shame their college-aged children into regularly attending church services.

While we all possess the freedom to practice religion, we should be more critical of the history and foundation of certain institutions. The Church is not morally absolute. We need to hold them accountable for their atrocities — they kill, they steal, and they lie. We can be morally upstanding people — ones who even possess Christian values — without being complicit in the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy and oppression.

Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false testimony.

Practice what you preach.

Jolo Labio PO '20 is from Manila, Philippines. Catch him every Monday-Thursday at 7:59 AM, furiously sprinting to his 8 a.m. at Mason.