PART THREE – LIFE IN CHRIST – SECTION TWO – THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
CHAPTER TWO – “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF”
ARTICLE 5 – THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
- You shall not kill.54 [Giving the Scriptural reference in the text itself, the Latin has this: « Non occides » (Ex 20,13). The Greek is οὐ φονεύσεις = Do not murder (Exodus 20:15[!]). The Hebrew is לֹא תִּרְצָח (Exodus 20:13).]
- You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.55 [The same thing: the inspired Greek refers not to killing but to murder: Οὐ φονεύσεις (Matthew 5:21).]
2258 “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”56
I. RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE – The witness of sacred history
2259 In the account of Abel’s murder by his brother Cain,57 Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”58
2260 The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God’s gift of human life and man’s murderous violence:
- For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning. . . . Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.59
The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life.60 This teaching remains necessary for all time.
2261 Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: “Do not slay the innocent and the righteous.”61 The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.
2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,”62 [see comments above] and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.63 [No tit for tat: It’s not about: “All that I ever learned from love is how to shoot somebody who outdrew you”… to quote a popular song… But this doesn’t precisely rule out self-defense does it. This is actually a bit of a reprimand, however loving in its scope, to get people to be a bit better at situational awareness!] He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.64 [Yes, He did. And these were particularly unrepeatable circumstances about His purpose to stand in our stead. It is unfortunate that this is not given further explanation. This basically says nothing. But, we’ll get to all that in another post. It needs more space. Patience!]
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”65 [And this is NOT about a lesser of two evils. An act of self-defense is a positive contribution to the virtue of justice.]
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
- If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.66 [And this is not just about tolerating this moral act as something barely legitimate but nothing more: An act of self-defense is a positive contribution to the virtue of justice.]
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. [Read: overwhelming force.] For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility. [And one would think of the FBI, SBI, DEA, the Sheriff’s Department and the local and State Police, etc. But that is not all. Anyone with a gun that has been vetted and permitted a weapon (for whatever use) is thereby also mandated to act in a manner appropriate to the circumstances including those situations for which self-defense of self or others is necessary, at least in this state of North Carolina and in the many counties of my parish.]
2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67 [Unfortunately, conditions in prison are not about correction but mere vengeance. It is justice devoid of mercy. That only makes things worse.]
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. [The idiocy of our system can even exclude DNA evidence that the convicted killer is not the killer at all. This is insane. The stats on wrongfully convicted “murderers” are staggering. People are hero’s for throwing someone in jail, not for throwing the right person in jail. That’s sad. It’s sad that many don’t get this until they themselves are on death row screaming their innocence while one’s former friends spit on them.]
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.”68 [This is almost always the case today. Inability to do this would prevail in times of societal meltdown…]
2268 The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing [= in this case, murder] as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.69
Infanticide [always murder],70 fratricide [if murder], parricide [if murder], and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority.
2269 The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a[n innocent] person’s death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger.
The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.71
Unintentional killing is not morally imputable [= it is not murder]. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so. [Drunk driving…]
======== notes =========
54 Ex 20:13; Cf. Deut 5:17.
55 Mt 5:21-22.
56 CDF, instruction, Donum vitae, intro. 5.
57 Cf. Gen 4:8-12.
58 GeÕ 4:10-11.
59 Gen 9:5-6.
60 Cf. Lev 17:14.Ex 23:7.
62 Mt 5:21.
63 Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44.
64 Cf. Mt 26:52.ÙBR> 65 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art.
66 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art.
67 C^. Lk 23:40-43.
68 John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56. 69 Cf. Gen 4:10.
70 Cf. GS 51 § 3f
71 Cf. Am 8:4-10.