Catholic Dictionary Definition of "Violence"

I was researching just war theory and in the process looked up the definition of violence in the New Advent Encyclopedia and the Catholic Dictionary.

The Catholic Culture dictionary defines it as:
“Physical or psychological force used to compel one to act against one’s choice, or against an inclination to choose in a certain way. Violence may be absolute or relative. Absolute violence demands resistance by all possible means. It destroys free will, and all imputability of the act is then attributed to the violator, if one acts with full freedom of the will. If the victim does not oppose the act with every possible external resistance, or with external resistance internally adheres to the act brought to bear on him or her, violence is called relative. Freedom of the will is not removed but diminished in proportion to the adherence or repugnance present in the mind of the subject.”

To me it seems the definition of (physical) violence is to use physical force to intentionally hurt another person, but this definition seems to imply it is only violence if the goal is to coerce someone - for example, someone robbing someone to get money and assaulting them in the process to provoke fear. By this definition, it seems senseless acts of violence (school shooters for example) do not actually count as “violence” since there is no attempt to coerce the victims at all but rather an intent to simply kill them. Is this the official definition of violence for the catechism, and am I interpreting it accurately?

Regarding the just war theory, in case you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a fairly helpful page in the Catechism of the Catholic Church HERE.

Catholic Culture are actually using Fr. John Hardon’s MODERN CATHOLIC DICTIONARY.

In the case of “senseless” or what often appear to us as random acts of violence, we may say generally, that these are willful homicides of innocent people - which incidentally is also a most accurate depiction of abortion. They are all seen as violent acts. I believe Father Hardon implies it in his definition which you posted.

Further complicating matters in the case of school shooters is a particular uncertainty as to what is genuinely going on in the mind of the perpetrator. It is frequently held that a person who commits such acts may not be of sound mind - at least at the time of commission, and may be suffering from an emotional or mental disorder. (Hence a psychiatric examination is often ordered prior to legal proceedings).
Below are the definitions of force and of imputability from the same dictionary.

In moral theology that which proceeds from some agent outside the victim whose will is opposed to it. It is the same thing as violence and implies an external agent and resistance on the part of the victim. Consequently no one can, properly speaking, apply force or inflict violence on himself or herself. As a basic rule, force can affect external acts only, not the internal acts of the will. It follows, then, that internal acts are morally imputable no matter how much violence a person has to endure; external acts performed under compulsion are not imputed, provided the individual has withheld internal consent.

The moral responsibility for one’s human actions. A person is accountable to God only for his or her deliberate actions. They are acts performed with knowledge of what one is doing and with the consent of the will. In order to gauge the accountability of a particular action, one must consider the degree of deliberateness involved. If a person’s knowledge of the nature of the act or his or her consent is diminished, the imputability will be lessened. Catholic moral theology recognizes six chief hindrances to full imputability: ignorance, fear, passion, habits, violence, and mental disorder. (Etym. Latin in-, in + putare, to consider: imputare, to bring a fault into the reckoning; to ascribe.)

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Just to confirm beyond a doubt that the author of the Modern Catholic Dictionary - Father John Hardon,S.J., sees the willful homicide of an innocent person as a violent act, here’s a brief excerpt from his lecture entitled Evangelium Vitae: Spiritual Combat with the Culture of Death

This will be no ordinary lecture. It will be a call to military action.

The modern world has been seduced by the evil spirit who is, in Christ’s words, a murderer from the beginning. He is still a murderer today. Therefore every act of violence is mysteriously inspired by the devil.

The present century is the most violent and murderous in the history of the human race. There have been more death casualties in wars fought since 1900 than in all the previous centuries since the dawn of the human race. There are now more legalized murders of unborn children in one year than in all the ages of the world up to the beginning of the twentieth century.

What makes this world of ours so murderous is not only the number of willful homicides of innocent people. It is the fact that one once civilized nation after another has legalized these crimes, and defends this demonic attack on human beings and what is by now a library of books and an ocean of media that have perverted the minds of millions in countries like the United States.

What is at the root of the philosophy of violence that has no counter part in any age until our present day? At the root is giving into the thinking of the devil.

You seem to be conflating two matters to try to apply them to a third matter.

Violence per se is not limited to the Just War theory and your two sources do not of necessity apply to the theory.

And none of them are of particular use in application to any list of senseless violence.

I am curious as to where one can find any information of the “philosophy of violence”, and who has written on the matter. I know of no such philosophical undertaking, but then, I have not particularly seen much in the way of new philosophical ventures.

Just ere on the side of peace. Pray for those who experiencing war. There will be plenty of time for war. Be grateful America is in peace time. When it comes to your neighbor have no fear, approach everyone with goodwill and thanksgiving and not fear or suspicion. Pray if you feel in fear, forgive the violence brought upon you… It takes Faith not to live in fear, so pray.

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My wife and I try to think of this often as we pray in the morning. We live in a quiet American neighborhood. We can see the sun rise and set from our windows. We are in the top 10th percentile of wealth in the world (not very hard to do in the US we are only middle class)
No one is shooting at us. There is no mass civil unrest.
We can worship at our parish anytime we want.
We can make as much money as we are capable.
We have medical insurance and a hospital nearby.
We have clean water, and hot clean water.
There are 5 grocery stores in our little town.
We have time to pray together in the morning.
No one is sick at this time.

There are billions of people around the world who have never known peace and know violence every day.

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I’m middle class, but be grateful we are so lucky. I love my neighbors and often celebrate with them. My other neighbors are Evangelical and one is Buddhist. Be grateful, give all your love to God. May I suggest praying Divine Office even if only the Evening and Night prayer because I’m sure you are busy. Also Catholic TV, Catholic Daily Mass is Good. You can get a taste of Divine Office from Bishop Reed on that site but they don’t update it.

So, again we are blessed. So, pray, pray, pray with gratitude and love. I highly recommend Divine Office or the Shortened Version Christian Prayer.

Here is a link from the Catholic Company: (oh that is sloppy code, sorry.)

But prayer is essential.

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Neither have I personally read , nor seen any in-depth material on what might formally or technically be called the “philosophy of violence.” (Philosophy is not my forte).

Considering that Father Hardon’s linked article appears to be positioned as Evangelium Vitae vs The Culture of Death- mentioned therein, perhaps it was meant metaphorically as a divergent counterpart to the philosophy of life, as in the philosophy of violence vs the philosophy of life ?

My intention was simply to illustrate to the OP that the author of the definition of “violence” he referred to, repeatedly refers to the killing of innocent victims as “violence against human life.”

That being said, in that same article, Fr. Hardon unravels in a compelling manner, a type of pathology and methodology against human life which the world now seems to embrace

I am not trying to be picky; I think Fr. Hardon can come up with some wonderful insights. That, I think, (philosophy of violence) comes under “editorial license”.

“Editorial license” as in support of Fr. Hardon’s presentation/article ?

I don’t know that I have ever considered your posts as being “picky” @otjm ,- usually they are most beneficial in the sense that they spur me on to do a bit more thinking.
Perhaps you could confirm something I read: namely, that in conventional terms, most philosophies see violence as opposed to reason ?
If that is the case, it would appear that violence would be a less than ideal candidate to base a (conventional) philosophy on. . . wouldn’t it ?

I have heard of a philosophy of science, of art, of teaching, of nursing, of existentialism and etc. but never a philosophy of violence. Perhaps, because it appears at times that psychology and philosophy may parallel or even intersect, and because psychology is often interested in and studying violence, there is such a philosophy - but i certainly have never heard of it.

On the other hand, the older I get, the more I realize there are things I have never heard of… :rofl:

I try not to be “picky”, however, at times something said strikes me as miss-stated or less than carefully crafted. And my impression of Jesuits, having had a great uncle missionary Jesuit in China before the Revolution and having had the privilege of being taught by them in high school is that they tend to be precise - Father Hardon included. The phrase struck me as odd, and not at all precise.

That, and that violence seems to have a very strong emotional driver rather than a long, contemplated organization. Violence most often appears to be anything but something exhibiting organization.

In moral terminology, violence may be defined as an unjust threat externally applied to a moral agent and tending to compel him to act contrary to his own reasonable inclinations or his own truly free choice.

Force, or more specifically, juridical force, may be defined as the moral use of physical power to repel an unjust aggression.

My point is the dictionary definition of violence from the Catholic dictionary doesn’t seem to include acts of senseless violence within its definition.

So are you saying that violence that is meant merely to injure without reason but is not intended to compel does not count as real violence?

Under the definitions given, violence is never morally permissible; juridical force is morally permissible.

The scenario I am talking about is neither juridicial force nor violence as given by the definition since there is no element of compulsion. What I am asking is if senseless violence counts as real violence per the definition?

The above act is always morally evil both in object and intent. Either one condemns the act in itself.

OK, I see. I am just confused by the wording because the act clearly seems like violence to me and I don’t get why it’s defined differently.

To be clear then, this doesn’t just apply to killing, this also applies to injuries, right? Any act of wounding, stabbing, etc., even those that don’t cause death and didn’t involve compulsion, are still considered violence by this definition?

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