If I am being held at gunpoint

If I am being held at gunpoint, and am told to murder someone or else my family and I will be shot, would I commit a mortal sin if I murdered the person?

I believe o. We must not commit evil in hopes of doing good, and that includes the hope of averting some other evil.

It is grave matter.

Force or fear **might **reduce freedom to act and therefore culpability. It is not something we can judge in the abstract. It can only be assessed in concrete circumstances.

Yes it is grave matter, that’s not exactly what I’m asking though. If I am morally certain–in the traditional usage of the phrase “moral certainty”–that everyone will be murdered if I don’t perform the act, does that reduce my culpability so that it wouldn’t be a mortal sin if I murdered the person I am told to murder?

Another way of phrasing what I’m asking: does the mere fact of being held at gunpoint make it so that I lack full consent?

No, it wouldn’t be a mortal sin, since there is no real consent. The scenario you mention is highly unlikely, but the same reasoning could be applied to a broad variety of situations, i.e. you were told to give up classified information, grant access to your workplace, engage in a sexual act, etc.


Coercion does not make sin ok. At most, it can mitigate culpability.

Priests are held to hold the Seal of Confession to the point of martyrdom, so that would lead me to believe being held at gunpoint wouldn’t mitigate the gravity of committing grave matter, though other factors such as the extreme stress such a situation could bring with a side effect of causing the person to lose reasoning. So really the only people that could ever know whether or not the murder at gunpoint was mortal or not would be the person in the situation and God.

Then of course, there is no guarantee once the “murder” has been committed,that the person/tyrant holding you at gunpoint will allow you to live, or that he/she will not continue to force others into the same situation . . . perpetuating further “murders.” One might be better off trying to take out the tyrant.

Hypothetical situations are nice in the abstract, but when it’s a real-life stressed out predicament , no one can predict exactly how they will react. I’ve seen the unpredictability in others in such situations ; I’ve lived it myself - reacting quite differently in real life from how I always believed I would in a given situation .

And it would seem that no one is immune to this fact :

John 13:37 ** Peter said to him, “Master, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”**

Matt 26:35 ** Peter said to him, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.”**

What would reduce culpability would be things like stress, fear, panic, terror, ignorance, etc… A fully informed choice made rationally to murder one to save five feeling no stress or such, would seem to be mortal sin.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

[INDENT]However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.” 106 [Gaudium et Spes 79 § 4][/INDENT]

Gaudium et Spes 79 § 4

Certainly, war has not been rooted out of human affairs. As long as the danger of war remains and there is no competent and sufficiently powerful authority at the international level, governments cannot be denied the right to legitimate defense once every means of peaceful settlement has been exhausted. State authorities and others who share public responsibility have the duty to conduct such grave matters soberly and to protect the welfare of the people entrusted to their care. But it is one thing to undertake military action for the just defense of the people, and something else again to seek the subjugation of other nations. Nor, by the same token, does the mere fact that war has unhappily begun mean that all is fair between the warring parties.

If you have ever find yourself in this scenario, have a CCW, say “I’ll do whatever you want, please don’t hurt my fam-” then shoot the Jigsaw-wannabe in the face.

People like that would kill your family anyway, no matter if you did his request or not.


“Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” - catechism


If you are held at gunpoint, than deliberate consent is absent and therefore the sin is not mortal. It doesn’t matter what act it is or how horrible the act is; if deliberate consent is missing than it is not a mortal sin. Anyone who argues otherwise is going against the catechism.

And for the record, I think that most people would crack under threat of death. Whenever I hear someone announce they would rather die than do something like that (people who talk of martyrdom from the comfort of their armchairs), I immediately assume that they would be the last ones to face martyrdom.


Gods Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill. Is a command not a question of choice.
Is this short life worth more than eternity with your loving God? Let no one kill your soul
but save it at all costs. You have the right to fight for your life and others. Be brave and
overcome all evil even at the cost of losing your own life. God Bless

Do you think you know more than the catechism? Because the catechism says that pulling the trigger won’t forfeit ones soul.

" For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”"


Why not?

You are allowed to fight back in order to defend yourself, others or your property.

Because sin depends on consent and not coercion. It’s pretty hard if not impossible to sin mortally when coercion is involved.



Assume that you have as much time as you need to think it through. Say the gunman gives you a week to think about it, discuss it with your family, get expert opinions, read the catechism, pray, and then come to a decision. It is a terrible choice, but you have full knowledge and deliberate consent. You know exactly what you are doing.

You might decide that your and your family’s earthly lives are the most important thing, and must be preserved at all cost, even to the point of killing an innocent person. You believe that death is the greatest tragedy that can befall you. You would be wrong. Your life is not the greatest good. There are some things that are worse than death.

Or you might see that there is hope even in death. You and your family might choose to preserve the life of an innocent person. You might choose to face death with a clean conscience, in the hope of eternal life. You might see that even if you spared your life, you might lose it the very next day. A day on earth, or an eternity in the glorious presence of God. Which would you choose?

No. Murder is murder. We must not do evil in hopes to accomplish good, even to avert some other evil.

If those who hold you at gunpoint murder you and your family because you refuse to murder someone else, then they will be guilty of murder. But if you murder someone, even to save your family, then you are guilty of murder.

And the mere fact of being held at gunpoint does not deprive you of the power of consent. Your captors cannot force you to commit murder. They can only force you to die.

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