If one kills protecting the family from an armed intruder is this justified?

To me it sounds like it would be justified. Now, if the assailant came after me do I have the right to fight back and cause death if it comes to that? The first one may be yes and the second example I have a feeling would be no. :slapfight::blackeye::stretcher:

From the catechism:

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 (1737)

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: (2196)

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

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. 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. (2240)

This can involve two possible question. It is morally justified? Is it justified according to the law?
The law can put limits on doing this. For example, if the armed man after coming in, is leaving your house, the law may not allow you to shoot him then. Can you shoot such an intruder if he is simply in your house and not threatening anyone then? I don’t know about the law when it comes to this. I expect someone here would know about more about the law though.
I presume though from the question that there is an immanent threat to your family from the armed intruder, such as his pointing a gun at a member of your family. I presume that there would be no problem either morally or when it comes to the law if you shoot the man then.
I am not a lawyer, though, so feel to correct me if I am wrong about the law.

It is NOT a sin to use force–even lethal force if that is what is required— to stop someone from hurting or killing your family OR yourself. Catholics are under absolutely no obligation to just stand flat footed and let a “bad guy” take their life or the life of another–even frankly if the other person is not family such as in a car jacking, a theft in progress or so on. Where it gets dicey, is in situartons such as with ISIS where Christians are told that if they don’t want to be killed they must convert to Islam. Jesus says that if we deny Him, He will deny us to the father–so if it involves denying your faith, that’s a whole different ball of wax.

In Australia you can be arrested for injuring or killing a home invader. But nowadays they are slowly changing this law to allow a valid case of self defense if the intruder is in your home. A Catholic, as stated in the earlier wise posts has the right to defend themselves and their family even to fatal force to protect yourself or your family. Indeed there is a moral duty to defend your wife and children, even at the price of your own life in my opinion.
However to prove that the intruder was actually an intruder and did not leave when requested, it is best always to have a spare balaclava and a knife in your home and ensure he can never speak for himself. Saves legal problems.

it depends how much force you use. if a man is about to hurt you or your family, and you punch him and he dies from the punch, your actions were justified, and you most likely did not intend to kill him.

on the other hand, if the intruder has surrendered, or you escalate more quickly, perhaps by shooting an unarmed intruder in the head, or attacking him even though he was not being violent, then you are in the wrong.

the chatechism says that killing should only be done if there is no other option

Jesus teaches that if you love your neighbor as yourself, you will not break the law (of God, men have made up a few goofy ones) so if you train yourself to make decisions lovingly, then you can stress less about whether your actions were right or wrong. you will find more often than not, you did the right thing.

It’s easy to be a monday morning quarterback. If someone breaks into my house, armed or not, how am I supposed to know their intentions? My family comes first. If someone breaks into my house, they are getting shot, plain and simple.

freeRadical, unfortunately most discussions of ethical behavior are monday morning qb-ing. In a high pressure situation like that, its important to force yourself to breathe and think so you can make an appropriate response. you should be able to discern very quickly whether the criminal is going after your flat screen or your family. your flat screen isn’t worth potentially killing over, while using significantly more force is required to defend your family.

Whether he is going after my flat screen or not is irrelevant. How am I supposed to know that is his intention and his only intention? I have to make a decision with imperfect information. You break into my house, I am going to assume you mean my family harm. I do not know whether you are armed or not. I do not know what your intentions are. I have to make a split decision with limited information. Whether or not I was prudent in my decision making is between me and God.

Well, I can assure you that if I think my or someone else’s life is in imminent danger, I’m not going to stand there and contemplate whether my actions are in line with what the Catechism has to say about it. I will take action to ensure that the person cannot render any harm, and unfortunately that would probably mean something that could end up killing him.

If I only wound him, he could still shoot back.

lost heep if you have authentically reasoned that the attacker is indeed an ataccker and you do what is necessary to stop him, then that is pretty much in line with the teaching of the church.

as far as shooting to kill so he cant shoot back, you would need to discern that he actually has a gun.

I feel like having the attitude that if someone presents a threat, my first reaction will be to kill them isn’t the most prudent or loving attitude.

You can kill with other weapons besides guns. How would I know what weapons he has on him? Search him? No, if you break into my house it is reasonable for me to assume that you are armed and it is reasonable to assume that you mean me and my family harm. I will shoot first, ask questions later. There is just not enough information to make a split decision in a high pressure situation like that. And all the monday morning quarterbacking in the world will not change that.

I would be acting on the presumption that he does in fact have a gun or I have a strong suspicion to believe that he does.

I feel like having the attitude that if someone presents a threat, my first reaction will be to kill them isn’t the most prudent or loving attitude.

I respect your opinion, but the way I see it is, I need to ensure that a person intent on using lethal force is rendered 100% harmless and, unfortunately, the only way to ensure that is to kill the person.

I’m not saying I would like having to do it; I’m saying that’s just the way it is.


Already addressed the morality of it by citing the catechism above.

As to legality-- know the laws in your jurisdiction. They vary widely within the US, California does have a fairly strong castle doctrine, but it isn’t absolute.

The California penal code:

AG published summary of firearms laws (good, but go read the actual penal code referred to).

Page 8 has a discussion on the use of Lethal Force in Self Defense which includes:

“Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury
within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of
imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the
household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the
family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and
forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason
to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry had occurred Great bodily injury
means a significant or substantial physical injury (Pen Code, § 198 5 )
NOTE: If the presumption is rebutted by contrary evidence, the occupant may be
criminally liable for an unlawful assault or homicide

Now, there’s also reality to contend with, an understanding of times for things to occur as well as reaction times to observings something, orienting yourself as to what it means, deciding what to do about it, and then acting (OODA loop theory). Following website is good for showing times for folks to act/react. Note, this favors the person in the reactive role (officer) compared to reality since the initiators (suspects) were untrained college students and officer times were based on simple reaction to light/sound signals vice actual supect actions in a scenario. Even then, the officer is behind the initiator.


This is where the '21 foot rule" comes from. A suspect inside of 21 feet can get to the officer prior to them being able to react and fire their weapon.

Cruise around the site if you’re interested. The research on action/reaction leads to an understanding of how an officer can legitimately end up shooting someone in the back. By the time they observe, orient, decide and act in response to a suspects initial motion, they’re firing after the suspect’s turned–too late for them to go through the cycle to act to stop pulling the trigger.

Great stuff,… now we are called to turn the other cheek when we are assaulted. When do we or should we fight back. My best guess is tolerate it as best as one can. If the other party comes with a weapon on hand I may not be as generous. This attitude may change as another poster had added. If the attacker assaulted me for the Faith then it becomes an assault of my Faith not of me. At that point I can either run or step up to sainthood.

Catholics are not required to “tolerate it as best we can” when assaulted. People are not required to be victims or punching bags, and anything to the contrary is wrong theology. When threatened - and I interpret that liberally - I will shoot and feel no remorse. Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6 (and judged by1).

As a Catholic it not all bad theology. Now killing without remorse, :eek:that’s questionable theology,:confused: if even that.

You are entitled to defend your own life and the lives of your family. If you can stop short of killing someone in defense of your life, well and good, but in the heat of the moment things are not that clear. So what I’m saying is your question has a retrospective element. We can look back and say did I need to use lethal force? It’s a question that can only be answered retrospectively. It can’t be answered in the heat of the moment. Once violence becomes part of the equation its extremely difficult to be rational and objective.

That said, if you don’t need to use lethal force, and know you don’t, but choose to do it anyway, that is a different matter. So, it depends on the circumstances. Soldiers in a war are entitled to use lethal force. Morally the same should follow in a ‘private’ war, but soldiers can get it wrong and so can civilians. It’s not a cut and dried paper issue.

As the Russian proverb runs, ‘those who come with open arms we welcome with open arms those who come with the sword we welcome with the sword’. If you invade the private space of my home as pointed out I have no way of knowing what your intentions are and my primary concern is for the safety of my family members and myself. I have only had this happen once when near New Year a drunk guy pushed in behind me as I was opening the security gate and door and carrying shopping in. I asked him to leave, he started wandering down the hallyway so I pushed him out and slammed the security gate closed whilst he was getting up. He gave vent to a great deal of abuse and talked of returning to kill us all, with that mind and with regard also to the fact that I live in an inner city area which has a high crime rate I felt no guilt in getting him out of the house anyway possible as my elderly father lives with us and was asleep in his bedroom down the hall.

I am not half as passionate about this as my wife who when asked a similar question to the one that provoked the thread put it bluntly, ‘If you threaten or hurt my family you die’.

A number of the Early Church Fathers say “no” based on the Sermon on the Mount. As I recall Lactantus and Ambrose are among them.

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