In history, fathers killed sons but did sons ever kill fathers?

I’m just trying to gauge under what conditions it would be right to do so, but I’ve never seen it happen. I’ve only seen stories where it was considered correct to kill sons but not vice versa.

For instance there is the story of Brutus killing his sons for the good of the republic. That was a noble action but were the sons allowed to do the same if Brutus for instance was a threat?

Also, in the civil war fathers and sons fought each other and so, perhaps the reasons behind the civil war provided a just reason for inter-familial killing.

The word “patricide” comes to mind, the killing of one’s father. I don’t think anyone condoned what Oedipus did. In Greek mythology didn’t Zeus (not exactly a moral paragon) kill his father? I forget. But we have that whole “honor your father” thing in the 10 commandments, which would pretty much rule out patricide as ever justifiable. I cannot see a civilization lasting in which patricide was considered honorable.

I’m not quite sure what angle you are trying to come at this from.

You first sentence says “what conditions it would be right to do so (sons kill fathers).” This suggests that you are asking on a moral standpoint. However, you go on to talk about the Romans, who did things NOT based on the moral law given by God, but a natural law which they devised by themselves through reason and nature. (This natural law pervades all pre-Christian nations, with variations.)

So, what are you asking? Are you asking if it would be right for pagans sons to kill pagan fathers, or for sons to kill fathers/vice versa based on the moral law? If the latter, the answer is NO, it is never right to commit murder. If the former, the answer is that according to each moral code derived from the natural law of a pagan/pre-Christian era, it may or may not be considered right. However, in any case whatsoever, from a Catholic standpoint, it is ALWAYS wrong to commit murder.

I’m trying to have figure out the latter. However why is such a thing murder by definition? The killing of family members cannot be the definition of murder unless family members are always undeserving of that fate which is something doubtful in the extreme.

I personally think that the roman example was justified insofar as it was true that the treason of the sons would’ve infallibly lead to the destruction of morals in Rome and indeed of Rome itself (since lars porsena was besieging it). But what if brutus was the traitor and his sons were the rulers. Would it still be okay for the sons to kill brutus?

Patricide was unthinkable in Roman society. It did happen occasionally, but because of the way the culture was organized (around the concept of the paterfamilias), killing a father was one of the worst crimes you could commit short of treason. The punishment for patricide was to be beaten and tormented, and then to be stuffed naked into a sack along with a rooster, a viper, and dog (probably the ancient version of a bulldog which was incredibly mean compared to the softies we have today), and then drowned (in the bag and along with the animals). Seriously. That was the punishment.

The first known victim was a guy named Lucius Hostius.

Plutarch wrote that there originally were no punishments for patricide for a long time because nobody thought such a thing was possible in Roman society.

This, too, is observable as a singular thing in
Romulus, that he appointed no punishment for real parricide, but called
all murder so, thinking the one an accursed thing, but the other a
thing impossible; and, for a long time, his judgment seemed to have
been right; for in almost six hundred years together, nobody committed
the like in Rome; and Lucius Hostius, after the wars of Hannibal,
is recorded to have been the first parricide. Let this much suffice
concerning these matters.

Now you can pray for the death of heretics so if your father is a heretic, could you pray for his death or is there some more hoops to jump through depending on familial status? That’s basically my question.

Who told you it’s okay to pray for the death of heretics?

It’s in the Catholic Encyclopedia under “anger”.

This is the entry for “anger”:


The desire of vengeance. Its ethical rating depends upon the quality of the vengeance and the quantity of the passion. When these are in conformity with the prescriptions of balanced reason, anger is not a sin. It is rather a praiseworthy thing and justifiable with a proper zeal. It becomes sinful when it is sought to wreak vengeance upon one who has not deserved it, or to a greater extent than it has been deserved, or in conflict with the dispositions of law, or from an improper motive. The sin is then in a general sense mortal as being opposed to justice and charity. It may, however, be venial because the punishment aimed at is but a trifling one or because of lack of full deliberation. Likewise, anger is sinful when there is an undue vehemence in the passion itself, whether inwardly or outwardly. Ordinarily it is then accounted a venial sin unless the excess be so great as to go counter seriously to the love of God or of one’s neighbour.

Am I misreading that entry when I don’t find any reference to praying for the death of heretics?

A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Whoops, it’s in “Hatred”:

“Furthermore one may without sin go so far in the detestation of wrongdoing as to wish that which for its perpetrator is a very well-defined evil, yet under another aspect is a much more signal good. For instance, it would be lawful to pray for the death of a perniciously active heresiarch with a view to putting a stop to his ravages among the Christian people.”

Okay, that’s sort of a different situation. The person who wrote that article in the encyclopedia is pointing out the principle of double effect.

Thomas Aquinas is credited with introducing the principle of double effect in his discussion of the permissibility of self-defense in the Summa Theologica (II-II, Qu. 64, Art.7). Killing one’s assailant is justified, he argues, provided one does not intend to kill him. Aquinas observes that “Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. … Accordingly, the act of self-defense may have two effects: one, the saving of one’s life; the other, the slaying of the aggressor.” As Aquinas’s discussion continues, a justification is provided that rests on characterizing the defensive action as a means to a goal that is justified: “Therefore, this act, since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in being as far as possible.” However, Aquinas observes, the permissibility of self-defense is not unconditional: “And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore, if a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful, whereas, if he repel force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.”

When an action has at least two outcomes, one good and other evil, and that evil outcome is not by itself an intrinsic evil, and the good is proportionate to the evil, then it may be permissible to carry out that act as long as it is the good outcome you seek, and that you regret the evil outcome.

In his example, he does not just refer to a person who happens to be a heretic, but one who is actively leading Catholics astray into destruction. If this person dies a natural death, then there certainly would be the evil of his own death, but there would also be a good involved related to the number of souls that would not be led to destruction had he lived longer. If you simply hope for the death itself, then it would be sinful. Furthermore, you cannot simply violate a commandment either. So it’s not like you can kill this person.

Still, I think that article is a bit dubious because I don’t personally think the example is valid. There really are not two possible outcomes here. The heretic could also be converted back to orthodoxy. That’s what you should pray for. His example only works with the unwritten assumption that this heretic cannot possibly revert to orthodoxy.

Well of course you pray for death only as it leads to life -that’s obvious enough. The point is, does the existence of blood-relation make any difference in this situation or not? Alternatively, does the same fact complicate matters of good (for instance, should you pray more for family than friends or should you pray more for who needs it more?). If it makes no difference in one case (or if it does) then it should make a difference in the other.

any replies?

Seriously, I’m very interested in the answer here.

The question can be generalized so that it is a new question: “Do we treat our family as strangers or do we apply a greater amount of forbearance to them that we would not for others? If yes or no, then why? Should any of these attitudes change with experience?”

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