My question has derived from a discussion I had with a group of other young Catholics. We get together and discuss ethics, the bible, social issues or anything to do with our faith really.
So we got into a conundrum. The scenario put forth was, Ok so someone has you and 10 other people captive/at their will. They say to you, if you do not deny your faith we will shoot these 10 innocent people. The people can be catholic, atheist, anything. They are just innocent people who will die if you do not deny your faith in this instance.
The moral query is, should we as Catholics say that we deny Jesus and our faith(but not meaning it in our hearts) or is it always a sin to deny Jesus?
We drew from Peter when he denied Christ 3 times. That seemed wrong to us.
We also considered how Jesus told his disciples to go forth and preach but he also said when they go to a town and they meet hostility to leave and go to another town. He didn’t say “martyr yourselves when you face opposition.” The way I see it is, he is looking at the greater good. The disciples are “fishers of men”, Jesus wants them to continue doing his holy work to save more souls and not to die needlessly.
This brings us to the sub question to this scenario. I expressed an opinion about the existence of “unnecessary martyrdom.” One of the other guys disagreed saying there was no such thing as a unnecessary martyrdom. When I say unnecessary I don’t mean to take away from the Martyrdom in anyway and mean no disrespect. Even if it was unecessary and then it happens it is still a valid martyrdom in my opinion. But I mean it in the sense that it is not necessary that it shouldn’t take place because sometimes their can be a better or more valid option. An example given was that of Saint Thomas More and his martyrdom. A quick background:
In 1534, Henry VIII declared that every subject of the British crown would have to swear an oath affirming the validity of his new marriage to Anne Boleyn. Refusal of these demands would be regarded as treason against the state. Thomas was essentially executed for not agreeing with King Henrys marriage as valid/invalid depending on the way you’re looking at it. The point made as an example was, this may be true or may not be true but for arguments sake, Thomas’ family wanted to also deny the king for his heresy but Thomas told them that they must claim his new marriage as valid but not really mean it in their hearts. This being because he didn’t want them also to be executed. NOW, getting back to the point I was making. What I used as an example for a “needless martyrdom” was had Thomas’ family decided to also deny the king and also had their heads cut off, it would’ve been unnecessary because our hindsight tells us that Thomas’ martyrdom alone was enough to prove his point. For them to die would’ve been a needless loss of life. Is it fair to say this? If not, why?
So to summarize my questions:
Can we Deny Jesus with the intention of a greater good? ie. to save 10 peoples lives.
Is it always wrong to Deny Jesus even if you don’t mean it in your heart?
Can there be such a thing as unnecessary or needless martyrdom?
Is it always wrong to lie? This being related because if you had to ‘deny Jesus’ to save these people but in your heart you didn’t mean it, you would have to lie. Is it a sin to tell this LIFE SAVING lie?
My thoughts are that reason and prudence have to come in to play. To me, I think the denial would be justified. I could justify this by saying that 10 lives are saved. I could also say we don’t know the state of those souls at that time. For all we know, if they die now, they will all go to hell as they are in the state of mortal sin. But if they are allowed to live and even die of natural causes then perhaps they have a chance to turn their lives around and come into union with God THUS saving their souls. I know this is an incredibly out there hypothetical but I’m looking at this whole thing from the perspective of a ‘fisherman of souls.’ My main goal being to save as many people as possible to get them to everlasting life. To allow them to die just because I can’t temporarily Deny Jesus seems prideful and selfish in my opinion. And even if the answer is ‘YES, it is a sin…always.’ Then couldn’t it be seen as a noble act that a person would willingly take on a sin to save his brothers and sisters? To bear that cross. Look at Jesus, he took on ALL the Sins of the world for our SALVATION!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.
Apologies if I’ve left you in a confused daze ;D