Here is a noted priest’s…moral and ethics theologian …answer. I believe he got it right and touched all the webs of morality.
[INDENT]By Matt C. Abbott
In light of the recent news that retired Navy SEAL sniper, best-selling author and reality TV personality Chris Kyle was shot and killed by a troubled former Marine whom he was trying to help,** I’ve asked Father John Trigilio Jr., noted priest-author-theologian and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy **– whom I’ve quoted at length in several previous columns – to comment on the morality of being a sniper.
Father Trigilio’s response is as follows (slightly edited):
Former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was tragically murdered. He, however, did not murder anyone even though he killed (confirmed) 160 people during his military service. Those targets were valid military objectives. Morally speaking, Kyle was like any other sailor, soldier, airman, or marine in that they officially defend and protect our nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Unjust aggressors, particularly those classified as combatants, can be either military or civilian. They are legitimate targets, whether it be a drone or sniper, one soldier or a platoon. Military snipers are not hit-men as in the case of the mob. Snipers are not seeking revenge; they are doing their duty as members of the armed forces defending their nation. What distinguishes them from other soldiers is that the sniper has one particular target, whereas the rest of the troops have a broader objective, usually the capture of a particular location or a disabling of a military installation.
**The natural moral law and the just war doctrine make it clear that all military personnel are obligated to distinguish combatants from non-combatants. Formerly, the distinction was between military and civilian. The former are valid targets; the latter are exempt. **Since modern times and guerrilla warfare tactics, civilians have armed themselves in many places; and when dealing with terrorists like al Qaeda, anyone of either gender and any age who bears a weapon (gun or explosive) is now a legitimate target.
**Deadly force is not always the proper solution and should be a last resort; however, when a known person who is guilty of unjust deaths, murders, tortures and other atrocities and most likely will continue, or worse, escalate the violence with others, then they become a target for a sniper.
Chris Kyle was an American hero. While we do not rejoice that 160 people were killed, we are grateful that 160 unjust aggressors and enemies of our country were neutralized. Military and police are required to use proportionate force in repelling or stopping the enemy. That means, if possible, enemy troops should be able to surrender, or if they refuse, better to non-lethally wound than to kill. Obviously, in heat of battle, that may not always be possible. Snipers have very precise targets while the average soldier is concerned with any and all combatant (armed) enemies, whether in uniform or not.