May soldiers who fight in unjust wars or people who execute the innocent rightly be called murderers, and those who willingly enter these circumstances?

So there is a discussion and basically here are the questions, help for them much appreciated:

  1. A person who becomes an executioner or whatever the job title is where they do lethal injections, firing squads, etc, KNOWS that there will be a certain number of people they kill might be, or worse are ACTUALLY, innocent, even if never proven. Can a Christian knowingly enter a job like that? Isn’t this act you saying that it is okay to kill the innocent?
  2. Same for soldiers but to a lesser degree. Their country might fight an unjust war, or something they are associated with in the war might be wrong, can you enter a job knowing this?
  3. If a soldier fights in an unjust war, may they be called a murderer?
  4. Same question as #3 for executioners. If they kill someone, and say they were proven innocent, may you call them a murderer?
  5. All of these but to a lesser degree for police officers.

Can Christians enter jobs like this where killing the innocent is a potential but accepted part of it?

1 Like

Where is this discussion taking place?


I have many problems with threads like these.

“Can these people be called murderers?” It seems to me that this sort of thinking leads some misguided few - whether it be code pink or whoever - to stand in airports and shriek “murderer!” when a soldier in uniform walks by. It’s just not a road a Catholic should ever go down,
So forgive me if I don’t play this game.

NO, they can’t be called murderers, since they’re not.


It’s prudential and depends on the particular circumstances, but many soldiers that have come out of highly morally questionable circumstances have decided to confess to a priest later in life.

We shouldn’t make a point to call these people out though. When St Joseph had good reason to believe that Mary was unfaithful to him, he sought to divorce her privately in order to protect her dignity. Even if somebody did do something terribly unjust, they need our love just like all people who have committed crimes need our love. If we were as compassionate with various criminals as we were with people who have had abortions or who directly supported/facilitated an abortion, we would have more Catholics in the pews at Mass, more religious and priestly vocations, more people praying and saying the Rosary, more people visiting Our Lord during Adoration, etc.

1 Like

Jesus never condemned the Roman soldiers who asked him if they could remain soldiers. And pagan Rome certainly demanded more questionable things than the US army does its soldiers. I can’t speak for other countries.


In real life

You can call people whatever names you like, but it’s rather uncharitable of you to focus on calling soldiers and police officers names. I thought that stuff went out with the 1960s.

Also, no one really cares what you “call” people. Just because you’re calling people something doesn’t make them whatever it is.

by “call” is meant “they are that” sorry if it was confusing :slightly_smiling_face:

Once again, you can say people are (whatever word you want), but it doesn’t make them that.

It’s not your place to judge people in the way your first post is trying to do. I agree with the person who said I’m not playing your little game.

I really don’t see the value in this real life conversation you say you are having, sorry.


I do not see the purpose of having conversations in real life, if you are arguing a point that you don’t even have enough knowledge of to participate.

1 Like

I think it’s an interesting question.

When the undeclared Vietnam war began, it certainly seemed to be a just war but as time marched on, it became a bit more iffy. Certainly, going into Cambodia was unjustified even though men tried to justify it. As more soldiers came back and told of horrific behavior and policies and more men refused to go because it was morally questionable to do so.

Often, returning soldiers were called “baby killers”. That was unjust but this then brings up the OPs question. By the latter years of that war, would Catholics be justified in going? In refusing? I’m interested in your opinions on when it would be justified to go against US policy and refuse to fight a war that most people, by that time, considered an immoral war?

I don’t think, at any time, it’s justified to scream “murderer” to a returning soldier but many were called horrible names when they refused to fight as well.


So what’s a soldier to do? Does he tick the “Just Wars Only” box on his recruitment application? Does he disobey orders to deploy to enemy territory if the war might not be just? How long does he wait for the Catholic Church to opine about a war’s justness (hint: she rarely does).


The USCCB supports the right for people to be a conscientious objector during war:

In conclusion, we encourage clergy and laymen alike, especially parents, to be sympathetic and understanding to those who in good conscience are compelled to object to military service, even if one were not in total agreement with the objector. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote —

"We cannot fail to praise those who renounce the use of violence in the vindication of their rights and who resort to methods of defense which are otherwise available to weaker parties, provided that this can be done without injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself. ( GS , n. 78)

We should look upon conscientious objection not as a scandal, but rather as a healthy sign. War will still not be replaced by more humane institutions for regulating conflict until citizens insist on principles of non-violence. John F. Kennedy once said, “War will exist until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.”



Your post is theologically unsound.

Further, very few people are in any position to really know what’s going on in a war zone, such that they’d even know if a war is “unjust.”

Seriously, answers like yours do more harm than good - you’re basically encouraging the OP, As I see it.

Do you know when the church decided this? I’m curious.

Weren’t the early Christians partly considered deviant due to refusal to become soldiers? I think I remember reading about their position on being a soldier for Rome?

That particular statement was from 1969, but the first known saint to be martyred for refusing military service was from the 3rd century, Maximilian of Tebessa.

There was never widespread refusal to serve in the military but if Christian Roman soldiers were compelled to do something gravely immoral this was of course a serious dilemma. During periods of mass apostasy because of persecution under different emperors, such as Diocletian, it included many soldiers relapsing from the faith.

1 Like

In the U.S., law determines what military personnel can and can’t do. Killing or otherwise harming non-combatants is forbidden.

U.S. personnel should disobey illegal orders. So those who follow orders to do something immoral or illegal are culpable.


Orders to fight an unjust war aren’t necessarily illegal. To have legal recourse, a soldier would need to prove the war is unjust. When is the last time the Catholic Church declared a war to be just or unjust?

I think people that are particularly hesitant of the morality of armed conflict would already avoid the military in the first place and people that sign up tend to be of a more supportive persuasion, so they are less likely to object anyway.

But if a soldier does suddenly find themselves in a situation where they have to betray their conscience, then they should obey their conscience. If they don’t obey their conscience, then there is Reconciliation.

We aren’t arguing, I just wanted to know if the conclusions are correct in Catholic moral theology

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit