Self defense? Defending others?


#1

Looks like a simple problem. Someone attacks you (or anyone else) with a visible intent to kill, like wielding a knife or brandishing a gun. The only way to thwart the attack is kill the attacker. If there would be any other way to prevent the intended killing, you would choose it. But there is none. In such a dire case you are entitled to use deadly force to defend yourself or the other person(s). The Church allows killing in self-defense (or defending others) - at least that is my understanding. :slight_smile: If I am wrong, present some official document to the contrary.

But life is not always simple. Suppose that someone is infected by some deadly virus - but he is immune to it. If this person would come into contact with others, the virus would propagate and kill untold many thousands or millions. If your only option to stop this is using deadly force - KILLING - would you be allowed to kill him? Unlike the explicit attacker, this person does not intend to kill anyone, he may even be unaware of the deadly threat he presents to others. But his mere existence is the threat.

Are you “allowed” to kill this person - as a preventive defense - to protect yourself and/or others?

This problem is different from killing a terrorist, who would intend to detonate a dirty bomb. The person in question is “innocent” in the sense that there is no ill intent, no malice involved.

Mind you, I am not interested in your personal opinion (though it would be welcome if marked as such), but some official declaration of the Church. Can the principle of (self)-defense be extended to preventive killing? Please do not attempt to wiggle out of this dilemma by asserting that “maybe” the virus would not kill other people. Take the problem as it is presented.


#2

The state does have the power to use force to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Medical isolation and quarantine to prevent the spread of disease is an ancient practice. We must use the least amount of force needed, however. In the case you propose, the state could quarantine such a person, by force, if necessary.


#3

Surely you know the Catholic position - not because I’ve previously given it to you, but because equivalent variants of this arise all the time on CAF.

The “classic” equivalent scenario which is regularly aired is whether an unborn may be directly terminated (killed) by virtue of a threat the child presents to the mother’s life. The answer is no. The doctor has 2 patients who both deserve his best care, and neither may be murdered. Many medical procedures directed at saving life are permissible, even when those create risk for one or another life. But setting out to **end the life **of an innocent, so that some good end may flow from that death is not permitted. This is exactly what the “Ends do not justify the means” is trying to say. We can’t adopt **evil means ** (which acting to directly end the life of an innocent always is) in order to win a good end.

The same goes with your virus scenario. All manner of responses and treatments may be licit, but directly deciding to kill that innocent person, so that some good end can flow from his death, is not permitted.

Here is a papal statement in the abortion context (I doubt viruses have been addressed specifically :shrug:):
*"Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, **always *constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."
w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

Elsewhere, the document is crystal clear that circumstances and weighty intentions cannot change the assessment of such an act to make it licit. This same idea is also present in the ccc (1753):

*Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. *


#4

Direct killing of innocents is not permissible.

And in the case you describe, it would not be necessary. The disease carrier could be seized by FEMA members in “space suits” and quarantined.

ICXC NIKA


#5

No, as that would be intentional homicide. One’s intent must be to stop the attack, realizing that death may occur as a result of it. The catechism, sections 2265-2269 deal with this matter very clearly.


#6

You answered your own questionin the first lines of your post…it has to be a VISIBLE threat. If the ‘plague carrier’ doesn’t know they are infected, how would you?


#7

From the Catechism…

Legitimate defense
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

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:
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.


#8

You used the word INNOCENT. Therefore, it would not be proper under any circumstances to murder them… the Pharisees wanted to do as such to an INNOCENT-Jesus Christ, because he was presenting a problem and an upset over their subjects, which they feared loosing control of. To go ahead and murder this poor innocent 'disease carrier" is to not trust in God and also to play God.

And… yep, that does put a new spin on the church accepting vaccinations derived from aborted babies and stolen cells from a dying woman without her permission. … oh and a whole bunch of other ‘medical’ stuff too that are really atrocities crying out for justice, not matter how many lives they ‘saved’ that they condone because it ‘saves lives’.


#9

There seem to be two legitimate options.

First, build a wall. It could even be electric to the point of lethality.

Second, issue a warning that anyone who crosses the line will be shot. Then it is reasonable to assume that violators are assailants.


#10

:D. I think it would be obligatory to post danger signs on the electric fence in large print and all relevant languages.


#11

This was what I was just about to say! … What if someone can’t read, or they don’t know the language the sign is written in. ?! What if they are blind and don’t’ see the sign even with its written warning in Braille? What if they were told by a third party one could “ignore the sign and just go in”, that its ok, and that " they just put the sign there to scare people away" and that they’ve “crossed the wall many times without problems” … even if they found that person trust-able in their opinion (even if it turned out he wasn’t) those that believed what that person was saying and went ahead … are they actual mean-you-harm violators?

Not even modern day “hieroglyphics” are usable since most people I know have difficulty deciphering what those pictograms are supposed to convey.

Its not really reasonable to ever assume someone is a violator if they cross a certain line. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is the reason why we have court dates and trials and not lynch mobs) In some cultures if you smile showing your teeth, that’s taken as very rude and offensive, and therefore may draw violence in on yourself… How would you supposed to have known? You were innocent.

Remember Christ says that its MERCY he is after, not sacrifice.


#12

Some of the responders simply tried to redefine the problem, which happens far too many times. The dilemma was stated very clearly, only two options, either kill the person (and the virus with him), or let the virus go “free” and wreak havoc among the population. No option is given to quarantine the person, space suits or otherwise. (If there would be such an option, there would be no dilemma. :))

Now, let’s analyze the other answers. Some of them were centered around the principle of “innocence”, by stating that one cannot use deadly force against an “innocent” person. Of course, those who took that route forgot that everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise (preferably in a legitimate court of law).

So, a “visible” attacker, wielding a gun or a knife is STILL innocent, until he actually commits the act. He may only perform a practical joke, have gun-look-alike, or blunt wooden knife wrapped in aluminum foil. Maybe he has a real gun or a knife, but will have a pang of conscience and stop in the last minute. But we don’t know that, and we must use our best judgment. So, yes, we are entitled to use deadly force even against an “innocent” person. Maybe we are wrong, but we must act on the best available information.

The person in the original dilemma is a little different. He is not even aware of the danger he presents to others. There is no malice involved, he does not try to kill those untold thousands or millions. His mere existence is the threat. But that is not relevant. We are entitled to defend against deadly danger, even if it is not intentional. To wipe out this new, mutated virus is the goal. The person, who carries it is simply unfortunate, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time - just like the zygote in a tubal pregnancy.

Those who argue against the kill subscribe to the “Pontius Pilatus” principle: “I did not do it, therefore I am not responsible for stopping it”. And that attitude is unacceptable. If you are aware of some danger to others, and have the power to prevent it, then you are responsible for it. Obviously, only using the least amount or force is permitted, but sometime we must “play” with the cards which are dealt… and it may happen that the only available option is to kill someone.

The problem with the catechism is that it only deals with direct, observable threat to others and does not consider that one can put others into lethal danger unknowingly and unintentionally. Maybe it deals with these kinds of scenarios somewhere else, I don’t know.


#13

Spanish?


#14

LOL, what a laugh :D… When you construct a “dilemma” removing all the legitimate means of defence, you hope to persuade that the remaining illegitimate means must be OK!! Oops. Didn’t work, not a single person fell in.:shrug:

Maybe we are wrong, but we must act on the best available information.

C’mon…the person wielding the axe toward our skull may certainly be stopped - I think we have the making of a good faith basis to treat him as an aggressor. :shrug: And if the poor sucker with the virus refuses to take steps to separate himself from others, we can impose separation. But if he refuses to slit his throat, we don’t have the right to do it for him.

The person in the original dilemma is a little different. He is not even aware of the danger he presents to others. There is no malice involved, he does not try to kill those untold thousands or millions. His mere existence is the threat.

Sounds innoecent, eh?

But that is not relevant. We are entitled to defend against deadly danger, even if it is not intentional. To wipe out this new, mutated virus is the goal. The person, who carries it is simply unfortunate, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time - just like the zygote in a tubal pregnancy.

Of course defence is allowed, in a lawful (that’s a moral term in this context) manner. Regrettably, you define your scenario with no lawful means of defence! Don’t you get it? The lawful means of defence would be to treat the virus. Not set out to kill the person (in the belief that after the person dies, the virus will die too)!

Aaah, you bring up my favourite dilemma the ectopic pregnancy. What does the Church teach here (listen closely - it is instructive). First, and no surprise, the child may not be directly killed, because that is the direct killing of an innocent human. This rules out injecting drugs to kill the child, which will indeed see the mother’s condition resolve. Second, the mother may be treated as her condition demands - eg. by the removal of the tube, noting it is about to rupture and she’ll bleed to death if nothing is done. That action is directed at the mother’s body. The mother recovers and her recovery is unconnected with the death of the child. The child surely dies but that was never willed - it is an unintended consequence (not the moral object), that would have been avoided if medical practice could make it possible. Now in principle, something comparable can be permissible in your [entirely unrealistic] virus scenario. We don’t intend to kill the carrier, and we have no wish or need for him to die. [Of course, the scenario is preposterous because it imagine something objectively not required.]

A related scenario (hey, I love these dilemmas) was told in another thread. An evil terrorist is flying a jet bomber across our borders heading for a city. He’s already dropped bombs - we know he means business.:frowning: He is going to drop more bombs soon on a big city. BUT - in the back of his plane is a gaggle of tied-up hostages (“innocents”). Does that prevent us shooting down the plane or the pilot? Hell no. The plane/pilot are the threat and may be stopped morally (an act of self defence). The innocents dying on the plane were not intentionally killed. Their loss can be balanced with the saving of life on the ground. [If the bomber was dropping stink bombs only, and threatened only 1 person, it would not be moral to shoot down the plane. :smiley: ]

If you are aware of some danger to others, and have the power to prevent it, then you are responsible for it. Obviously, only using the least amount or force is permitted, but sometime we must “play” with the cards which are dealt… and it may happen that the only available option is to kill someone.

First: “To directly kill someone” is not the same act (that’s a moral term) as to “Do something which will likely cause someone to die”. Second: Sometimes, it seems that only an immoral act can stop something bad happening. That creates a no-go zone for a Catholic. You, however, place greater emphasis on the “consequences” - you can say: “we better murder him, because if we don’t…”, or “we need to abort that child because…”. For Catholics, the “because” might be grievously sad, but it does not give licence to an evil act. The legitimacy of the “act itself” takes precedence, as the following statements remind us:

“The ends do not justify the means”; and
“Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation.”

The problem with the catechism is that it only deals with direct, observable threat to others and does not consider that one can put others into lethal danger unknowingly and unintentionally. Maybe it deals with these kinds of scenarios somewhere else, I don’t know.

Good grief. Did not the unborn baby scenario address entirely that!! Does the Church not teach that directly killing the child for any motivation whatsoever is “directly killing an innocent human” and thus is wrong?

And by the way, you asked in the OP what Catholic teaching says on this matter. You were provided that in trumps earlier - though you fail to acknowledge that.:rolleyes: Let’s be clear: You’ve moved on in this post to giving your personal view on what ought to be moral, using your own personal reasoning. :thumbsup:


#15

Real life is not “interested” in providing a “legitimate” solution according to what your concept of “legitimate” solution happens to be. Sometimes there is NO acceptable solution… and then what are you going to do? That is the reason I constructed this scenario… to force you to face a dilemma, when none of the possible solutions are “legitimate” according to your opinion. That is why other posters attempted to create “loopholes”, by suggesting to build a fence, or a quarantine to allow them to avoid facing REALITY, when none of the possible solutions is “legitimate”. Of course such a scenario is very disturbing. (I can understand your reluctance of acknowledging a solution which demolishes your concept of “morality”. No one likes to see their moral foundation to be demolished. )

The abstract question is: “what do you do when NONE of the available solutions conform to you specific concept of morality”. And there are no solutions forthcoming. :slight_smile: The only solution would be: choose the one which causes the least harm - even if it is “immoral”.


#16

:rotfl: This is an attempt at self-delusion, since it ignores the facts before us - you forced no one to any conclusion catholic moral theology forbids. :rolleyes: It reminds me of Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, declaring victory: “At this very moment, there are 50 heavily armed agents surrounding the building”. “Would you believe, 5 trainee policeman?” Alas, his foes were up to recognising bluff and bluster.

When the only “option” to achieve our good ends is murdering an innocent, then we have no options. Thankfully, rarely, if ever is that the case.

I think the OP has been answered.


#17

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Legitimate defense

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

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:

[INDENT]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.

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67

2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68

vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm[/INDENT]


#18

Vera,

Since you are, in your own words, “forcing us” to choose between two “immoral” options, you’ve shown yourself at once both insincere in your motivation and unreflective in your thoughts.

The principles have been provided. Since you aren’t bothering to try to understand them in themselves and in their application but are more interested in insisting that “real life” doesn’t allow for what has been proposed in your already wildly fanciful dilemma, you are wasting your time and ours. This is a topic that requires a lot of care and subtlety which is not happening on this thread unfortunately.

If the only options are to do something that will destroy the person (rather than disable, like shooting the leg) or to let him go, it seems he must be let go. A non-combattive person can’t be the target of lethal violence.

There is more to discuss on this topic, but it can’t be done here.

Outtie…
-e_c


#19

Ah, rarely! That is very true. Fortunately such scenarios happen very rarely in real life… But “never”? How could anyone know that? However, that is not the point. We are examining some hypothetical events, and see where does our ethical sense lead us.

Of course, our ethical sense can be incorrect…so, let’s turn to the catechism. :slight_smile: 1753. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation.

Crystal clear, is it not? Even if the whole nation is threatened by extinction, it is not allowed to use force if the perpetrator of this event is “innocent”.

On the other hand: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:

So one IS allowed to protect oneself, therefore self-defense is legitimate.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.

Also very clear. It is our duty to protect others from harm.

So, what now? First, everyone is presumed “innocent” until they actually commit some deed. Even if we are very sure that an act will be committed, it is not 100% Cartesian certainty. Yet, using our reason, we are not just allowed, but expected to use the necessary force to PREVENT this act - according to 2264 and 2265. And if there is a need to use lethal force, then be it.

But 1753 says otherwise. No matter how convinced we are about person’s intent, until he commits the act, he is innocent.

Now, maybe someone can argue that this is “mere” technicality. But in legal terms, only the letter of the law counts, and not the intent. As such we have a contradiction.

The next problem is that one can put others into jeopardy, even unknowingly and unintentionally. It is not necessary that the person be an “aggressor”. Just like in the OP, where the mere existence of the infected person presents a lethal danger to others. Are we allowed to defend ourselves?

That is the dilemma one needs to face (hypothetically, of course :)). The catechism does not help. By “quote-mining” you can find support for both of the two contradictory positions.


#20

You’ll receive plenty of good Catholic moral theology but you’ll probably keep on debating to the edges of abstract and hypothetical absurdity.
Your rebuttals to Catholic moral theology amount to** “but what if…?”**

The answer to your hypothetical question, as with all moral questions, is that you make a moral evaluation. :shrug:
If you want the best evaluation, you can apply Catholic moral principles to make that evaluation.
Or you can choose not to, your choice.

One thing is for sure, when a person continues to obstinately ask “but what if…”, then it’s difficult to be morally decisive.
Moral indecision is not good.


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