The English Catechism: Is 2263 on Killing mistaken?

“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.”

This statement appears to have an inconsistency.

I understand that:

  • intentional killing is always wrong.
  • self-defence is not intentional killing (self preservation is whats primarily intended).

I do not understand the phrase:
“murder of the innocent” is intentional killing.

I can understand “killing of the innocent” is intentional killing (because this could not be self defence which is an exception as it would be indirect killing).

And is not “murder of the guilty” also intentional killing?

Also, is not murder already self-defined as a killing of the innocent anyway?

Is a better translation of the Latin CCC here actually “killing of the innocent?”
Elsewhere in this section occisio is translated as “slay” (killing or murder?)

I think that bit is just trying to say that self-defense is not an exception to the rule that intentionally killing someone is murder.

Rather, self-defense is acceptable because the intention is to save your own life, and if the other person dies in the process it is an unintended consequence.

I think the murder of the innocent (vs. guilty) part is because there’s a whole different section on the death penalty, so the rules for “murder of the guilty” are different.

Maybe…but it confuses the reason because it looks like its about to say the reason is because if you try to kill me you are no longer innocent and may be killed directly if that is required to stop you.

But that is NOT the reason, as you state.

I always thought murder was “killing the innocent” rather than “intentionally killing (anyone)”.

I have always found it hard to accept that Capital Punishment is not directly intending the death of the person executed!

I am not sure how many people who have to kill another for self defence do so charitably either.

As far as I am concerned if someone attacks me with a knife they have lost the right to live and I will be trying to kill them any way I can just to make sure I don’t under-estimate the amount of force needed to stop them. Also because I don’t want them coming after me again at a later date.

Apparantly that would make me a murderer.

That is not necessarily the case. Take war, for example. You are not shooting at the enemy with the intention of scaring them off or wounding them. You shoot with the intention of killing them.

Your last scenario appears to go beyond just self defence towards attempting to actually kill the attacker as a conscious choice. This would be murder. We are allowed to use as much force as is necessary to stop an attack on us or other innocents. No more.No matter how tempting we cannot destroy a life to avoid future possibilities.

Maybe…as I said.
However in the real world I find the armchair distinctions unconvincingly applicable wrt what actually happens in apparantly just cases of self-defence, war and capital punishment.

Avoiding future possibilities has a lot to do with what self-defence is all about…esp capital punishment (self-defence by the state).

So I think I am with Thistle on this point.

I agree that the phrase in 2263 is unclear, but we can start with this: intentional killing is not always wrong. Sometimes killing is allowed; the church has been very clear about this.

The deliberate killing of the innocent constitutes murder and is always wrong, and while intending to kill in self defense is wrong (even though killing is allowed so long as that was not the intent), some intended killing is allowed, as in war and capital punishment.*“The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, Thou shalt not kill” to wage war at God’s bidding, or for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.” *(Augustine City of God Bk I, ch 21)
Ender

I don’t think this will fly Ender (much as I would like it to) for a couple of reasons:
(a) the CCC is pretty clear that humans may never intentionally kill.
(b) Yes God may intentionally kill for he is the Lord of Life.
© Augustine’s example is pretty far fetched these days. Has God really given anybody his authority, clearly and distinctly to kill? Would we not be right to defend ourselves from such a person or tribe and consider them mad. I have issues with some of those OT “histories”, more likely literary devices. In any case, such persons would still not be entitled to directly intend death, rather just to obey him - like a CP executioner.
(d) Your statement here would not appear consistent with the CCC: “some intended killing is allowed, as in war and capital punishment.”

  • Yes some killing can be good in war and CP but only on the same basis as self-defence.
    One may still not **directly intend **those deaths…one must intend protection of ones own life or that of the State.

Personally, as below, I find this fine distinction between directly intending self-protection and only indirectly intending the death of my unremitting opponent somewhat facile when faced with the real world.

Given that the church has a “just war doctrine” what is clear is that humans may intentionally kill in certain circumstances, the church has been quite specific on what those circumstances are, and two of them include killing intentionally.

(b) Yes God may intentionally kill for he is the Lord of Life.

*And thus that which is lawful to God is lawful for His ministers when they act by His mandate. It is evident that God who is the Author of laws, has every right to inflict death on account of sin. For “the wages of sin is death.”[9] Neither does His minister sin in inflicting that punishment. The sense, therefore, of “Thou shalt not kill” is that one shall not kill by one’s own authority. *(Catechism of St. Thomas)

© Augustine’s example is pretty far fetched these days. Has God really given anybody his authority, clearly and distinctly to kill?

It must be remembered that power was granted by God [to the magistrates], and to avenge crime by the sword was permitted. He who carries out this vengeance is God’s minister (Rm 13:1-4). (Pope St. Innocent I)

(d) Your statement here would not appear consistent with the CCC: “some intended killing is allowed, as in war and capital punishment.”

  • Yes some killing can be good in war and CP but only on the same basis as self-defence.

The church has never used self-defense as justification for capital punishment. Rather her basis has been justice. Nor would self-defense be an appropriate justification inasmuch as it explicitly excludes the intent to kill.

Personally, as below, I find this fine distinction between directly intending self-protection and only indirectly intending the death of my unremitting opponent somewhat facile when faced with the real world.

Nonetheless this is what the church teaches. You may defend yourself with lethal force so long as your intent is to protect yourself or others and not to kill the attacker.

Ender

The Latin of the Catechism says the following:

Personarum et societatum legitima defensio exceptio non est prohibitionis occisionis innocentis quae homicidium constituit voluntarium.

The word that is translated as “intentional” in Latin is voluntarium (“voluntary”). I think it renders the idea more or less correctly, although I personally would have used “voluntary.”

The idea is that we can never directly want the death of another human being (whether innocent or guilty; it really doesn’t matter, because the right to life stems directly from human nature).

In the case of self-defense (when it is legitimate!), the killer does not want the death of the aggressor as such. He merely wants to stop the aggression.

That is what the Catechism means by “intentional:” when a result or effect is intentional, that means that it is directly wanted by the person who brings it about.

“Innocent” here does not refer to a person’s internal condition of moral rectitude, but the fact that he is, objectively, a not threat to an individual or to society, here and now.

(Hence even a convicted criminal who is serving his jail time without causing problems is “innocent” by this standard. If an individual, acting on his own, were to kill the criminal, the killer would be committing murder.)

Innocent does not mean “non threatening.” It means one who has not sinned.

(Hence even a convicted criminal who is serving his jail time without causing problems is “innocent” by this standard. If an individual, acting on his own, were to kill the criminal, the killer would be committing murder.)

The first indication that something has gone wrong ought to be when the meaning of words has to be changed in order for an assertion to make any sense. The fact that you call someone who is guilty of a crime “innocent” demonstrates this point. It is surely true that someone acting on his own commits a murder when he kills someone. It is equally true, however, that someone who is put to death by the duly authorized ministers of the state has been executed, not murdered. The former is condemned by the church; the latter is recognized by the church as a right of the state.

Ender

From Evangelium Vitae (57):

*Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. 51

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action” 52*

But just prior to that the Pope writes:

*56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is “to redress the disorder caused by the offence”.46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated. 47

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person”.48 *

…a right accompanied by an entreaty, no - more than that - a ‘demand’, not to use it other than in the necessary (and quite limiting) circumstances as set out in CCC2267 (which is also referenced in Evangelium Vitae 56 and with further explanation).

That is incorrect, do a GOOGLE search with these three:

Catholic “death penalty” “natural law”

In addition, there is 2000 years of Catholic teaching based upon the moral and ethical acceptance of the death penalty. None of that is, all of a sudden, immoral teaching

“Innocent” here does not refer to a person’s internal condition of moral rectitude, but the fact that he is, objectively, a not threat to an individual or to society, here and now.

Again, not only does that confict with 2000 years of Catholic teaching, it also conflicts with the recent Catechism, in that the CCC states that the death penalty is allowed under certain circumstances, meaning that it is still moral and acceptable and cannot be viewed in the same light as an improper killing.

In addition, any Catholic may find that the death penalty is required under all murder circumstances and find that executions should be increased and remaim a Catholic in good standing.

(Hence even a convicted criminal who is serving his jail time without causing problems is “innocent” by this standard. If an individual, acting on his own, were to kill the criminal, the killer would be committing murder.)

Yes, an “individual acting on his own”, UNLESS the killing is IN SELF DEFENSE OR IN DEFENSE OF OTHERS.

Execution by the state is still allowed as a matter of justice and/or redress.

That is incorrect.

All Catholics May Support Death Penalty
Dudley Sharp

Any good Catholic may disagree with the Church’s newest teaching (EV and CCC) on the death penalty (1) and remain a Catholic in good standing (1) and can find that (a) the primary and eternal purpose of sanction is justice and/or redress, as confirmed in this latest CCC, and that (b) justice should not be and cannot be subjugated by a secondary purpose of sanction, the important concern of “defense of society” and that © the death penalty offers a greater degree of protection for society and individuals than lesser sanctions (2) , that being the protection of the potential innocents harmed, now spared, and potential repeat unjust aggressors, also, now spared, by preventing them from harming even more innocents and , thereby, putting their eternal lives more at risk (3&4), as well as greater degrees of protection through enhanced due process, enhanced incapacitation and enhanced deterrence over a life sentence (2).

This, below, from Kevin L. Flannery S.J., Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, appointed by Saint Pope John Paul II:

“The most reasonable conclusion to draw from this discussion is that, once again, the Catechism is simply wrong from an historical point of view. Traditional Catholic teaching did not contain the restriction enunciated by Pope John Paul II” (5)

“The realm of human affairs is a messy one, full of at least apparent inconsistency and incoherence, and the recent teaching of the Catholic Church on capital punishment—vitiated, as I intend to show, by errors of historical fact and interpretation—is no exception.” (5)

From Canon lawyer Michael Dunningan:

“Catholic teaching on capital punishment is in a state of dangerous ambiguity. The discussion of the death penalty in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is so difficult to interpret that conscientious members of the faithful scarcely know what their Church obliges them to believe.” (6)

Also review “Intellectual dishonesty and the ‘Seamless Garment’ argument” (7).

  1. From Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

from paragraph 3, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. General Principles”, part of memorandum sent by Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick, made public July 2004.
ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfworthycom.html

Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when he made that statement. He was appointed to that position by Pope (Now Saint) John Paul II.

The “congregation’s sole objective is to 'spread sound Catholic doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines”. The Prefect is the senior voice within that congregation.

  1. The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter? A Review of All Innocence Issues
    prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-death-penalty-do-innocents-matter.html

  2. The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation
    prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-death-penalty-mercy-expiation.html

  3. Catechism & State Protection
    prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2014/10/catechism-state-protection.html

  4. Note that Flannery was appointed by SPJPII

“Capital Punishment and the Law”, Ave Maria Law Review, 2007 (30 pp), by Kevin L. Flannery S.J., Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (since 2002) and Ordinary Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University(Rome); and Mary Ann Remick Senior Visiting Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture (University of Notre Dame.

  1. “The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)”, by Canon Lawyer R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 2003

  2. Intellectual dishonesty and the “Seamless Garment” argument, JIMMY AKIN, National Catholic Register, 01/25/2015
    ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/intellectual-dishonesty-and-the-seamless-garment-argument#ixzz3PxPynfIi

I stated facts. Whether one may hold another view and remain in good standing with the Church is another issue entirely and not addressed by me.

The crimes for which Capital Punishment is appropriate are not set forth anywhere to my knowledge, and thus are left to States to opine and decide. Where such decisions are taken capriciously, then the State’s agents act immorally. Where such decisions are taken in good faith, the State’s agents act morally. The Church is not addressing that divide. It is counseling decision-makers to come to wise decisions, and with due regard to the sanctity of life.

The idea that the criminal who kills should as a matter of course receive the punishment of death does not IMHO correspond to a principle of eternal justice. It has something in common with “an eye for an eye” though. Nevertheless, States coming to that conclusion may well do so morally.

I agree with you in general, but in moral theology, when we define murder as “killing the innocent,” we mean “externally innocent,” because we have no way of judging a person’s interior disposition.

What makes self-defence licit is the fact that what we want is to protect our lives (or the lives of a third party); there is no desire to kill the aggressor, as such. Whether that aggressor is interiorly guilty or not does not affect the licitness of defending ourselves. Nor does the fact that a man is interiorly guilty give us a license to kill him.

The first indication that something has gone wrong ought to be when the meaning of words has to be changed in order for an assertion to make any sense. The fact that you call someone who is guilty of a crime “innocent” demonstrates this point. It is surely true that someone acting on his own commits a murder when he kills someone.

However, what if the killer were mentally ill? Such a person would not be guilty of murder. Nevertheless, we would be justified in killing him in self-defence, if we were the targets and there were no other way to stop him.

It is equally true, however, that someone who is put to death by the duly authorized ministers of the state has been executed, not murdered. The former is condemned by the church; the latter is recognized by the church as a right of the state.

Ender

I agree, but here we have introduced another factor: an agent that acts in the name of the state, for the sake of the common good. (That is why I specified “acting on his own.”)

In any case, states also execute dangerous criminals based on their external acts. The Magisterium of St. John Paul II has made it clear that the only legitimate reason to use the death penalty is imminent danger to society; that is, when incarceration is insufficient. In other words, the death penalty is a kind of self-defence applied to the society as a whole.

I am not denying that the death penalty is licit under some circumstances. I am just saying that what makes it licit is that what is desired (the moral “object”) is the protection of society, not the death of the criminal as such. If society could be protected a different way (e.g., incarceration), then that other means would have to be used.

No, you were right the first time. It is an entreaty, a request, a judgment that it should not be used, not because it is immoral but because its use in current circumstances is believed to be unwise.
*As to the Pope’s assertion that the death penalty should today be rare …this is to be understood as an exercise of the Pope’s prudential judgment. “Prudential” has a technical theological meaning… It refers to the application of Catholic doctrine to changing concrete circumstances. Since the Christian revelation tells us nothing about the particulars of contemporary society, the Pope and the bishops have to rely on their personal judgment as qualified spiritual leaders in making practical applications. Their prudential judgment, while it is to be respected, is not a matter of binding Catholic doctrine. To differ from such a judgment, therefore, is not to dissent from Church teaching. *(Cardinal Dulles)
Ender

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