To kill or not to kill? That is the question...

Off Kill-ter:

Here’s a question that has been bothering me for years, and I so appreciate your thoughts:

**If abortion is a sin, and one of the commandments is “thou shalt not kill”…why do so many Catholics have no problem with killing as a soldier and also, the death penalty? **(and killing animals for food, for that matter. Though I think I’ve seen that one explained before…that they are put here meant for food?)

It looks like the commandment doesn’t specify certain types of killing are okay with God and some are not.
Also, we can’t use the argument that we have to kill for our country…since I’ve seen hundreds of people on this site state that God’s law trumps man-made laws.
I understand that it might be okay if it’s self-defence or protecting your loved ones…like when a crazed person breaks into your home and tries to kill you or your children, etc.
But killing at war is so often not “self-defense” but about power or land or being someone’s ally or political purposes, etc, etc.

I’m of the mind that either we are allowed to kill or we are not. It looks like this is what the commandments say.

So much of the catholic religion seems to black and white, right or wrong, on most of it’s issues…why not with this one, one of the most important issues of all??

Or can we find some bit of scripture somewhere in the bible, maybe take it out of context, to support any argument? I’m sure we can find a sentence or story that will show it’s okay to kill sometimes?

Thanks for any wisdom you care to offer!


Because a soldier’s job is to defend his country in a just war. It is a soldier’s occupation to kill an opposing soldier from another nation when the war is being fought for a just cause - ie. in self defense, in reparation of a serious offense [9/11 for instance], and a few other things *

The death penalty is justified as well, provided the person undergoing the execution underwent a fair and just trial and was found beyond all doubt to be guilty of a crime worthy of such a drastic punishment.

Animals are killed on a regular basis and neither the Bible nor the Church have ever suggested that it is wrong to kill an animal [you will find many instances of animal sacrifice in the OT] - though of course it should always be done as humanely as possible.

of killing are okay with God and some are not.

I think that implies killing ‘with a will’. In a just war you may kill an opponent because they are doing something bad that has to be stopped. A just war usually requires using any sensible secondary interactions with another nation before going to war with them [such as fair negotiation] and when those fail it is basically ok to go to war.

Also when a maniac enters your home and tries to kill your family you can’t just sit there and watch - you have to prevent the act from happening by taking the evildoers life because there is probably no other way to stop him. Some might say this is “ends justifying the means” but it isn’t, as the person trying to kill your family was completely out of line in trying to do so. He was going to complete a great evil so you had to keep that evil from happening. You aren’t committing an evil yourself if you kill the maniac for the sake of your families’ lives.

God also says not to be treasonous though. If you stand by as a soldier and just watch as the enemy comes and destroys your country or another’s, even though you are physically and mentally able to fight, you are essentially being traitorous in letting an enemy destroy your country. Your job as a soldier is to prevent that from happening. You serve God before all, but your country comes right after that - and if you think killing is not at all justifiable, don’t go in the Military. It must be remembered however that without an army this nation would never have existed, and if it ever lost it’s army it would soon-after be but the pickings of every other nation in the world.

I place myself on the side of our Military 100% because our soldiers are what allow us to live in peace.*

I believe the exact translation was to not murder. So, we are not to kill the innocent nor are we to kill for the sake of killing. So, murdering innocent children for no good reason is wrong. Defending a country from soldiers who will kill your family and friends/taking your liberty is ok. Killing a man who you can’t contain and who is a danger to society and other people’s lives is ok. But we are to never kill for the sake of killing. This is why it is hard to discern when to go to war and when the death sentence is just and right.

With respect to killing animals for food; If God did not want us to eat animals, He wouldn’t have made them out of meat>

Not all taking of human life is the same.

Killing an infant in its mother’s womb is not the same as killing an unrepentant serial murderer, nor is taking the life of the serial murder the same as taking the life of a dictator who is leading his nation in the extermination of millions of innocent human beings.

In all things, the Church insists that killing be an absolute last resort, and that it be absolutely necessary in order to secure public safetly. The Church clearly teaches that those who are in a position of authority and who choose to exercise their authority to take a human life, will be held strictly accountable that they did so only when it was absolutely necessiary and there was no other option.

Capital punishment, legitimate defense, safeguarding human life and public safety, euthanasia, just war… these are easily looked up in the Catechsim. It does a good job on these topics.


Yes, exactly. The commandment is actually to not murder.

That is why a homeowner can kill a home invader who enters to do harm to the occupants. Or someone can kill in self-defense. To be a soldier and protect one’s country, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is also OK. To be a police officer and kill a perpetrator who threatens to harm others is also OK. And so forth.

My BIL is a police officer, and his partner had to shoot someone a few months ago. The man had been threatening his mother with violence at his mother’s home, and she called 911. My BIL and his partner were 2 of the responding officers. As they arrived, the man went out the back door, and his mother said he had a gun and was threatening to kill himself. So as one officer went around the house, with gun drawn, he encountered the man with the gun held to his own head. The officer yelled to put it down, but the man instead started to point it to the officer, so the officer fired. That is not murder; that is self defense (and defense of the man’s mother, whom he had been threatening earlier, hence the call).

And darn TASTY meat at that!

Yep, God definitely wants us to eat the animals! :thumbsup: Mmmmmm, steak, chops, ribs, barbecue, wings, turkey, jerky, burgers, prime rib…lovely food! :smiley:

Humans were only given permission to eat meat after Noah came out of the ark.

From my reading, the Church does not support the death penalty, as no country’s justice system is perfect, so sooner or later an innocent person will be executed (as in a case in the US when the poor man’s electrocution went wrong and he caught fire).

Also remember Genesis:
He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed
(this is a verse that seems to allow capital punishment as well)

Yes, so we can eat meat now! :thumbsup: It is OK. It is GOOD! It is TASTY! It is DELICIOUS! It is…currently digesting. :wink:

This is not strictly what the Catholic Church teaches.

The Church’s position is actually that the legitimate state authority has a right to take life if it is required to protect public safety but only after guilt has been established. But if an alternatives exist allows the criminal to live and thereby gives the criminal an opportunity to come to repentance and achieve salvation yet still assures the protection of society, the state must always choose that alternative.

In modern nations, there are alternatives to the death penalty, most notably life in prison, and so this is why the Church opposes the death penalty in the USA. A situation such as a battlefield or a third-world nation in a state of anarchy, where release of a criminal would result in his killing again, may require that the life of the criminal be taken, but only if no alternatives exist.


How do people reconcile where God orders the complete destruction of the Amalekites, including little children?

Is it on the basis that this was a divine command and therefor must be ok - even of a little hard to understand with a modern mind?

OK to kill? No, never.

But sometimes it is required. Always a last resort. And those who take human life will be held strictly accountable.

Sad story about the police officer having to take a life. That’s one reason why I don’t carry a gun. I don’t want to be held accountable for taking a human life when I stand face to face with God in judgement. It is also one reason why I have so much respect for those who carry weapons in the line of duty - police, soldiers, marshalls, and even armed security guards - they have taken a grave responsiblity upon themselves.

It must be tough for an officer to have to take a life. I can’t imagine. Both he and the dead man need lots of prayers.


yes, of course they need prayers.

There is a difference between killing and murder.

The officer defending the woman and preventing the man from firing was necessary, in this case, by deadly force. The officer killed the perp a justified killing. However, had the man followed through on his threat to shoot his own mother or the officer, it would have been murder. In this case, it was likely suicide by cop, as everybody knows that to point a weapon at an officer will guarantee the officer(s) will immediately discharge their weapons upon the perpetrator.

The people whom God ordered killed in the Old Testament worshipped Molech. Molech was a large hollow statue which was filled with burning coals. Children and infants were then placed on the statues outstretched arms as sacrifice. They were seared alive. Many were killed this way. Those children who weren’t sacrificed were placed into service in the temples as child prostitues or prostituted by their parents. Incest was common between parents and their children. Many of those who inhabited the land before Israel were cannibals. Drinking human blood was part of their ritual worship. Children’s blood was especially coveted. The Book of Wisdom speaks of it…

For truly, the ancient inhabitants of your holy land, whom you hated for deeds most odious — works of sorcery and impious sacrifices; These merciless murderers of children, devourers of human flesh, and initiates engaged in a blood ritual, and parents who took with their own hands defenseless lives, You willed to destroy by the hands of our ancestors, that the land that is dearest of all to you might receive a worthy colony of God’s servants. (Wisdom 12:3-7)

And the point is, these children who God ordered killed, were going to grow up and do the same to their children. God was ending it. One could easily argue that it was more merciful to die by the sword or spear than it was to be raped repeatedly by your father or mother and then burned alive in sacrifice.

And God demands the life of everyone one way or another. The best anyone can hope for is a peaceful death, and that gift is not granted to many. I knew a 15 year old boy who died on the way home from church where he had gone to confession and recieved the Eucharist. One hour after that the car he was riding in was upside down on the freeway and he was dead.

We should be so lucky.


Gooodness, you paint a pretty bleak picture :o Still, I can’t help but wonder if the children could not have been saved and taken in as orphans and brought up in the faith, as an alternative to being run through with a sword. :shrug:

It is interesting that many people seem to be more interested in highlighting the exceptions to the commandment rather than the commandment itself. Also I would like to see some discussion of the case of a soldier involved in an unjust war. While it is true that some military actions that result in killing are justified, many (or most) of these actions are not. And a soldier is not normally given the option of deciding which actions he considers covered under the just war theory. Upon entering the service he swears an oath of obedience to his commanders that can only be broken by a grossly illegal command from those commanders. There are many actions that are not grossly illegal under civil law, and yet are clearly not in accord with the just war theory. How does a soldier who passionately wants to defend his country ensure that his cooperation will not be misused by those above him?

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.

*Pope Benedict XVI

note: dg…traditionaly, in old testament[torah], in the law it says,“thou shalt not kill” , yet jews who worshiped god killed goats, as sacrfce to worship god. thus a distinction is implied.

also, david fought the phillistines, “for god”, as the philistines were against worship of the true god. thus a distinction is implied.

cont d…

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