KNOW AND LOVE YOUR CATHOLIC FAITH:
“YOU SHALL NOT KILL (5TH COMMANDMENT Compendium nos. 466-483).”
- Why must human life be respected?
- Why is the legitimate defense of persons and of society not opposed to this norm?
- What is the purpose of punishment?
- What kind of punishment may be imposed?
- What is forbidden by the fifth commandment?
- What medical procedures are permitted when death is considered imminent?
- Why must society protect every embryo?
- How does one avoid scandal?
- What duty do we have toward our body?
- When are scientific, medical, or psychological experiments on human individuals or groups morally legitimate?
- Are the transplant and donation of organs allowed before and after death?
- What practices are contrary to respect for the bodily integrity of the human person?
- What care must be given to the dying?
- How are the bodies of the deceased to be treated?
- What does the Lord ask of every person in regard to peace?
- What is peace in this world?
- What is required for earthly peace?
- When is it morally permitted to use military force?
- In danger of war, who has the responsibility for the rigorous evaluation of these conditions?
- In case of war, what does the moral law require?
- What must be done to avoid war?
Human life must be respected because it is sacred.
- From its beginning human life involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.
- It is not lawful for anyone directly to destroy an innocent human being. This is gravely contrary to the dignity of the person and the holiness of the Creator. “Do not slay the innocent and the righteous” (Exodus 23:7).
Because in choosing to legitimately defend oneself one is respecting the right to life (either one’s own right to life or that of another) and not choosing to kill.
- Indeed, for someone responsible for the life of another, legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty, provided only that disproportionate force is not used.
A punishment imposed by legitimate public authority has the aim of
- redressing the disorder introduced by the offense,
- of defending public order and people’s safety,
- and contributing to the correction of the guilty party.
The punishment imposed must be proportionate to the gravity of the offense.
- Given the possibilities which the State now has for effectively preventing crime by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm, the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” (Evangelium Vitae).
- When non-lethal means are sufficient, authority should limit itself to such means because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good, are more in conformity with the dignity of the human person, and do not remove definitively from the guilty party the possibility of reforming himself.
The fifth commandment forbids as gravely contrary to the moral law:
- direct and intentional murderand cooperation in it;
- direct abortion, willed as an end or as means, as well as cooperation in it. Attached to this sin is the penalty of excommunication because, from the moment of his or her conception, the human being must be absolutely respected and protected in his integrity;
- direct euthanasiawhich consists in putting an end to the life of the handicapped, the sick, or those near death by an act or by the omission of a required action;
- suicide and voluntary cooperation in it, insofar as it is a grave offense against the just love of God, of self, and of neighbor. One’s responsibility may be aggravated by the scandal given; one who is psychologically disturbed or is experiencing grave fear may have diminished responsibility.
When death is considered imminent the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. However, it is legitimate to use pain-killers which do not aim at in death and to refuse “over-zealous treatment”, that is the utilization of disproportionate medical procedures without reasonable hope of a positive outcome.
The inalienable right to life of every human individual from the first moment of conception is a constitutive element of civil society and its legislation. When the State does not place its power at the service of the rights of all and in particular of the more vulnerable, including unborn children, the very foundations of a State based on law are undermined.
Scandal, which consists in inducing others to do evil, is avoided when we respect the soul and body of the person. Anyone who deliberately leads others to commit serious sins himself commits a grave offense.
We must take reasonable care of our own physical health and that of others but avoid the cult of the body and every kind of excess. Also to be avoided are the use of drugs which cause very serious damage to human health and life, as well as the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco and medicine.
475. When are scientific, medical, or psychological experiments on human individuals or groups morally legitimate?
They are morally legitimate when they are at the service of the integral good of the person and of society, without disproportionate risks to the life and physical and psychological integrity of the subjects who must be properly informed and consenting.
The transplant of organs is morally acceptable with the consent of the donor and without excessive risks to him or her. Before allowing the noble act of organ donation after death, one must verify that the donor is truly dead.
They are: kidnapping and hostage taking, terrorism, torture, violence, and direct sterilization. Amputations and mutilations of a person are morally permissible only for strictly therapeutic medical reasons.
The dying have a right to live the last moments of their earthly lives with dignity and, above all, to be sustained with prayer and the sacraments that prepare them to meet the living God.
The bodies of the departed must be treated with love and respect. Their cremation is permitted provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.
The Lord proclaimed “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). He called for peace of heart and denounced the immorality of anger which is a desire for revenge for some evil suffered. He also denounced hatred which leads one to wish evil on one’s neighbor. These attitudes, if voluntary and consented to in matters of great importance, are mortal sins against charity.
Peace in this world, which is required for the respect and development of human life, is not simply the absence of war or a balance of power between adversaries. It is “the tranquility of order” (Saint Augustine), “the work of justice” (Isaiah 32:17) and the effect of charity. Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ.
Earthly peace requires the equal distribution and safeguarding of the goods of persons, free communication among human beings, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of justice and fraternity.
The use of military force is morally justified when the following conditions are simultaneously present:
- the suffering inflicted by the aggressor must be lasting, grave and certain;
- all other peaceful means must have been shown to be ineffective;
- there are well founded prospects of success;
- the use of arms, especially given the power of modern weapons of mass destruction, must not produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated.
This responsibility belongs to the prudential judgment of government officials who also have the right to impose on citizens the obligation of national defense. The personal right to conscientious objection makes an exception to this obligation which should then be carried out by another form of service to the human community.
Even during a war the moral law always remains valid.
- It requires the humane treatment of noncombatants, wounded soldiers and prisoners of war.
- Deliberate actions contrary to the law of nations, and the orders that command such actions are crimes, which blind obedience does not excuse.
- Acts of mass destruction must be condemned and likewise the extermination of peoples or ethnic minorities, which are most grievous sins. One is morally bound to resist the orders that command such acts.
Because of the evils and injustices that all war brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it. To this end it is particularly important to avoid:
- the accumulation and sale of arms which are not regulated by the legitimate authorities;
- all forms of economic and social injustice;
- ethnic and religious discrimination;
- envy, mistrust, pride and the spirit of revenge.
Everything done to overcome these and other disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war.