Q: If you’re a soldier serving your country and you kill an enemy during battle, is that a sin? How does our faith play a role in this kind of situation?
A: As we all know, the Fifth Commandment is, “Thou shall not kill.” But for a soldier faced with an enemy in the midst of a battle, the reality is kill or be killed. How do we reconcile the Fifth Commandment with the duties of a soldier?
Let’s look at the duties of a soldier. The primary duty of any soldier is not to kill, but rather to bring about peace. The primary duty of a police officer is not to kill, but rather to bring about security and safety.
Unfortunately, there are times when, in the call of duty, soldiers and police officers must draw their weapons and fire. Hopefully those weapons were fired for just reasons.
The distinction we need to make is between a justified killing and a murder. Murder is a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “By recalling the commandment, ‘You shall not kill,’ our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.” (CCC 2302). God forbids murder. The book of Exodus states, “The innocent and just you shall not put to death” Ex 23:7.
The Catholic Church teaches that self-defense against an unjust aggressor is morally permitted and the defense of others to protect them from the threat of an aggressor is permitted.But the church also teaches the deliberate killing of the aggressor can be permitted only when no other solution is possible.
Where does our faith come into play in all of this? It would be difficult for me to be a soldier. I don’t have it within me to do what they do. But I also know that if a situation like the Newtown, Conn., school shooting happened at my school, I would do everything humanly possible to protect my students and teachers.
I love my kids so much that I would hope I could find a way to stop a shooter. Our American soldiers love our country so much that they are willing to risk their lives to protect our peace and freedom. That is where faith has a role; all things that we do should be based on love, not based on anger or hatred.
A justified killing is based on love and is a last resort. My hope and prayer is that all war will cease and soldiers will serve their duty in keeping the peace.
Q: With the increasing accessibility to infertility treatments today, might there be possible changes in the Catholic Church’s stance on in vitro (and the like) for infertile couples in the near future?
A: One of the saddest things is when a married couple is trying to have children and they are just not successful. It would seem that the compassionate thing to do would be to find a way to help them. Science and technology continue to make advances and are doing some quite amazing things, yet the Catholic Church continues to take a firm stance when it comes to issues of infertility. Let’s look at the reasons why.
First and foremost, the Catholic Church has always taught that marriage serves to unite the couple in a permanent bond of love and to bring forth children.
This second dimension of participating in God’s work of creating life is important. After all, it brought about you and me and the vast majority of human life. However, there are many married couples who really desire children, but are unable to have them naturally. With the advances in technology these couples seek to do something more.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Techniques that entail the disassociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus) are gravely immoral … techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable” (CCC 2376-2377).
This may sound insensitive to couples who find themselves infertile, but the Catholic Church will always take the stand for all life. One of the challenges with these fertilization techniques is that during the process of creating the embryo, it is not simply one egg and one sperm used to create the life: “Very often in the process, eggs that have been fertilized and are beginning to grow as a human person are discarded or destroyed. This action is the taking of human life and is gravely sinful” (U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults).
Will the Catholic Church ever change its stance on in vitro fertilization? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the Catholic Church will never change its stance on protecting life from conception to natural death.