September 15, 2012
Human Life is Sacred
CCC Paragraphs 2258 – 2330
The Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill.
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment. Mt 5:21-2
“Human life is sacred. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. 2258 He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.” 356
This chapter of the catechism speaks to Respect For Human Life --- legitimate defense, intentional homicide, abortion, and euthanasia. It also speaks to Respect For The Dignity of Persons --- scandal and respect for souls, for health, scientific research, bodily integrity, and for the dead. Finally, this chapter addresses the need to Safeguard Peace --- avoiding war. As we have found with other chapters of the CCC, we see that the CCC provides depth of doctrine, but the YOUCAT edition often provides needed simplicity, and so I will reference it also.
Legitimate Defense: “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. 2264 Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm … the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors … commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. 2266 Legitimate defense is a grave duty for whoever is responsible for the lives of others or the common good.” 2321
Intentional Homicide: “Infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority. 2268 Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.” 2269
Abortion: “From the moment of conception, from the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person. Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. 2270-1 A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae senteniae, ‘by the very commission of the offense.’ 2272 Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed a producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity which are unique and unrepeatable. 2275 Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being.” 2323
Euthanasia: “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. 2277 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent.” 2278
Suicide: “We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of. Suicide is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. 2280-1 Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.” 2282
Scandal: “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. 2284-5 Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice. This is also true of manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.” 2286 (I think many ‘Catholic’ politicians should take a moment to read this section of the CCC.)
Research “Research or experimentation on the human being cannot legitimate acts that are in themselves or avoidable risks. 2295 Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions … is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” 2297
Peace: “Hatred of a neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. 2303 Peace cannot be obtained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. 2304 Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations are crimes. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. 2313 The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation. 2315 Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished.” 2317
YOUCAT Q381: “Why is the Church opposed to capital punishment? The pope does not say that the use of the death penalty is in every respect an unacceptable and illegitimate punishment (but) is an extreme measure to which the state should resort only ‘in cases of absolute necessity.’ But in such cases, says Pope John Paul II, ‘are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’ ‘When dying is not understood as part of life, that is the beginning of the civilization of death.’ Robert Spaemann Ordinary care of a dying person should never be discontinued; this is commanded by love of neighbor and mercy. Q282 It is possible to put a person to death spiritually also. Every seduction and incitement to evil is a serious sin. Q386 Every time a person loses or forgets himself by becoming intoxicated, which can also include excessive eating and drinking, indulgence in sexual activity, or speeding with an automobile, he loses some of his human dignity and freedom and therefore sins against God. Q389 How do Christians assist someone who is dying? Christians do not leave a dying person alone. They help him so that he can die in faith-filled trust, in dignity and peace. Q393 When is the use of military force allowed? The use of military force is possible only in an extreme emergency. There are several criteria for a ‘just war’: (1) Authorization by the competent authority; (2) a just cause; (3) a just purpose; (4) war must be the last resort; (5) the methods used must be proportionate; (6) there must be a prospect of success. Q399
Next week we move on to the Sixth Commandment, You shall not commit adultery. With 10% of all internet activity on pornography, I’ll give you a hint: This commandment does not only cover sex by married persons.