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Apprehensive Anthony wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question that has been eating at me for some time and I was wondering if someone would be able to answer it.

The question is:

  • What do Catholics, the Church, and God think about the military or soldiers killing people in the context of defending our country for the safety of the United States and the US population?

Currently, I'm at a point where I want to join the military, specifically the Air Force, and want to do Secure Forces which is basically being part of the Military Police but at this point, the thought of taking a person's life is the only thing holding me back.

I am afraid that if I have no other choice and do end up taking a life that I would not be allowed into Heaven.

If someone is able to answer this question, it would be greatly appreciated and might put me at ease.

Anthony

  { What's the Church's view of soldiers killing people to defend our country in order to keep it safe? }

Bob replied:

Anthony,

Do not fear, there is no sin in serving your country in the military as a potential warrior.

  • If a man broke into your house and the only way to stop him from killing or harming your family, was to shoot him, wouldn't you save your family?

Jesus never told the Roman Centurion, who need healing for his loved one (Matthew 8:5-13), to stop being a Roman soldier; He never told anyone to do any such thing. He told us that those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword (Matthew 26:52), meaning if you start with aggressive violence rooted in evil, you will be devoured by that which you started: what goes around, will come around. Every tyrant eventually loses his head.

When it comes to the commandment against killing, a better understanding would be against murder. You cannot take another's innocent life. Some confusion has been sewn lately since the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has tried to dismiss the death penalty altogether as intrinsically evil. Sadly, he is wrong and is contradicting thousands of years of biblical and Catholic teaching. It is too big a subject to tackle here, but suffice it to say that It is just. Even the Pope can't contradict centuries of the magisterial teaching.

Also, when we hear Jesus say turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39), and other teachings that eschew violence, it doesn't mean that He never condoned the use of force.

Remember the whip He took to the temple vendors? (John 2:13-17)

The world would look quite different if no one stood up to Hitler and the Second Coming of Christ is loaded with imagery of holy war, kicking butt and taking names. Just read Revelation.

Two more points.

  1. Jesus does call us to lay down our lives and imitate Him, and many have become martyrs to that very end. In many cases, that is the right thing to do. When it comes to defending the weak, however, that is a different story. There is no greater love than this, than to lay down ones life for a friend. (John 15:13) That is what our military do when they confront evil for the sake of their countrymen. The word nation comes from natus which means born. Those who are from the same nation have a family bond because we share a common birth place — an extended family. So it is just like defending your family from the invader who seeks to do them harm.

  2. The final point would involve exceptions, in the case of an unjust war.

    • When does a soldier incur culpability for his actions for killing?

    All those who served Hitler, for example, who knew it was wrong to kill innocents, will be held accountable. It was murder. Precisely what the commandment forbids, and saying that I was only following orders, will not stand on Judgement Day. So there is need for each person to examine their conscience, the teaching of the Church, and look at what the objective is.

    • Are we fighting to stop evil, taking whatever measures are possible to spare the innocent?

    If so, then you can serve honorably. For the most part, the USA has been involved in just wars, defending our country, and helping our weaker friends in time of need. It is possible that we could embark on something unjust, and that is where discernment, our faith, and conscience can serve us well if ever there be a real question as to the moral context of any conflict.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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