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Catechism of the Catholic Church
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I. Respect for Human Life
The witness of sacred history
2259 In the account of Abel's murder by his brother Cain,57 Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: "What have you done? the voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. and now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand."58
For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning.... Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.59
The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life.60 This teaching remains necessary for all time.
2261 Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: "Do not slay the innocent and the righteous."61 The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. the law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.
2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill,"62 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.63 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.64
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor.... the one is intended, the other is not."65
2264 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 even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.66
2266 The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. the primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.67
The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full
ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to
the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of
human beings effectively against the aggressor.
Infanticide,69 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.
2269 The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person's death. the moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger.
The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.70
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.
From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.71
Before I formed you in the womb
I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.72
Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every
You shall not kill the embryo
by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.74
Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and
respected by civil society and the political authority.
"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of
the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is
denying the equality of all before the law.
Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and
integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe
guarding or healing as an individual....
must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the
life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for
it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of
health, or its individual survival."82
Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death
in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the
dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his
medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or
disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal
of "over-zealous" treatment.
if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be
Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him.
Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and
perpetuate his life.
If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to
the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal.
2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
57 Cf. Gen 4:8-12.
58 Gen 4:10-11.
59 Gen 9:5-6.
60 Cf. Lev 17:14
61 Ex 23:7.
62 Mt 5:21.
63 Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44.
64 Cf. Mt 26:52.
65 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 64, 7, corp. art.
66 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 64, 7, corp. art.
67 Cf. Lk 23:40-43.
68 Cf. Gen 4:10.
69 Cf. GS 51 # 3.
70 Cf. Am 8:4-10.
71 Cf. CDF, Donum vitae I, 1.
72 Jer 1:5; cf. Job 10:8-12; Ps 22:10-11.
73 Ps 139:15.
74 Didache 2, 2: SCh 248, 148; cf. Ep. Barnabae 19, 5: PG 2, 777; Ad
Diognetum 5, 6: PG 2, 1173; Tertullian, Apol. 9: PL 1, 319-320.
75 GS 51 # 3.
76 [link] CIC, can. 1398.
77 [link] CIC, can. 1314.
78 Cf. [link] CIC, cann. 1323-1324.
79 CDF, Donum vitae III.
80 CDF, Donum vitae III.
81 CDF, Donum vitae I, 2.
82 CDF, Donum vitae I, 3.
83 CDF, Donum vitae I, 5.
84 CDF, Donum vitae I, 6.
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