Summary of Catechism paragraphs 2258-2330:
- The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill,” teaches us the inviolable sanctity of human life; because each of us is willed by God, Who endows us with an immortal soul, it is always wrong, in every circumstance, to kill an innocent person deliberately.
- Anyone who intentionally kills an innocent person, cooperates in such a murder, or deliberately causes someone to die by indirect means, violates this commandment; the sin is compounded if the perpetrator kills a parent, sibling, spouse, or child, rupturing the family ties that should bind us in love.
- For this reason, the Church has always condemned abortion, the direct taking of the life of an unborn child, as evil; each innocent human being, however small, has the intrinsic rights of personhood; hence it is gravely wrong to treat embryos as biological commodities, whether for research or in vitro fertilization.
- Respect for a person’s bodily integrity likewise forbids the use of torture; kidnapping; hostage-taking; scientific experiments that violate human dignity or the moral law, or that are performed without one’s informed consent; and it also enjoins us to care for the bodies of the dead and give them proper burial.
- Euthanasia – the deliberate ending of the life of the sick, handicapped, aged, or dying – is similarly a sin because of its intent to cause death; but it can be morally permissible to refuse “overzealous treatment,” and let a natural death come, and to receive palliative care, where the intent is to alleviate pain, not to cause death.
- Suicide is a sin because we are not the lords and masters of our own lives; we have received life as a pure gift of God, to live it for His glory and our eternal happiness; but those who commit suicide are often suffering from mental illness that diminishes their moral responsibility; we entrust their souls to God’s mercy.
- To protect the innocent from aggressors, the Church upholds the right of self-defense; it is legitimate to defend ourselves, even if the aggressor is killed in the process, because our intent is to protect innocent life; the Church raises her voice against the death penalty because criminals need not be killed to protect society.
- Sometimes an aggressor on the international stage can be stopped only by waging war; there are strict conditions for a “just war,” e.g., the exhaustion of all other means, high likelihood of success, not unleashing even greater evils; the moral law still holds in war, so any military tactics targeting civilians are reprehensible.
- We can violate this commandment in ways other than literally killing someone, such as failure to take appropriate care of our body, abusing alcohol or drugs, driving while intoxicated, or engaging in similarly risky behaviors that endanger the lives of others.
- We can also inflict spiritual violence, so to speak, by influencing others to sin, either directly or indirectly, or by nursing a sense of anger toward others; anger is an emotion that we all feel at times, but it can become sinful if we want revenge, and it can morph into hatred, the sin of deliberately wishing evil upon another.
Live Your Faith
Do we sometimes overlook this commandment, believing that we’re in the clear if we haven’t killed anyone? But Jesus calls us to probe our hearts for the more subtle ways that we violate it.
We can slay others with cruel words and inflict emotional pain. We harm our own souls by holding grudges and letting ourselves be overcome by anger. We cause spiritual injury whenever we make light of sin or connive at it.
Politicians who promote abortion are effectively cooperating in the killing of innocents, and we have the moral responsibility to oppose them, not to turn a blind eye.