Friday, February 1, 2013

A Legitimate Right to Self Defense

Self-defense and the Second Amendment; there has been a lot of talk about these subjects recently. After the horrific murder of the school children, politicians and media celebrities have aggressively dominated the world of communication with calls to curtail the individual's right to self defense, a God-given right, by taking away our liberty.

Rather than overreact with emotional "quick fixes" of more legislation stripping us of our freedom (which has not proven to be effective with the current slate of laws already covering gun ownership) a few orderly thoughts as to what is True and how to best proceed are in order. There are two parts to consider: the right to defend oneself and the importance of protecting our individual freedoms. They go hand in hand.

There are some valuable references in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, worth repeating here. The Catholic Church clearly recognizes an individual's right to defend his own life, and those in his care. Should the aggressor die by the actions of the victim, the Church recognizes that his defense, unless he uses more than necessary defense, is lawful. The act of moderate self-defense is not in conflict with achieving his eternal reward. Legitimate defense is a grave duty for those who are responsible for the lives of others.
"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." (CCC 2264)
"Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility." (CCC 2265)

Many people find it difficult to accept that the Church validates proper self-defense, often citing Our Lord's call to turn the other cheek. Certainly, the Church expects us to follow all that Jesus taught and did, and she acknowledges the important teaching of Our Lord to love one's enemies in the CCC. Peter, however, was not told to dispose of his sword, merely to sheath it. Loving our enemies, and turning the other cheek have more to do with our intentions, our internal attitude towards others than physically turning our cheek — do we approach all we meet in a manner recognizing them as children of God and and our call to assist them to reach Heaven? This doesn't mean allowing another to use us or to abuse or harm those in our care. Nor does it mean we have to be warm, close friends with our enemies. It does mean that we need to will the good for their souls and pray for their souls. But with a firm heart, we can and should correct in charity things they say and do that are immoral. Should their intention be to harm us, we must ably defend our life.
"In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill,"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. He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath."(CCC 2262)

Following section 2262 where Jesus speaks of turning the other cheek, the Catechism immediately explains legitimate defense. The CCC notes that the act of self-defense has an intended outcome (saving one's life) and a potential unintended outcome (the death of the aggressor.) This is not an exception to the prohibition of murder of innocents - it is not the intended outcome.
"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." (CCC 2263)

With regard to the importance of defending our freedom, President John F. Kennedy spoke of our country's founding citizens. He was a highly respected democrat, yet it is doubtful any democrats today would acknowledge these wise words. Fifty years ago he spoke of the urgent need for active individual effort to value and defend liberty as readily and firmly as our founding citizens. In an address on January 29, 1961, he said,
"In my own native state of Massachusetts, the battle for American freedom was begun by the thousands of farmers and tradesmen who made up the Minute Men -- citizens who were ready to defend their liberty at a moment's notice. Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom. The cause of liberty, the cause of American, cannot succeed with any lesser effort. "

We must change the moral direction of our culture, which so disdains life that children are murdered in their mother's womb through actions sanctioned and paid for by our government. The viscous attack on school children is fruit of such a mentality. In this culture of death, personal self-defense is critical and our liberty must not be surrendered. We must be willing to preserve it; safe guarding it for our children and grandchildren.

Contego

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