Saturday, March 19, 2005
I recently read the above letter to the editor in The Tidings (March 11), the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, that utterly misrepresented the Ten Commandments and Christian moral tradition.
Well, here are my thoughts (which The Tidings chose not to publish ... for whatever reason):
Letter writer Mike Wisniewski (March 11) betrays his own ignorance of the Ten Commandments as he tries to criticize other Catholics for what turns out to be their deeper and more accurate understanding of God's Word. Wisniewski says "there are no exceptions listed with" the fifth commandment. However, what he apparently does not understand is that the commandment to "not kill" literally says "Thou shall not murder." (Check your Hebrew.) Since there is a difference between murdering and killing, i.e., since not all killing is murder, this commandment actually does suggest an exception to killing. This commandment says one should not murder, and thus allows for continued and justified forms of killing. For proof of this, check out the second command God gives in the Bible, a command before he has formed the people of Israel (and thus not one subject to claims that it only applies then and to them): Genesis 9:6 says "If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed for in His (God's) image did God make man." God actually commands humanity to put to death those who murder. This is one reason why the Church will never condemn outright the moral justification of the death penalty, however limited she says its use should be.
Now, I am not saying that the death penalty is perfect nor am I saying that we should not find other forms to punish and keep murderers from the rest of society. The only point is that advocating the death penalty is not "hypocritical" for Catholics, for as things turn out these proponents actually have a strong case, both biblical and moral, for advocating such a measure, however limited they would like to see its application.
As well, Wisniewski suggests that war is counter to the fifth commandment. Well, since not all killing is proscribed, resort to war may still be justified. When we look at the evil of the Nazis, what other measure does Wisniewski suggest to stop the atrocious terror committed by a strong and morally-bankrupt regime like Hitler's? With a name like his, Wisniewski should know better. War is not the answer? Well, sometimes it is. Sometimes it is the only thing that will stop evil men from continuing to pillage, rape, murder, and torture innocents around the world. Sometimes it is the only thing that will stop genocide. War is sometimes the answer, and therefore killing is sometimes justified. It is only too sad that people like Wisniewski not only are ignorant about the Word of God and their alleged faith (especially when they are public about it) but that they also apparently have no gratitude for the sacrifice of thousands of men and women who have died fighting so that others could be free and live in relative peace and safety. As Mill said, yes, war is ugly, but what is uglier is the "decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war .... The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." I thank God for these men (and those who continue such sacrifices). Without them, if we survived, we would all be speaking German!
Posted by W. at 12:43 PM