3 minutes readThe 5th Commandment

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The Fifth Commandment

1 Q. What does the Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill, forbid?
A. The Fifth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill, forbids us to kill, strike, wound or do any other bodily harm to our neighbour, either of ourselves or by the agency of others; as also to wish him evil, or to offend him by injurious language. In this Commandment God also forbids the taking of one’s own life, or suicide.

2 Q. Why is it a grave sin to kill one’s neighbour?
A. Because the slayer unjustly invades the right which God alone has over the life of man; because he destroys the security of civil society; and because he deprives his neighbour of life, which is the greatest natural good on earth.

3 Q. Are there cases in which it is lawful to kill?
A. It is lawful to kill when fighting in a just war; when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime; and, finally, in cases of necessary and lawful defence of one’s own life against an unjust aggressor.

4 Q. Does God also forbid us in the Fifth Commandment to do harm to the spiritual life of another?
A. Yes, in the Fifth Commandment God also forbids us to do harm to another’s spiritual life by scandal.

5 Q. What is scandal?
A. Scandal is any word, act, or omission which is the occasion of another’s committing sin.

6 Q. Is scandal a grave sin?
A. Scandal is a grave sin because, by causing the loss of souls, it tends to destroy the greatest work of God, namely, the redemption; it effects the death of another’s soul by depriving it of the life of grace, which is more precious than the life of the body; and is the source of a multitude of sins. Hence God threatens the severest chastisement to those who give scandal.

7 Q. Why does God, in the Fifth Commandment, forbid the taking of one’s own life or suicide?
A. In the Fifth Commandment God forbids suicide, because man is not the master of his own life no more than of the life of another. Hence the Church punishes suicide by deprivation of Christian burial.

8 Q. Is duelling also forbidden by the Fifth Commandment?
A. Yes, duelling is also forbidden by the Fifth Commandment, because duelling has in it the guilt both of suicide and of homicide; and whoever voluntarily takes part in it, even as a simple onlooker, is excommunicated.

9 Q. Is duelling also forbidden when there is no danger of being killed?
A. This sort of duelling is also forbidden, because not only are we forbidden to kill, but even voluntarily to wound ourselves or others.

10 Q. Is the defence of one’s honour an excuse for duelling?
A. No, because it is not true that the offence is repaired by duelling; and because honour cannot be repaired by an unjust, irrational and barbarous act such as duelling.

11 Q. What does the Fifth Commandment command?
A. The Fifth Commandment commands us to forgive our enemies and to wish well to all.

12 Q. What should he do who has injured another in the life of either body or soul?
A. He who has injured another must not only confess his sin, but must also repair the harm by compensating his neighbour for the loss he has sustained, by retracting the errors taught, and by giving good example.