Aren't we supposed to "turn the other cheek"?
Imagine you are looking for a parking spot at the mall on a busy weekend. You finally find someone pulling out of a spot, and once it is empty, you pull into it. But because there is a lot of traffic, you didn’t see another driver who had been waiting for the same spot for 5 minutes. You took the other driver’s spot and didn’t know it.
As you and your family leave the car, the driver jumps out of the car enraged and screaming obscenities. He is well built and looks like he could do some serious damage. You try to calm him down and explain that you didn’t see him, but it isn’t working. Finally, he pulls a knife and begins brandishing it aggressively while moving closer to you. Your family is terrified. What do you do?
Is Self-Defense Ever Justified?
Hopefully the above situation never happens to you, but these and similar scenarios do happen all the time. As Catholic men, are we justified in defending ourselves and our families? Or should we meekly turn the other cheek, come what may?
The short answer is yes, self defense is justified. The Doctors of the Church and the Magisterium have made it clear that self-defense is not only a right, but in some cases, a duty. In the Catechism, the guidelines for when exactly self-defense is legitimate are presented. Let’s take a look at what it has to say.
First, the Catechism makes clear that killing a human being is always a grave issue, and it should never be taken lightly. Obviously, we should not be trigger happy vigilantes killing anyone who gives us a dirty look (2261-2262). But then, the Catechism goes on to explain that the fundamental principle of morality is love and preservation of one’s self (2264).
In other words, loving one’s neighbor means nothing if you don’t first love yourself in a rightly ordered way. After all, Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The instinct of self-preservation is based on the fact that life is a good given to us by God. We have an intrinsic and fundamental right to live. Therefore, we also have a right to defend ourselves.