“Ask a Priest: As a Cop, Could I Use Deadly Force?”

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Q: I had two questions regarding religion and a possible career as a police officer. My two concerns are: 1) Would it be OK to swear – that is, take the oath needed to become a police officer? 2) Would it be OK to kill someone if needed? Or would it still be a sin? (I am not looking to kill people, but if that’s something that came up, would it be justified or would it be a sin?) – M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Law enforcement can be a very noble career. It is an honorable way to serve one’s community, by helping to protect lives and property and to keep the peace.

The short answer to both of your questions is: yes.

You could take an oath to become an officer.

The Catechism in No. 2154 says, “Following St. Paul, the tradition of the Church has understood Jesus’ words as not excluding oaths made for grave and right reasons (for example, in court). ‘An oath, that is the invocation of the divine name as a witness to truth, cannot be taken unless in truth, in judgment, and in justice.'”

As to your second question: Deadly force can be justified if needed.

The Catechism in No. 2264 says: “[…] Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.”

No. 2265 adds, “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.”

I hope this helps.

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One Comment
  1. If someone is ready to commit murder, then if he is stopped, his soul is in better condition than if he actually committed the murder. Killing him would keep him from committing another mortal sin. This is true even if the man is crazy and doesn’t know what he is doing.

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