THE thought is a terrible one--and the act is desperate in itself--of a

man, however justified his conduct may be, slaying with his own hand a

fellow being and sending his soul, unprepared perhaps, before its

Maker. But it is a still more desperate thing, because it strikes us

nearer home, to yield up one's life into the hands of an agent of

injustice. There is here an alternative of two very great evils; it is

a quest
on of two lives, his and mine; I must slay or I must die

without having done anything to forfeit my life.

But the law of charity, founded in nature, makes my life more precious

to me than his, for charity begins at home. Then, to save his life, I

must give mine; and he risks his to take mine! I do not desire to kill

my unjust aggressor, but I do intend, as I have a perfect right, to

protect my own life. If he, without cause, places his existence as an

obstacle to my enjoyment of life, then I shall remove that obstacle,

and to do it, I shall kill. Again, a desperate remedy, but the

situation is most terribly desperate. Being given law of my being, I

can not help the inevitable result of conditions of which I am nowise

responsible. The man who attacks my life places his own beyond the

possibility of my saving it.

This, of course, supposes a man using the full measure of his rights.

But is he bound to do this, morally? Not if his charity for another be

greater than that which he bears towards himself, if he go beyond the

divine injunction to love his neighbor as himself and love him better

than himself; if he feel that he is better prepared to meet his God

than the other, if he have no one dependent on him for maintenance and

support. Even did he happen to be in the state of mortal sin, there is

every reason to believe that such charity as will sacrifice life for

another, greater than which no man has, would wash away that sin and

open the way of mercy; while great indeed must be the necessity of the

dependent ones to require absolutely the death of another.

The aggression that justifies killing must be unjust. This would not be

the case of a criminal being brought to justice or resisting arrest.

Justice cannot conflict with itself and can do nothing unjust in

carrying out its own mandates. The culprit therefore has no grounds to

stand upon for his defense.

Neither is killing justifiable, if wounding or mutilation would effect

the purpose. But here the code of morals allows much latitude on

account of the difficulty of judging to a nicety the intentions of the

aggressor, that is, whether he means to kill or not; and of so

directing the protecting blow as to inflict just enough, and no more

disability than the occasion requires.

Virtue in woman is rightly considered a boon greater than life; and for

that matter, so is the state of God's friendship in the soul of any

creature. Then, here too applies the principle of self-defense. If I

may kill to save my life, 1 may for a better reason kill to save my

soul and to avoid mortal offense. True, the loss of bodily integrity

does not necessarily imply a staining of the soul; but human nature is

such as to make the one an almost fatal consequence of the other. The

person therefore who kills to escape unjust contamination acts within

his or her rights and before God is justified in the doing.

We would venture to say the same thing of a man who resorts to this

extreme in order to protect his rightly gotten goods, on these two

conditions, however: that there be some kind of proportion between the

loss and the remedy he employs to protect himself against it; and that

he have well grounded hope that the remedy will be effective, that it

will prevent said loss, and not transform itself into revenge.

And here a last remark is in order. The killing that is permitted to

save, is not permitted to avenge loss sustained; the law sanctions

self-defense, but not vengeance. If a man, on the principle of

self-defense, has the right to kill to save his brother, and fails to

do so, his further right to kill ceases; the object is past saving and

vengeance is criminal. If a woman has been wronged, once the wrong

effected, there can be no lawful recourse to slaying, for what is lost

is beyond redemption, and no reason for such action exists except

revenge. In these cases killing is murder, pure and simple, and there

is nothing under Heaven to justify it.

Remembering the injunction to love our neighbor as ourself, we add that

we have the same right to defend our neighbor's life as we have to

defend our own, even to protect his or her innocence and virtue and

possessions. A husband may defend the honor of his wife, which is his

own, even though the wife be a party to the crime and consent to the

defilement; but the right is only to prevent, and ceases on the event

of accomplishment, even at the incipient stage.