St. Augustine (354-430 AD)

Book One, CHAPTER 21 -- OF THE CASES IN WHICH WE MAY PUT MEN TO DEATH WITHOUT INCURRING THE GUILT OF MURDER.

"However, there are some exceptions made by the divine authority to its own law, that men may not be put to death. These exceptions are of two kinds, being justified either by a general law, or by a special commission granted for a time to some individual. And in this latter case, he to whom authority is delegated, and who is but the sword in the hand of him who uses it, is not himself responsible for the death he deals. And, accordingly, they who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." Abraham indeed was not merely deemed guiltless of cruelty, but was even applauded for his piety, because he was ready to slay his son in obedience to God, not to his own passion."

Chptr. 26: "But then every man is not justified in sacrificing his son to God, because Abraham was commendable in so doing. The soldier who has slain a man in obedience to the authority under which he is lawfully commissioned, is not accused of murder by any law of his state; nay, if he has not slain him, it is then he is accused of treason to the state, and of despising the law. But if he has been acting on his own authority, and at his own impulse, he has in this case incurred the crime of shedding human blood.

And thus he is punished for doing without orders the very thing he is punished for neglecting to do when he has been ordered." St. Augustine, City of God, completed in 426 AD.

"If the Christian teaching condemned wars of every kind, the injunction given in the gospel to the soldiers seeking counsel as to salvation, would rather be cast away their arms and withdraw themselves wholly from military service, whereas what was said to them was: 'Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages." ' Lk 3:14 NAB. [Compare the RSV.] Augustine, Letter 138, 2. Catholic Quotations, p. 906.

See Works of Augustine, and a biography at the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913). New Advent also has a collection of his works online.

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