Dear Father | Fifth Commandment goes beyond offense of killing a person
Traditionally when we consider the Fifth Commandment, we limit our reflection to subjects such as murder, abortion, euthanasia and suicide. Yet, there are other offenses against life that are also to be considered under this commandment, such as capital punishment, scandal, respect for health, scientific respect for the human person and respect for those who have died.
The Church respects the right of the state to protect itself and to assess penalties consummate to the crime committed. In the past, this has included the possibility of the death penalty, if this was the only practical means by which the state could defend itself and punish the criminal. But as Blessed John Paul II noted in "Evangelium Vitae," it is now possible to incarcerate someone with a reasonable expectation that there is no longer a threat to society.
Scandal is an offense by which an attitude or behavior of mine leads another to commit sin. In effect, the person who gives scandal becomes the tempter for the other. Such a sin causes harm, perhaps even death in grave circumstances, to the spiritual life within someone.
Each of our lives is a precious gift given to us by God. We are charged to take reasonable care of them. This means exercising temperance in what we eat, drink and take into our bodies. Also, we are to care for the life of those around us by obeying the law when driving, boating or flying.
Scientific research is also covered under this commandment. Scientific research is to be ordered to the service and the good of the human person and his or her dignity. This means that scientific research may not expose human life or a person's psychological well-being to disproportionate risks.
Respect for those who have died includes proper end-of-life care and ensuring that they have the opportunity to receive the sacraments for a final time before their passing. Once the person has died, the bodies must be treated with respect and buried.
There are other areas of consideration under the Fifth Commandment than the obvious and considering these other areas will help make a better examination of conscience and confession.
Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in St. Charles. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119 or email email@example.com.
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