Saint Bernard: To Die or to Kill for Christ Is Not Criminal, but Glorious

September 22, 2016

What Popes, Saints, Doctors and Theologians Think Regarding the Lawfulness of War (contd.)

To Die or to Kill for Christ Is Not Criminal, but Glorious

About the lawfulness of war against the pagans, Saint Bernard, the Mellifluous Doctor, has these glowing words:

Cavalry charge by the Knights of Saint John against the Saracens, by Gustav Adolf Closs.

Cavalry charge by the Knights of Saint John against the Saracens, by Gustav Adolf Closs.

But in truth the knights of Christ fight the battles of their Lord with all tranquillity of conscience, fearing neither sin by the death of their enemies nor the danger of their own death, because death inflicted or suffered for Christ’s sake bears no trace of crime and often brings the merit of glory. In the former case, there is a gain for Christ; in the latter, Christ is gained, Who doubtless both willingly accepts the death of an enemy for punishment and more willingly offers Himself to the soldier for consolation. The knight of Christ, I say, kills with tranquil conscience and dies even more tranquilly. In dying he benefits himself, in killing he benefits Christ. For he bears not a sword without cause; he is the minister of God for the punishment of evil and the exaltation of good. When he kills a malefactor, it is not homicide but, so to say, “malecide”; and he is clearly considered the avenger of Christ in the case of those who do evil, and the defender of Christians. Moreover, when he himself is killed, it is understood that he has not perished, but that he has arrived in eternal glory.

Luis Segura Vilchis before the firing squad next to the body of Fr. Miguel Pro.

Luis Segura Vilchis before the firing squad next to the body of Fr. Miguel Pro.

The death, therefore, that he inflicts is again for Christ; the death that he receives is his own gain. The Christian glories in the death of a pagan, because Christ is glorified; in the death of a Christian, the liberality of the king is revealed, because the soldier is taken away to be rewarded. Furthermore, the just man will rejoice over the one when he has seen the punishment. Concerning the other, a man will say: “If indeed there be fruit to the just: there is indeed a God that judgeth them on the earth” (Ps. 57:12). Not that the pagans should be slain if by any other means they can be impeded from persecuting and oppressing the faithful. But presently it is better that they be killed so that, in this way, the just men do not bend to the iniquity of their hands, for on the contrary, certainly the sinners’ rod will be upon the lot of the just. (Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, De laude novae militiae, in Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 182, col. 924.)

Nobility Book

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), Documents XI, p. 514.

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