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Good heart Grace wrote:

Hi, guys —

In light of the tragic shooting at UCC (Umpqua Community College), my question is about denouncing God. The shooter told all Christians to stand and then proceeded to shoot them.

  • Would I be denouncing God if I chose not to stand?

I'm not sure of the specifics of the UCC situation. If the shooter asked me (individually) if I was Christian, I would have stood, otherwise I feel I would have been denouncing God.

  • That said, if the shooter just said something like, everyone who is Christian stand up, would that be denouncing God?

I feel like it would be.

  • What does the Church's view on this and similar situations?
  • Are those who stood and died considered martyrs?


  { If confronted, would denouncing God in a group be different than individually denouncing Him? }

and in a similar question:

Wondering William wrote:

Hi guys,

This an question am very confused about.

  • If ISIS captured me and tried to force Islam on me:

    • would it be okay if I just pretended to agree with them but later went to Confession for not professing my faith seeing, that if I disagreed with them, they would kill me or
    • would God want me to profess the faith and die for Him, disagreeing with them face to face?

I want an honest response on this.

Thank you.


  { If ISIS captured me and forced Islam on me, would it be okay to pretended I agree with them? }

Mike replied:


First, the question you have asked falls into a category of, what would be good, prudential judgment and therefore is not a matter of doctrine. For short, opinions will vary among well-intended Catholics.

One has to balance:

  • defending oneself because they, by Baptism, are a temple of God and part of the Body of Christ, and
  • being willing to die for the faith as many of the Early Church Fathers, (who were the very first Catholic Christians), did.

Each one of us has a specific purpose in life. We should strive to protect our lives to do what the Lord has called us to do for the sake of building up His Church.

I have appended the two appropriate sections from the Catechism on this topic. It is my hope that after reading both sections, you will be able to understand and form a prudential judgment which the Church would want you to use.

Legitimate defense

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing.

"The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."

(St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art.)

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.

(St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art.)

2265 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.

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party. (cf. Luke 23:40-43)

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56)

II. To Bear Witness to the Truth

2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he "has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth." (John 18:37) The Christian is not to "be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord." (2 Timothy 1:8) In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep "a clear conscience toward God and toward men." (Acts 24:16)

2472 The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known. (cf. Matthew 18:16)

All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation.

(Vatican II, Ad Gentes 11)

2473 Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude.

"Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God."

(St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom. 4,1: SCh 10, 110)

2474 The Church has painstakingly collected the records of those who persevered to the end in witnessing to their faith. These are the acts of the Martyrs. They form the archives of truth written in letters of blood:

Neither the pleasures of the world nor the kingdoms of this age will be of any use to me. It is better for me to die [in order to unite myself] to Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. I seek him who died for us; I desire him who rose for us. My birth is approaching . . .

(St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom. 6,1-2: SCh 10, 114)

I bless you for having judged me worthy from this day and this hour to be counted among your martyrs. . . . You have kept your promise, God of faithfulness and truth. For this reason and for everything, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him, who is with you and the Holy Spirit, may glory be given to you, now and in the ages to come. Amen.

(Martyrium Polycarpi 14,2-3:PG 5,1040; SCh 10,228)

The Church in most cases would not come out and publicly state that victims of a UCC-type shooting are martyrs, but unofficially they would be martyrs by not denying their Christian faith, whose center is Jesus and the Church He established on St. Peter.

That's my two cents.


John replied:


Let me address one question that I think Mike might have inadvertently missed.

You said:

  • Are those who stood and died considered martyrs?

I would have to say yes, absolutely, especially from the second person on.

The shooter asked them one at time. The first might not have known his fate, when asked the question but I would still say the person was a martyr and the rest that followed, even more so, because they knew their fate.

Certainly, if the Christians had tried to gang up on the shooter and died, they still would have been martyrs because while this guy was shooting everyone, he was just wounding non-Christians so an act to take down the shooter is not only self defense but an act to protect others.

Now to the more difficult question:

Whether or not it would be a denial of Christ to not answer in affirmative when asked, if you are a Christian.

Essentially, in this case, yes, it would be. He didn't just ask all the Christians to stand. He asked one person at a time to get up and then asked them. So these people knew they were being asked to deny their faith. Now I'm not saying that this is unforgivable. Of course God would forgive you if you repented and of course he considers our human weakness but it is objectively the sin of apostasy.

In the United States and Western Europe, we aren't used to this kind of persecution but it's been happening for centuries all over the world. More Christians were killed for their faith in the twentieth century than in all the previous nineteen centuries combined, so we've grown soft.

We never believed it could happen here but it was common place in places like:

  • the Soviet Union
  • Communist China, and
  • North Korea
  • not to mention many Muslim countries.

It still is common place in many places and it's getting worse as we see with ISIS and other radicalized Muslims.

The Hindus in India have also been known to persecute Christians in a similar manner.

I hope this helps,


Bob replied:


God loves you either way and He knows your limitations from fear.

The Apostles felt pretty much the same way: terrified. It wasn't until Pentecost when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit that they received a freedom from fear to be strong witnesses.

Try praying to be free from fear and have the courage to be a witness in any trial. God will never let you down. He would never ask you to do something he wouldn't be willing to give you the courage for.

That said, the possibility of dying as a martyr is always real. The failure to act appropriately only means we need to turn to God's mercy again.

The only unforgivable sin is the one we won't let go of.

Put everything in God's Hands.


Bob Kirby

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