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Catholic Dictionary




The unjust killing of an innocent person. Directly to intend killing of an innocent person is forbidden either to a private citizen or to the State, and this even in order to secure the common good. God has supreme and exclusive ownership over human lives, and so he is the only one who has the right to allow the taking of a human life. He confers on civil authority the right to take the life of a condemned criminal only when this is necessary for achieving the just purposes of the State. In a commentary passage on the Decalogue, divine revelation commands: "See that the man who is innocent and just is not done to death, and do not acquit the guilty" (Exodus 23:7).