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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Mercenary Catholic?

This week's assessment comes from Robrecht via facebook, which was new for me! He's writing about Josh*, a devout Roman Catholic shadowrunner (futuristic mercenary for hire) with a very strict moral code not to kill unless he's defending himself or his family. He attended medical school at NYU, and as a result, he got into "shadow work" to pay his mounting tuition. He tended wounded shadowrunners before being offered a gig in Miami, Florida. He made a lot of enemies, often from his own team, as he refused to kill wounded bad guys since they weren't an immediate threat to his safety. Many times, it would have been wiser to kill them so that they wouldn't be a future threat.

Robrecht wants to know: Is it possible to remain a "good Catholic" (or at least for the character to believe he is one without being seriously deluded) while being a mercenary?

I thought this was a great question, because the juxtaposition of faith against actions has always been a prime topic in theological and philosophical debates for why shouldn't it cause our characters angst and confusion?

The Apostle Paul wrote, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15). He was talking about struggling with our sinful nature. No one would probably accuse Paul of being less than a "good Christian," yet he knew the war raging within himself.

Personally, I think making Josh a Roman Catholic mercenary is such a great internal tension-builder. We want our characters to wrestle with huge life questions, and because the value Roman Catholics place on life is so great, you've given him a doozy of a life question!

I got this from the Vatican's website, which is a quote from Saint Ambrose: "Every murder is a violation of the 'spiritual' kinship uniting mankind in one great family, in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity."

Josh's little "quirk" of not killing someone who is wounded and not about to try to kill him or his family is his concession to the sanctity of life. I mean, killing people as a mercenary isn't "good Catholicism," but when the killing can almost be justifiable as self-defense, it's a gray area. Reckless killing isn't what Josh is doing. He's very controlled and pointed about pulling the trigger, which actually errs on the side of good Catholicism. (Not sure I'm making sense here, but it sounds right to me!)

One must think about the type of people mercenaries kill, and they usually aren't the Mother Teresas of the world. I mention this because they likely are murderers themselves. I think an interesting little verse from Genesis, referring back to Cain and Abel, might serve as a internal mantra or sorts of Josh.

God put a mark on Cain, "lest any who came upon him should kill him." To review, God has punished Cain by sending him to live in the wilderness and desert where the ground will not bring forth fruit for him. But this mark he puts on him isn't to condemn him, but, according to the Catholic Church, it's to protect and defend him from those wishing to kill him. The mark is God's mercy even as he punishes, because not even a murderer loses personal dignity...and maybe that's another reason Josh refuses to kill those wounded to finish them off.

Another way to give Josh tension both internally and externally is if you give him a desire to sink roots deep down into one place, but yet his mercenary job keeps him "on the run" or "wandering." This is similar to what happened to Cain after he murdered his brother Abel. He became a "fugitive and wanderer on earth" (Gen 4:14). So maybe Josh's goal is to stay in one place and settle down, yet his punishment for the career he's chosen as a shadowrunner makes this impossible....the "curse" he must live with, similar to Cain.

Hopefully this assessment has given you something to chew on, although I'm afraid I drew more from the Catholic Church's website than from psychology. Please ask any additional questions in the comment section if you don't think I covered it well enough!

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Miss Sharp said...

Of course there are many Catholics serving in the armed forces. I bet a few of their chaplain's sermons would be an interesting read for Robrecht!

Bess said...

I'm glad you gave me the link to your current blog. This post is wonderful! I thought it was very clear.

~Britt Mitchell

Anonymous said...

I read a quote by Flannery O'Connor recently, something to the effect that if truth be told, most Catholics are Manicheans: the world is primarily an evil environment so it would make sense that a Catholic could be mercenary in eradicating Evil.

Melissa Sugar said...

My comment was already addressed by Miss Sharp. The issue as I see it as we look at the number of Catholics in the Military is very gray indeed. In reading the verses you provided, specifically that any murder is in fact murder, one has to question the ability for a devout catholic to serve his country. Does the catholic man in the armed services struggle internaly (more so than any person involved in making the definative choice to kill the enemy in combat-I am assuming that most young men in the military struggle morally with the decision to kill the enemy)? Must the catholic truly see the target as posing a clear and imminent threat to him or his fellow country men. If this is such a struggle, how effective can he be in an urgent situation with little or no time to reflect? This also gives rise to another issue. Imagine if you will that the draft is reinstated. Does religion conctitute a legitimate exemption from service?
It extends further than the military? Can a true catholic shoot and defend his family from an intruder? What constitutes self defense or defense of family? Must the intruder actually by armed? Must he be armed and threatning to shoot? If you shoot and injure but not kill must he stop and risk the offender gaining access to a hidden weapon or is he justified in killing the supposed unarmed intruder who could potentially still kill his family?
I guess one way to look at it is whether you follow the old testement's " an eye for an eye?" or the new testement's "Turn the other cheek?"
I know that the official catholic position on the death penalty has evolved significantly over the last decade and the official comment is that the church is neither opposed to or in favor of capital punishment. I know that Catholic Priest and devout catholics are no longer automatically exempt from jury duty in Captal Murder cases.
Is the killing of a convicted murderer at the hands of the prison executioner, after the death warrant is signed by the Governor of the state after he has been found guilty by a jury of his peers, sentenced to death by the same and all appellate remedies have been exhausted, isn't this a murder? It is by the scripture provided in your post.

Once again you have done an outstanding job of presenting an issue worthy of long and careful though process. I love your work.


Angela R. Sasser said...

It tickles me to see a Shadowrun inspired character here, considering my own "Hitman Hitwoman" was inspired by the same source material. Ah conflicted hitmen do make for such interesting stories!

I am wondering if perhaps there could be a mentor character involved here that did help Josh decide that there IS a medium between keeping one's morals while still deciding to involve himself in such a ruthless profession. Maybe someone who's life he saved, or saved his life? Or taught him his own interpretation of the bible whilst teaching him the skills he needed to run the shadows? There's nothing like a role model who makes the impossible work to inspire another to follow in his footsteps.

It would be another nudge towards his own 'school of merciful shadowrunning', at least. Just a thought:)

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.