Monday, December 14, 2009

St. Bernard to the Templars: Honor of Killing for Christ


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From St. Bernard of Clairvaux, De Laude Novae Milititae (Letter to the Templars), in Migne, PL 182, col. 924.


The knights of Christ can fight the battles of their Lord with complete tranquility of conscience, fearing neither sin if they kill the enemy, nor the danger of being killed themselves. For to inflict death or to suffer death for Christ has nothing criminal about it, but rather brings an abundant claim to glory. By the first he gives glory to Christ, by the latter, he gains Christ Himself. The Lord, without a doubt, gladly accepts the death of the enemy as punishment; and yet more gladly gives Himself to the fallen knight as consolation.

The knight of Christ may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he kills, and serves himself when he dies. Nor does he bear the sword in vain, for he is God’s minister to punish the evildoers and to exalt the good. When he kills an evildoer, he is not a murderer, but, if I may so put it, a killer of evil. It is necessary to see him as both the avenger at the service of Christ and the protector of the Christian people. Should he be killed himself, however, we know that he has not perished but has achieved eternal glory.

Therefore, the death he inflicts is to Christ’s profit, and the death he receives is for his own gain. The Christian rejoices in the death of the pagan because Christ is glorified; while the death of the Christian gives the King occasion to show his liberality by rewarding the deserving knight. In the first case, the just man shall rejoice when he sees the punishment of the evil man. And in the latter, he will say, “Truly there is a reward for the just. Truly it is God who judges the earth."

Certainly pagans should not be killed if there is any other way to prevent them from oppressing and persecuting the faithful. But it is much better to kill them than to have the just ones forever under the yoke of the wicked, and bending their knees to the iniquity of the pagans.

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