Yesterday while teaching our catechumens I was asked how is it that Ahn Jung- geun, patriot, is considered a hero even though he killed the Resident-General of Japan in Harbin station? "The Church teaches that we have to follow the ten commandments and here is a case where Ahn deliberately murdered someone. Isn't that forbidden by the Ten Commandments?" It is an easy question to answer after the fact but those faced with the decision, a person with Ahn's sensitivity, have to be tormented by what they plan to do. The times have changed a great deal from those of Ahn's and I think we would have an easier time of making judgments after the Two World Wars, the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq conflicts and the Rwanda genocide.
This month is the 100 anniversary of the assassination; the Korean society has embraced Patriot Ahn close to their heart. Even though he was a devout Catholic the Church came very late to acknowledge his deed as patriotic and justifiable. The catechumen had a lot of company in thinking the way he did.
The Catholic Church's teaching on this issue is not that clear and there are so many distinctions that are made that it is not easy for the ordinary person to make a quick judgement on what is allowed and not allowed. The Catholic Encyclopedia does have a paragraph which does give one a feeling for what is involved:
While actually attacking the powers that be, a tyrant by usurpation is a traitor acting against the common weal, and, like any other criminal, may be put to death by legitimate authority. If possible, the legitimate authority must use the ordinary forms of law in condemning the tyrant to death, but if this is not possible, it can proceed informally and grant individuals a mandate to inflict the capital punishment St. Thomas (In II Sent., d. XLIV, Q. ii, a. 2), Suarez (Def. fidei, VI, iv, 7), and the majority of authorized theologians say that private individuals have a tacit mandate from legitimate authority to kill the usurper when no other means of ridding the community of the tyrant are available.
Union of Catholic Asian News has a summary of the reasons for the change of course on patriot Ahn. Click here to see the article. Below is a free translation of the letter patriot Ahn wrote to his wife before his death. It appeared in the Catholic Peace Weekly on the front page.
To the mother of Benedict:
Blessed be Jesus!
Both of us in this world filled with tears and vainity have been joined together
as husband and wife by God's providence. And now by God's will, separated, but by God's grace shortly we will meet again in glory in God's eternal heaven.
I pray you are not overcome by emotion, you trust in God's providence
and remain zealous in the faith, give your obedience to mother, live in harmony with the two brothers, work hard at the education of the children , cope with life take care of your spiritual life in peace, having hope for eternal happiness in the next life.
I want you to know that I have decided to strive to have our oldest son Benedict become a priest, please do not forget and offer him to God and prepare him to become a priest when he grows up.
I have many words to say to you they will have to wait until we get to heaven and meet with joy and happiness, at that time I will be speaking very deeply to you, that is my belief and fervent hope.
1910 Feb. 14
Your husband, Thomas