Some Bishops Want Your Guns

If for nothing else, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will always be remembered at a tragedy. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal in 2008, “what I mean by that is: an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Who better to follow the Godfather’s urging than our holy men and women?

Following the tragedy in Newtown, an ecumenical group, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, wrote Congress to “support immediate legislative action” enforcing criminal background checks for all, banning high-capacity weapons and magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

Over forty religious leaders signed this letter, including several Roman Catholics. Even Pope Benedict XVI has joined the letter’s chorus by marking Christian Unity Week in praying specifically for an “end to the massacres of unarmed civilians, an end to all violence.”

In his weekly editorial, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, endorsed President Barack Obama’s 23 executive orders “limiting and controlling the diffusion and use of arms” as “a step in the right direction.” But does Lombardi know what the executive orders actually say? The President can’t do much without Congressional approval, and so the language of the President’s orders is really non-active: “address,” “propose,” and “review.” No teeth here.

Lombardi effectively becomes a signatory to the ecumenical letter, declaring, “I’m with them.”

But is he? Lombardi doesn’t stop at background checks or executive memoranda. He wants to confiscate your guns, too. After mentioning that guns can be “instruments for legitimate defense,” he echoes demands for “disarmament, to oppose the production, trade, and smuggling of arms of all types, fueled by dishonorable interests for power or financial gain.”

In Lombardi’s gun-free paradise, only the criminals would be armed. The criminals will arm themselves in spite of the law. Disarmament leaves the innocent defenseless against gun-toting crazies. Look only to President Obama’s gun-free Chicago where 513 bodies were buried because of gun-violence in 2012. That’s nearly 20 Newtown massacres.

Fr. Lombardi isn’t the only one to take aim at your guns. In fact, the U.S. Bishops have been calling for handgun “elimination” as early as 1990. In 2006 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace suggested that States ought to “impose a strict control on the sale of handguns and small arms. Limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe upon the rights of anyone.” The Council may not recognize your right to a legitimate defense, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church does. 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.” And if “he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.”

Is a gun moderate? Ask a rape victim. Or a child.

The Catechism goes on to affirm defense as “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.” In the light of the Catechism, the National Rifle Association’s brave suggestion that teachers (who are “responsible for the lives of others”) be armed doesn’t seem so crazy after all.

By endorsing specific legislative proposals that flout the Catechism, Lombardi and the rest of them go far beyond their competency and authority. Bishops Blaire, Wester, and Rhoades admit that gun violence does “encompass many areas with various complexities,” but they, like Lombardi, go forward with their specific policy proposals anyway. These Bishops know better than you—subsidiarity be damned.

According to this forgotten social principle, the family is the most local and most authoritative in public policy. As Blessed Pope John Paul II understood when he wrote in Familiaris Consortio, “families should be the first to take steps to see that the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family.”

And because of their most direct understanding of the impact of policy, the “laity, moreover, by reason of their particular vocation have the specific role of interpreting the history of the world in the light of Christ, in as much as they are called to illuminate and organize temporal realities according to the plan of God, Creator and Redeemer.”

This distinct calling John Paul II assigns to the family requires a worth-while separation between the spiritual and temporal realms, one recognized in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church: “The Church is organized in ways that are suitable to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful, while the different political communities give rise to relationships and institutions that are at the service of everything that is part of the temporal common good.”

Know your role, Bishops.

Editor’s note: The image above is of Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See.

Nicholas G. Hahn III


Nicholas G. Hahn III is deputy editor for

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)