Nicholas Hahn had a very interesting piece in Crisis Magazine yesterday entitled: “Some Bishops Want Your Guns.” The article stemmed from recent comments made by Bishops regarding the tragic events at Newton and President Obama’s recent remarks concerning “Gun Control.”
Hahn explains that while Bishops have a peacemaking role, some seem to be overstepping their roles and Catholic teaching by “signing on” to some of the recent actions being taken against gun rights in the United States.
The heart of his post though is an argument he makes about the rights of Catholics, under Church teaching, for self-defense. As he writes:
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.
So then, do we have a ‘right’ as much as Hahn asserts that we do, to “bear arms” and defend ourselves and our families? Does this defensive right come into play in a gun rights discussion because of proportionality or “equality”?
For Catholics, the idea of a ‘right to bear arms’ is a very complicated set of ideas. If for no other reason than cultural, we do not carry weapons around with us publicly, the way we used to a hundred or two-hundred years ago. Yet it would seem that the philosophical reasons behind a right to defense would still exist today. How guns, gun rights, and technology come into all of that is another question.
Unfortunately, I believe we are at a point where philosophy, pragmatism, and reality are smashing headlong into one another. Depending on which ship you sail most often, you see this problem – the one of violence and tragedy, differently from others. As for me, what animates my beliefs are the sentiment that Hahn writes in his piece:
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.”
As a father, and as someone that views myself naturally as a ‘protector,’ this is what I struggle with everyday. How to reconcile the Catechism, my patriotic beliefs, and my Catholic virtues. That is why I believe my best weapons are the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.