This is a theme I’ve addressed elsewhere in another blog post shortly after the tragic shooting in Tucson last month. It is a topic I have returned to because of a Catholic News Service article that was published today bearing the title, “In Gun Control Debate, Catholic Position Elusive.” The subheading of the story reads, “One gun-carrying priest: ‘I tell people all life is sacred, including mine.'” That should give you a sense of why this is a matter worth discussing again.
The February 11th CNS article begins:
Avid outdoorsman and hunter Fr. Joe Classen, associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Maryland Heights, Mo., has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“I rarely ever conceal and carry, but sometimes if I’m in a very bad area, I do take protection,” he said. “I tell people all life is sacred, including mine.”
A few states away, Fr. Theodore Parker said he knows he has the constitutional right to own a gun, but can’t see any reason why he would. The pastor of two inner-city Detroit parishes said, “The real purpose of a gun in our culture is violence.” And there’s just too much of that, he contends.
As readers of this blog know, I agree with the position of the second interviewed priest, Fr. Parker, and take it a step further — a step that, according to a January 14 CNS article titled, “Gun control: Church firmly, quietly opposes firearms for civilians,” is clearly in line with the Church’s teaching, no matter how “elusive” it may appear to Fr. Classen and others.
Guns are designed to do one thing: kill. Granted, there are instances such as hunting at which times civilians might justifiably use a firearm to gather food. However, there are other ways one can find nourishment today and some people would even suggest that one need not even hunt to eat healthily, just ask a vegetarian or vegan. Apart from hunting animals for food, the only thing guns are good for are killing human beings.
Fr. Classen defends his ownership, concealment and carrying of a firearm in “very bad areas” for “protection.” In what way does he intend to use the firearm for protection? The most obvious answer is to kill or harm another human being before that person could ostensibly attempt to harm him. How is that OK? Especially for a priest?
All life is sacred. Period. And to be truly prolife means that one’s life is not worth more than another, not even a priest’s over an alleged criminal’s.
I understand that the issue of self-defense is a complicated and contentious one, where people otherwise committed to nonviolence find examples worthy of exemption. However, when we really turn to the Gospel for guidance in the matter of violence and the role of Christians, can we ever justify the use of violence? Jesus Christ himself submitted, innocent as he was, to the violence of the state and individuals. In the case of self-defense, Jesus chastised his own Apostles for trying to defend him with violence. Jesus did NOT see self-defense as a legitimate reason for violence.
I find it particularly upsetting when priests publicly defend the carrying of weapons. It seems like something that stands in stark contrast to what Christian life is all about. When it comes to guns of any sort, we know What Jesus Would Do.
The world will only be transformed by love, not violence. Maybe instead of carrying a tool of death into “very bad areas,” Fr. Classen could carry a spirit of openness and peace, meeting the people he is scared of with the compassion of Christ and not the violence the Lord condemns. This is especially important if gun-carrying priests like to see themselves as in persona Christi.
Jesus wouldn’t defend guns, why would you?