In an editorial aired yesterday on Vatican Radio, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See, called “initiatives announced by the United States government in view of limiting and controlling the diffusion and use of arms … a step in the right direction.
“Forty-seven religious leaders of various confessions and religions have issued a call to American politicians to limit firearms, which ‘are making society pay an unacceptable price in terms of massacres and senseless deaths,’” Lombardi stated in his address. “I’m with them.”
While acknowledging “that arms, throughout the world, are also instruments for legitimate defense,” and even admitting “No one can be under the illusion that limiting their number and use would be enough to impede horrendous massacres in the future,” Lombardi nonetheless asserted “it is necessary to repeat tirelessly our calls for disarmament, to oppose the production, trade, and smuggling of arms of all types.
“If results are achieved, such as international conventions … all the better!” he proclaimed.
While some Catholics have been quick in past columns to point out when anti-gun endorsements have been issued through Church-owned media that such proclamations are not official doctrine, and that they fly in the face of the Pontifical Council of Justice and peace, which declared “[I]n a world marked by evil and sin, the right of legitimate defense by armed means exists,” the fact remains they are being issued under the ultimate “buck stops here” authority of the Vatican. Indeed, Vatican Radio, which broadcast Fr. Lombardi’s sentiments and published them on its website, bills itself as “The voice of the Pope and the Church in dialog with the world.”
And indeed, Catholic News Service, which is a supposedly independent division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops maintains “The … Church’s position on gun control is … resoundingly clear: Firearms in the hands of civilians should be strictly limited and eventually completely eliminated.
“According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, individuals have a right and a duty to protect their own lives when in danger, and someone who ‘defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow,’” CNS concedes, but offers a significant caveat. “According to the catechism, the right to use firearms to ‘repel aggressors’ or render them harmless is specifically sanctioned for ‘those who legitimately hold authority’ and have been given the duty of protecting the community.”
This is a belief in authoritarian supremacy and the magic of the badge known to Gun RightsExaminer readers as “the Only Ones.” That all citizens have this duty does not seem to enter this equation.
Also absent from this “dialog with the world” is any acknowledgment of real world results when the Church has sided with “authority” over armed Catholics defending their lives against state aggressors.
A little-regarded in this country, but significant historical event for “monopoly of violence” Mexico isthe Cristero War, an uprising by Catholics persecuted in Mexico in the late 1920s by a “progressive” atheist government.
After thousands had been killed, Catholic rebels calling themselves “Cristeros” rallied under the banner of Cristos Rey (Christ the King) to protect themselves and fight back against persecution and tyranny, with much of their ammunition supplied by Las Brigadas Femeninas de Santa Juana de Arco, a secret military society of Catholic Mexican women.
By contrast, the United States government supplied arms and ammunition to the Mexican government, and later, with an eye toward regional security and Mexican oil, sent its ambassador, aided by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, to urge a settlement to the rebellion. Though opposed by rebel leaders, who feared retaliation, the Church and the government came to terms that left the Cristeros out of the negotiation process and threatened the rebels with excommunication. The predictable result, documented in “Blood-Drenched Altars,” (Faith & Reason, 1994):
The first things (sic) [Mexican president] Calles did after peace had been made was to shoot down 500 Cristero leaders … The [Baltimore Catholic Review] described the 1929 revenge upon the Catholic “freedom fighters” more fully by setting the figure at 500 leaders and 5,000 ordinary men who were shot, often in their homes in front of their families. Their property was then seized, leaving the survivors destitute. [Mexican Catholic lawyer Octavio] Elizonde clearly says that the obedience of the Mexican Catholics to the request of the Holy See was a disaster for the Church, and ended only in betrayal.
A Church steeped in history, and one that recognizes beatified martyrs from the Cristero War is well aware that history is still unfolding, that tyranny still exists, that individuals are still persecuted and murdered by their own governments, and will continue to be, and that no nation or people, even ours, can forever count on remaining special and exempt.
As has been asked in this column:
[W]here in history is any civilization guaranteed stasis? Has not despotism and mass destruction plagued every civilization that preceded ours? Is it not, in fact, still commonplace throughout the globe? By what suspension of reality, by what denial of the observable and the probable, by what art, device or magic are we sheltered few immune from catastrophe? Are we certain, from our brief and privileged vantage point, that such things will ever remain headline curiosities? Is it not just plain stupid to proclaim that our familiar way of life will forever be the norm, when everything that has gone before us shows we are, instead, the extremely lucky beneficiaries of a rare and fortunate convergence of circumstances; and one, by the way, that has only been preserved under force of arms?
A Church that in the past has allowed its agents to naively (or otherwise) facilitate such betrayals has an obligation to own up to its culpability for “massacres and senseless deaths,” to cease continued naive (or otherwise) facilitation that will guarantee more, and to rein in its anti-gun activists acting in its name, lest the protests of its defenders that such advocacy is not “official” doctrine ring as hollow as they are.