The Thinking 

Does the Vatican Support Gun Control?

February 4, 2013


MICHAEL MATT, of The Remnant, responds to the recent widely-reported statement by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi in favor of Obama’s gun control proposals. He says Lombardi’s remarks did serious damage to the Vatican’s reputation among American conservatives and displayed ignorance of the fundamental threat to civil rights and privacy. “I’m sorry, Father Lombardi, you’re wrong on this one. If you don’t understand the intricacies … don’t interject yourself,” Matt says.

However, he also notes that the international press wildly exaggerated the authority of Lombardi’s statement.

Matt’s appearance before skulls in the Catacombs is somewhat distracting, but he makes important arguments.

— Comments —-

Kathlene M. writes:

Since I am Catholic, I wanted to respond to Michael Matt’s belief that Father Federico Lombardi’s editorial about “gun control” was ignorant and not authoritative.   There was a big discussion about this over at Mark Shea’s Catholic blog.   Mark Shea concluded that Father Lombardi’s statement (full English translation here) simply and accurately reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“Section III: Safeguarding Peace”).

2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations;111 it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.

2316 The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. The short-term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and conflict among nations and compromise the international juridical order.

Mr. Matt appears to be in disagreement with the Catholic Church’s essential teachings on this subject.

Laura writes:

The Catechism also speaks of the legitimate right to self defense:

1909 Finally, the common good also presupposes peace, that is the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense.


2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but 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. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

Lyle J. Arnold at Tradition in Action explains why “gun control,” as we understand it today, is not in keeping with the historic teaching of the Church.

Kathlene writes:

Yes, the Catholic Church does state that self defense is legitimate, but a lethal blow is to be done only as a last resort and if one’s very life or that of loved ones is undoubtedly under physical attack.

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore 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:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.66

I’m not sure who Lyle Arnold is but Catholic teaching is clear on where self-defense fits in the entire context.   Both the state and the individual have the right to self-defense.  But just as “pre-emptive war” by the state is not a Catholic moral, using lethal force as the first or only option is not considered a “Catholic moral” when other options will work.   Sadly this will probably get me called a “liberal” even though I am conservative.   Mark Shea’s blog discussion got very heated on this point.

I don’t mean to make light of this issue, but it seems that today’s Christianity is split among followers of the “Warrior Jesus” camp whose “Jesus” seems almost identical to Mohammed in his call to the sword, and those of the “Prince of Peace Jesus” camp.  I don’t know why it has to be either/or.    Jesus was tough on the money-changers in the temple but He also didn’t advocate taking out the Pharisees and the Romans when his and his disciples’ lives were threatened.

Laura writes:

I have not had the chance to read the Mark Shea discussion.

I guess I’m confused as to how the Catholic view as you describe it is in support of liberal gun control measures that would disarm citizens and prevent them from using appropriate force. Obviously if criminals or tyrants possess assault weapons then a lesser weapon is not adequate to defend oneself.

Gun control laws that prevent citizens from carrying concealed weapons also prevent them from using legitimate force when necessary. Lombardi seems to favor unthinkingly any effort to eliminate guns. Therefore, he is fundamentally opposed to the right of self defense.

Kathlene writes:

As I understand it, the Church’s position is that arms have their proper place in society, but an arms escalation does not safeguard the peace. Sadly it seems that the “gun control” discussion has deteriorated into two all-or-nothing scenarios: either we should increase the number of guns and places they’re at and accept no regulation whatsoever, or there should be a complete ban of all guns. I think both scenarios are unrealistic and not what Obama has proposed. I also question the premise that I would need an AR-15, for example, to defend my home. A pistol would be five pounds lighter, probably easier to use, and also easier to conceal.

This is somewhat related, but I think our society has grown increasingly corporatist, militarized and “tyrannical” since the inception of the Patriot Act and the beginning of the “War on Terror.” The gun issue has been manipulated into a “freedom” issue by corporations who are more interested in their profits than in our freedoms or the common good. Hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management owns Freedom Group which makes the Bushmaster AR-15. One must admire the perversely ironic symbolism of the three-headed hound of hell reigning over the arms-producing “freedom” group.

The neocon-influenced John Snow (former Sec. of Treasury under George W. Bush) and VP Dan Quayle sit on Cerberus’ board. If researching and questioning these and other connections suddenly transforms me, a conservative, into a “liberal,” then so be it. I think many conservatives are questioning the motives of the neocons in our foreign policy and how never-ending wars in the perverted name of “freedom” have negatively impacted the common good on this and other issues.

Thanks for presenting my view on this, and for being so kind and fair as always.

Laura writes:

You’re welcome.

There are, of course, reasonable arguments for regulating the sale of assault weapons, an issue about which I do not have a settled opinion, and I would agree with you that the all-or-nothing extremes are not the only options. I do, for instance, support background checks. Even background checks would not have prevented Adam Lanza from obtaining guns, however, since they were purchased by his mother.

What is disturbing is the context of anti-gun hysteria in which Obama’s proposals were made and the fixation on gun control as the answer to violent crime. I am convinced that if school personnel were more often armed, these shootings would decrease. Obama fueled the idea that guns in and of themselves are bad and Lombardi seemed to support this idea.

You write:

As I understand it, the Church’s position is that arms have their proper place in society, but an arms escalation does not safeguard the peace.

If one has reason to believe one’s enemy can and will obtain superior arms, then one is obligated by the principles also outlined in the Catechism to arm oneself in response. There seems to be a fundamental contradiction here. Church morality does not condone suicide. The paragraphs you quote regarding the arms race, I would say, are part of the weaker sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, written in the 90s under the influence of Vatican II. The Catechism also says that Catholics and Muslims worship the same God, an idea rejected by the Church in the past.

The call to disarm is only ever heeded by the people who are least likely to use arms maliciously.

Mary writes:

Obama’s gun control proposal minus action against, or even acknowledgement of, the other glaring issues underlying these gun tragedies sends a message which is disingenuous at best. Our president fails us with his dangerously incomplete message. It is impossible to believe, with the resources available to him, that he is not aware – for anyone with an unfettered mind can see – that behind each of these rampages can be found a perfect storm of societal failings, from fatherless homes, to dependence on psychotropic drugs, to free access to/obsession with violent and sexual imagery in video games etc., to lack of parent-child bonding, handling of the mentally ill, etc. etc. etc. When I finally see White House proposals to actively help solve these problems in the name of reducing gun violence I will consider reevaluating my position. Until then, I am left to conclude that Obama is using this tragedy to advance his political agenda and I don’t blame others for reacting vociferously.

As far as Federico Lombardi goes, any representative speaking for the Catholic Church has an even greater responsibility than the president of the United States, because he speaks to Catholics, to send a message against gun violence that includes a strong admonition to keep families intact even at the cost of great suffering; to limit children’s access to popular culture, especially that which promotes violence and sexuality; to attend Mass every Sunday as a family; to pray and sacrifice as much as humanly possible to create strong family bonds, with the mother at home even at the cost of financial hardship, etc. etc. etc. That this Vatican representative didn’t present a full explanation of the issue is most disheartening – we expect more. Saying nothing at all would have been a vast improvement, for limiting guns will not help when the prevailing culture is debased to the degree that it is. The solution lies primarily in healing the culture and promoting family life, not just for Catholics but for everyone.

A reader writes:

Google for Harold, Texas Independent School District. For a few years now, the schools have authorized any teacher or staff who has a Texas concealed carry permit to carry in school. The CCW program takes care of the important issues, such as background check, training, etc. The rules are, no one is to display the weapons, nor tell anyone, except the school administration, that they have them. Everyone knows there are people there with guns, but not who they are. This dumb idea of having uniformed guards, lets the crazies know who to shoot first. In Harold, the armed people are unknown, the best arrangement of all. You cannot defeat an unknown opponent. So far, Harold has had no incidents, and no threats of any incidents.

Once the gun-free status is gone, so are the crazies. Some jokers call gun-free zones, “shooting galleries for crazy people.” Why so-called assault rifles have positive value. Guns are used maybe four or five times to stop crime without being shot, for each time they are shot. The presence of a gun simply stops crime in its track. To have to shoot a gun at a human being is a major failure! So, a gun which scares the stuffing out of a criminal is far less likely to need to be shot.

An AR-15 is scary looking, and thus for a defensive presentation it is more likely to send the crooks running than some pea-shooter pistol.

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