Several weeks ago, this was one of the petitions that St. Mary’s and St. Kilian’s parishioners heard at Mass: “For an end to gun violence in our nation, and for an end to the suffering and loss caused by the use of guns, let us pray to the Lord.” This petition, like most of our parishes’ petitions, came from one of the publications that our secretaries use in preparing the intercessions for each weekend Mass. When I heard the petition at Mass (not having looked at it in advance), I wondered what people in the pews might be thinking. As you know, gun control has long been an issue of contentious debate in our country, especially following various school shootings and acts of terrorism over the last few years. While I’ve not really spoken much with parishioners about the gun control topic, living in a rural area in which hunting is a popular sport, I suppose I could make a few guesses about most people’s feelings on the matter.
Perhaps some of you have wondered if the Catholic Church takes a stance on the issue. Well, yes, the Church does have a response to the issue of gun control… but it’s not exactly a simple black and white response. Basically, the Church puts forth a set of moral principles that are for to us to apply to specific situations. As to how they may apply to specific situations is where people may disagree. Just a couple weeks earlier, I came across a very interesting article that seemed to demonstrate the complexity of Church’s position and show where there may be room for legitimate debate. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I’d recommend you check out the article from the National Catholic Register, entitled “Does Catholic Faith Dictate a Position on Gun Control?” You can read the article at: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/does-catholic-faith-dictate-at-position-on-gun-control/
There are a few paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that seem to serve as the fundamental guiding principles for the Church’s teaching. Paragraphs 2264-2265 speak about the right one has to defend his or her own life (or that of another), even if one is forced to deal their aggressor a lethal blow. They also speak of the necessity of defending the common good and the right to use arms for those who have legitimate authority in defending the civil community. Paragraph 2316, on the other hand, speaks of public authorities having the right and duty to regulate the production and sale of arms. It is this last paragraph that seems to lay the foundation for much of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB) support of greater gun control in our country.