Early this year, a friend directed me to these statements by Cardinal Dolan and The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
For me, regulating and controlling guns is part of building a Culture of Life,of doing what we can to protect and defend human life. The easy access to guns, including assault weapons, that exists in our nation has contributed towards a Culture of Death, where human life and dignity are cheapened by the threat of violence. (Cardinal Dolan)
Since such a significant number of violent offenses are committed with handguns and within families, we believe that handguns need to be effectively controlled and eventually eliminated from our society. We acknowledge that controlling the possession of handguns will not eliminate gun violence, but we believe it is an indispensable element of any serious or rational approach to the problem. (USCCB 1978, reiterated)
I respect these men as my superiors - both within the Church, as shepherds and in education, as men devoted to the study of faith and morals. Their words gave me a good deal to think about, to pray about, and to discuss. The first two were easy, but the last..I learned quickly that all discussion of gun-ownership must break down into ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’, and in offering the Church's perspective, I fell on the ‘liberal’ side - an ally of President Obama and well outside the acceptable boundaries of the Culture of Life. It’s this aspect of American Catholic culture that gives me serious concern. Our bishops call us to hold a “consistent life ethic”. They call us to reject a culture that allows abortion, that treats individuals as objects, that cheapens love and commitment..and we agree - passionately, until they tells us that our “consistent life ethic” doesn’t encourage an individualized arms race; then it seems we remind them that our first loyalty is to the second amendment, to an Americanized ideal of self-defense, and to our own love of that sense of self-reliance that the power to kill gives. What aspect of Catholic culture indicates that the bishops are our shepherds in moral life except where they conflict with the ideals of the political right? Shouldn’t we rather let our faith direct us? Shouldn’t we give some obedience to these good and holy men, who have offered their lives to guide us ever closer to the heart of Christ? Obedience given only when it aligns with our personal tendencies is not the sort that saints are born of.
I am not arguing that all guns are evil, they are tools, but they are tools that tend to build an attitude of violence, and we are not a culture that can stand more violence. I am just wondering, why can we not attempt to cling to God alone, whose love is unending, and with whom all things are possible.