Pro-Life Gun Owner Anathema Sit?

Should Catholics be excommunicated from the pro-life movement if they oppose banning most guns?

That seems to be the position of Sr. Mary Ann Walsh of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ conference.  She declared in the Washington Post this week that to be pro-life, Catholics must favor banning “assault weapons,” and support other new restrictions.

It’s very hard to determine what Sr. Walsh means, not because Catholic teaching is unclear, but because Sr. Walsh doesn’t tell us what an assault weapon is.

gunsAll weapons assault, and all firearms are lethal.  But how can someone say that Catholic teaching requires a ban of assault weapons, if Catholic teaching does not even speak of assault weapons, much less define them?

This problem does not exist for other, actual pro-life causes.  Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “The Gospel of Life” defines abortion and definitively insists that it be banned.  It also speaks strongly, if not dogmatically, against death penalty.  Even the sometimes-disputed term “torture” is defined and discussed in the Catechism.  Neither document discusses, much less bans, “assault” weapons.

Maybe we could read the tea leaves of Sr. Walsh’s article to see what she means.  She says that an assault weapons ban is necessary for being pro-life because the Church opposes “lethal weapons on the streets.”

I live in Maryland, home to one of America’s murder capitals, Baltimore.  According to recent FBI numbers, Maryland has about 275 gun homicides a year. Two of those use rifles–with no evidence that those two rifles were “assault rifles.” (75 additional murders happen with knives. 757 died in car crashes.)

Nearly all these gun homicides were with handguns.  So from this justification, Sr. Walsh might mean that to be pro-life and oppose “lethal weapons on the streets” we must support a ban on handguns.

I can see why Sr. Walsh didn’t call for that.  It’s a much less popular position than calling for an “assault weapons” ban.  Those sound much scarier, but a handgun ban would make Sr. Walsh sound extreme, even to Washington Post readers.

If Sr. Walsh explicitly proposed banning handguns it would mean families must not protect themselves with ordinary firearms.  Is a Catholic family committing mortal sin for owning a handgun, “lethal weapons on the streets”?  According to the Catechism, families have a strong justification for owning firearms (not limited to single-shot rifles): “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others…. 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.”

It’s also possible that Sr. Walsh’s term “assault weapons” refers to weapons used in mass killings.  But those killings, like Newton, used handguns along with rifles. Columbine occurred during a national ban on scary-looking rifles and on “high capacity” magazines: those killers used handguns only, and fired most of their shots with 10-round magazines.  There is no evidence showing an increase in gun murders after that federal ban expired.

The federal “assault weapons” ban and several state bans define these weapons by cosmetic, symbolic features, not by lethality.  None of them affect “automatic” weapons, which are already illegal.  They deal with “semi-automatic” rifles that have other non-lethal features, like grips and adjustible stocks. Where in Catholic teaching does it say that guns are OK unless they look too scary? Most rifles are semi-automatic, do does Sr. Walsh insist that pro-lifers ban all semi-automatic firearms?

Sr. Walsh should not excommunicate people from the pro-life movement because of their position on how weapons look.  Semi-automatic rifles with cosmetic features are not being used in 99% of crimes that Sr. Walsh uses to justify her new pro-life requirement.  Those rifles are being responsibly and safely owned.  Catholic teaching contains no ban on most guns.

The U.S. Bishops admit that Catholic teaching merely calls for “reasonable” measures.  That standard leaves pro-life Catholics significant room for disagreement.  We all want background checks: and guess what, federal law already requires background checks.  States like Maryland, even without new rules, already impose very strict rules.  Pro-life people can legitimately believe that enough is enough.  They don’t have to buy arguments that ultimately mean Catholic teaching bans semi-automatic guns.

People have been trying to add extraneous topics to “pro-life” for years, always from the political left’s agenda.  Unspecified assertions like Sr. Walsh’s shut down discussion, and unnecessarily divide the pro-life movement.


Categories:Gun Control

  • Nancy

    Another example of a “spokesperson” who would be unable to cite Roman Catholic doctrine to support her true religion: Leftist Marxist Socialism. The USCCB is full of bureaucrats who spout their liberal philosophy without reference to received Catholic teaching or even the imprimatur of the Bishops themselves who are each busy at home overseeing dioceses. This “Sister” probably has more in common with Betty Friedan than with Pope Francis or Pope Benedict XVI. Unfortunately the convents were emptied in the 60’s and 70’s by secular progressive moles who discarded habits, communal living, and adherence to God’s Will in favor of trendy Marxist philosophy. The good news is that this generation of confused old gals is being replaced by true Catholic orders wearing the habit, educated in Catholic dogma, and in love with Our Lord.

  • Whitney

    I couldn’t agree with this article more, especially the last line!

  • Maggie

    I swear to God Catholics and women are being fed something that is making a lot of them stupid. I am both ,and I simply cannot stand the stupidity anymore.
    Catholics are supporting such immorality in their Universities I simply am appalled. I went to a Catholic school and would have had my butt thrown out by anyone of my Sisters if I would have ever made such a stupid statement.
    Purposely killing unborn children and comparing that to the same as bring a gun owner diminishes the sin of abortion in just about anyone’s mind .That is if they have a mind.
    People ask me why I left the Church. Here is a prine example. The crazies have taken over and I do not want to support them anymore.

  • John Cavanaugh

    She is an ideologue plain and simple. I have no respect for those who obviously don’t know their own church history, much less the history of this Country. Assault weapons indeed…. To assault is an act…a weapon is a tool and hardly a descriptive one. Tell me Sister; would the Murdered Nuns and Priests under Stalin and Hitler been alive if good people had guns to fight back? Do you think they had religious freedom once the guns were confiscated? No, they didn’t even have the ability to live, much less make vapid comments about subjects they knew not of. I am a Catholic…Irish Catholic, I am Pro-Life, and live in America. I have resided in bad and good cities. The bad ones were not because they had guns and the good, not because they didn’t. What makes something bad is conscience, or rather, the lack of it – and a weapon of any kind does not have one. Therefore, If you would like a repeat of one of the aforementioned scenarios, by all means continue on your uneducated banter about a phrase that does not exist in the vernacular of gun owners… “assault weapon”…. I wonder sister who will your cry for to defend the helpless, when they come for religious persons if your efforts are successful? You have no notion under God what you are saying…Please shut up!

  • Simon

    Another habitless nun trying to act like the Pope…

    “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.” CCC 2265

    Seems pretty clear to me. I, as a husband and father have grave duty to defend my family against aggressors. Because I choose to use the best possible tool available to me in defense of my family (an AR-15), how is that in opposition with defending the life of an innocent unborn child? If someone breaks into my home, I would be defending the life of my innocent family. Who, at that moment, wouldn’t want the most effective weapon to stop the aggressor from hurting my family?

    The Catechism clearly says that if I do not defend my family, I have failed in my grave obligation of taking care of them. Not defending my family when I have a responsibility to do so is, therefore, a mortal sin.

    This woman, like so many of her generation, do not see things clearly at all with regard to this issue, as with many other moral issues. In their minds, the world is full of flowers and rainbows, and if we just take away all dangerous things, everyone would sing Koombaya and live in peace.

    Thinking like that can even be heretical, putting hope in something or someone other than Christ. Only Christ will restore order and peace to creation after he comes again. Any order that we make here on Earth is done with much effort and is only temporary. Peace will not come as a consequence of disarming good people because they are the ones whose duty it is to help maintain that peace.

    After the Fall of Adam and Eve, there will never be lasting peace until Christ comes again to restore order in our world. Any effort that we put into helping others should be to help save their souls. Peace, although important and very good, is only a byproduct of having a living relationship with God.

  • Barb

    Does Sr. Walsh also feel that Catholics who support pro-choice politicians be excommunicated? Seems like some of the nuns get over zealous about social issues to the detriment of truly pro-life issues.



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