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Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Last Friday, in the small Connecticut town of Newtown, a disturbed young man who should never had access to an assault rifle murdered his mother, six educators, twenty children and then himself.  In a frighteningly brief period a nation was plunged into grief.

What is now needed is greater restrictions on assault weapons, perhaps with a buyback of those weapons that are still accessible to other would-be deranged gunmen. Of course this will trigger outcries of those who claim their Second Amendment Rights are being trampled upon. There is one force that can effectively answer this false charge if they choose to do so: Cardinal Dolan and the Catholic bishops. Will they use that power? So far, they have not.

As a Catholic, I wish the leaders of my Church would join in efforts to protect our families and our communities against such tragedies as Newtown, Aurora and Columbine.  I am disappointed by their silence so far.  Indeed, they have been so quiet that many Americans will be surprised to learn that the Catholic Church officially favors gun control. The Vatican position is described in an article posted at U.S. Catholic.org aptly entitled, "Gun control: Church Firmly, Quietly Opposes Firearms for Civilians."  The article refers to a statement the U.S. Bishops' November 2000 document, "Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice":

"As bishops, we support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer -- especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner -- and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns."

That's followed by a footnote that states:  "However, we believe that in the long run and with few exceptions -- i.e. police officers, military use -- handguns should be eliminated from our society."

"But who knew,"Maureen Fielder wondered in The National Catholic Reporter, "they even had a position?"

Buoyed by the thinking of Catholic libertarians such as Robert Sirico and Thomas Woods, and Catholic neoconservatives, an anarcho-capitalism has taken hold of this society where safety nets and even a sense of noblesse oblige has been discarded by many of society's more economically powerful. As a result they (and too often we) lose touch with one another; discard respect for human dignity; and too often lose any sense of belonging in human society. Many of us no long see each other. We see commodities to be opportunistically used for personal advancement.  That violence would result in such an environment; is no surprise. Life is becoming cheaper.

But the libertarian and neoconservative Catholic factions that have exerted such influence on the Bishops have ignored a basic Catholic tenet: That all rights and private property are not absolute, but often come with a social mortgage. Property rights cease being defensible when they are no longer used in pursuit of basic goods (food, clothing, health) or are innocuous -- but when they become agents of destruction, infringing on the basic rights of others. That, as Aurora and Newtown have demonstrated, is the case with assault rifles such as the AR-15 and other semi-automatic weapons - weapons designed for military applications, but are also turned on our communities and ourselves -- while the Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops remain quiet.

This detachment from others manifests itself in crime or in the willingness to let assault weapons be marketed for profit in spite of the fact their primary purpose is to kill human beings with speed and efficiency. We now know that the gunman got the AR-16 assault rifle from his mother who purchased it because she feared a supposed coming economic Armageddon. Instead her own disturbed child murdered her with the weapon before he went to the Sandy Hook elementary school, apparently bent on slaughtering children.

Roman Catholic theology has long spoken of dignity being tied directly to a decent wage; good health care; retirement insurance. Based upon Aristotelian notions of respect, friendship and personality, these goods form the foundations of truer basic American principles such as to be free from fear and want.

An obvious extension of this proposition is that six and seven year-old children and their teachers have a right to learn in schools free from fear of slaughter by people armed with the kind weapons we use on our worst enemies in war. Can we end all such shootings with gun control? No, but it would be a start to try to reduce both the occurrences and severities of such incidents.

Some Catholic leaders, such as the Jesuits via the steady voice of James Martin, SJ and Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley have had the wisdom and foresight to speak out about the need for gun control.  But we also need to hear from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  They could take a page from Father Martin:

"To put the matter bluntly, if one is in favor of protecting the unborn--and advocate for them, march in protest on their behalf, donate money to pro-life groups and encourage voting for legislators who protect the unborn-one should be equally in favor of protecting those lives six and seven years out of the womb, the ages of several of the children murdered last week in Connecticut."

USCCB President Timothy Dolan issued a call for prayers for the victims and their families. While this is appropriate, it is insufficient.

(It is also worth noting that William Donohue and company at the Catholic Leauge are as of this writing, keeping themselves busy with their imagined "War on Christmas.")

This brings us back to the matter of human dignity, which the USCCB seems to relegate more to embryos than those who bring them into the world, and into the society in which they will live.  

This brings me to my central point: If any one group can effectively begin breaking the NRA's stranglehold on our government it is the Catholic bishops. No amount of Wayne LaPierre's 527 funds can adversely affect the elevation of clergy as it can with those running for elected office. Cardinal Dolan has the ability to restore sanity to the question of gun ownership by calling for an assault weapons ban, more stringent background checks and by the closing of gun show loopholes. As president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops he now holds in his hands the power to deal a long overdue blow not only to gun violence, but its great enabler, economic libertarianism.

The disturbing question must now be raised: Has the American Catholic hierarchy acquiesced to movement conservatism on issues such as economics and gun violence in exchange for its support on culture war issues? Is there a quid pro quo between America's Catholic Right and today's secular Right, one that accepts a tacit agreement that if the Church is helped prosecuting its culture war agenda the current hierarchy will not interfere with the prosecution of a dog-eat-dog economic agenda, one that extends to the unfettered sale of assault weapons?

So I can't help but wonder how and why the leaders of my church have come so far from their unequivocal 1975 statement, Handgun Violence: A Threat To Life, Statement on Gun Control..  

I also can't help but wonder about their silence.

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Comment Preferences

  •  the only question that *must* be raised (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Newzie, Roadbed Guy, Fishtroller01

    is who gives a damn what the catholic church thinks?  this is a secular nation; our religious institutions already have way too much influence.  

    this precedent of looking to religious leaders for political guidance is the only disturbing thing i see here.

    Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

    by Cedwyn on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 05:19:14 AM PST

    •  A lot of older Americans (4+ / 0-)

      There are a ton of people in this country who identify themselves as Catholics, they have probably the most available outlets to push their agenda than any other major religion.

      •  Pretty Close-Minded of You, Cedwyn (3+ / 0-)

        And rather short-sighted too.

        At one time the Church was one of most influential supporters of the New Deal. Unfortunately, too many reactionaries have seized control. Progressive Catholics like me want to curb the power of those reactionaries. And while I do not want Catholic theology - or for that matter, any particular theology - to substitute for our secular morally, its influence is ignored at our peril. And on gun control, its position is spot-on. As I worry in this post, the Church reactionaries are trying to ignore the official position in order to cater to nefarious friends of some of those in the hierarchy.

        •  The RCC hierarchy in the US has been vehemently (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cedwyn

          ...anti-Obama since well before the 2008 election.

          On the Sunday before election day, Catholic churches nationwide delivered sermons which effectively said voting for Obama was a mortal sin.

        •  no peril: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fishtroller01

          let the catholic teachings guide YOU, since you're into them, but make your policy proposals based on their merits, not appeals to religion, which not everyone shares with you.

          And while I do not want Catholic theology - or for that matter, any particular theology - to substitute for our secular morality
          then it doesn't make sense to appeal to religion for political guidance.  if something is the moral thing to do, it's the moral thing to do regardless of which religion's potentates like or hate it.

          am i telling the catholic bishops to STFU?  absolutely not.  it does make me happy when they do the right thing.  what i am taking issue with is stuff like this:

          But we also need to hear from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
          why do we "need" to hear from them particularly?  is their opinion more noteworthy than any other?  why?
          Of course this will trigger outcries of those who claim their Second Amendment Rights are being trampled upon. There is one force that can effectively answer this false charge if they choose to do so: Cardinal Dolan and the Catholic bishops.
          the catholic bishops, and only the catholic bishops, can win the fight for gun control?  what's their magic weapon, and if this is the case, why have they waited so long?
          This brings me to my central point: If any one group can effectively begin breaking the NRA's stranglehold on our government it is the Catholic bishops.

          ...Cardinal Dolan has the ability to restore sanity to the question of gun ownership by calling for an assault weapons ban, more stringent background checks and by the closing of gun show loopholes.

          i, for one, am not comfortable with the idea of turning to a religious institution to wage a political fight.  they're all too involved already.  

          Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

          by Cedwyn on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 07:14:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  That makes good sense (0+ / 0-)

    considering that when God comes around to do all that end-time smiting described in the Book of Revelation, it surely will be easier with an unarmed, docile populace.

    •  Reply to Roadbed Guy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      exterris

      The Catholic position on evolution has long been different from the fundamentalist Protestant position. Indeed, several prominent Vatican Cardinals have openly criticized - practically mocked - the idea of creationism (God creating the world in seven 24 hour periods and in its present form).

      One other thing: We Catholics are not into this whole end-times thing. When it happens, it'll happen. We generally don't focus on it all.

  •  This makes sense (4+ / 0-)

    As most reasonable Catholics (i.e. those not named Bill Donohue) tend to be full pro-life (anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, pro-charity, pro-helping the needed when they give birth without all the resources needed to raise a child) They do not believe in forced birth and then letting a family fend for themselves. So the fact they would be anti-gun makes sense.

    In the case of my mother-in-law who is a devout Catholic, the Church helped her take care of four young children by herself. She's a single mother and her church helped her get a roof over her family's head and make sure they had decent food to eat.

    Also side note: I was raised Catholic, did 13 years (K-12) of Catholic School (oddly enough was taught that Evolution was real and that Bible and Evolution can co-exist)

  •  I don't see anything the Catholic Bishops (0+ / 0-)

    or the Archbishops or the Pope say or do as related to morality since they continue to claim that they are not beholding to the laws of mankind concerning the abuse of children, and continue in their long history of corruption in so many other ways.

    However, in this situations, the US Bishops are simply silent in my view because they hate Obama and don't want to do anything that would support him in any way.

    I have no idea why you would "wonder why" or expect anything more from either this group of people or their (your) institution.

    •  I Wonder Why Because... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      exterris

      ...as a Catholic, I want to force the Church to speak on this position. Do not confuse the hierarchy as being the sole representation of Catholicism. In fact, the heart of the Church is the people. And indeed, there are many progressive Catholics out there who are demanding a more accountable Church -- and one that does not cater to some her nefarious friends.

      •  And I see you and other progressive (0+ / 0-)

        Catholics as a group of people with obviously positive morals unrelated to religion pounding your heads against a 2000 year old wall that will never crack.... until you all walk out, take your money with you and either start a new church or realize that you don't need religion to be moral and move on.

        This institution has rarely been concerned with its "heart" (the people) except for purposes of power and manipulation.

        I have liberal Catholic friends who spend an awful lot of time being angry and frustrated with their church as an institution. When they push too hard on he hierarchy they are threatened with excommunication or simply ignored.  

        "I wonder why" they and you continue to torture yourself with some kind of hope that you can change all this when the solutions are so easy.

        •  Spare us the concern trolling (0+ / 0-)

          It is not a surprise that people who love their church would fight to make it a better place. Its like being part of anything else one cares about, like being a citizen of the United States.  

          Liberal Catholics aligned with the reforms of Vatican II don't need concern trolls to disparage their commitments.  

          •  This "concern trolling" accusation (0+ / 0-)

            seems to be a main fallback argument for you. Any time someone posts something you don't agree with or you perceive as an attack on religion (which may or may not be true) you resort to name calling.

            My comments are simply points of view and observations shared on a public forum. I do no do personal attacks, so please stop characterizing my contributions falsely.

            I expressed "concern" only in the manner of hating to see people like this diarist or my Catholic friends tilting at windmills while the corrupt institution that the Catholic Church is and has been throughout its history just keeps chugging along ignoring all of them. The diarist certainly has the freedom to disagee with my comments or ignore them.

            It also seems to me that this diarist manages to hold his own without resorting to dishing out the old "troll" stuff. Maybe you could follow his example.

  •  A call to prayer is fine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Cocozzelli

    so long as, when you pray, you roll up your sleeves.  

    This would be a no-brainer for them to try to regain a little credibility.  Thanks, Frank, for pointing it out.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 05:53:02 AM PST

  •  Catholic bishops: wrong about everything else (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fishtroller01

    except gun control.  Congrats to them for being right about one thing .

    The next Noah will work a short shift. - Charles Bowden

    by Scott in NAZ on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 05:55:13 AM PST

  •  I am a disaffected Catholic. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fishtroller01

    I do not respect the Catholic bishops.  They are craven sexphobic and homophobic automatons.  

    Many of them are criminals who aided and abetted babyfuckers for years.  How can they say anything at all about protecting children?

    I quote from the Grand Jury Report 0f 2011 Summary:

    "The present grand jury, however, is frustrated to report that much has not changed. The rapist priests we accuse were well known to the Secretary of Clergy, but he cloaked their conduct and put them in place to do it again. The procedures implemented by the Archdiocese to help victims are in fact designed to help the abusers, and the Archdiocese itself. Worst of all, apparent abusers – dozens of them, we believe  remain on duty in the Archdiocese, today, with open access to new young prey."

    I used to be Snow White. And then I drifted. - Mae West

    by CherryTheTart on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 07:18:03 AM PST

  •  The bishops have huge political power (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    The Catholic bishops single-handedly brought abortion to the top of the right wing political agenda in the 1980's.  It got adopted by the fundy right.

    The bishops can do the same for gun control, but they choose not to.  Why, I don't know.  Maybe they figure there's no mileage in it, maybe it does not fit the paranoia mindset of their wealthy suburban parishioners.  I don't see any of the American bishops stepping up, certainly not Dolan or George.  It will take a directive from the Pope himself.  That is a possibility, but nothing yet.

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